Bourdais/Van der Zande Take IMSA Detroit Checkered Flag!
Knowing that winning the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic was vital to sparking their comeback into IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship points contention, Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande essentially led Saturday’s 100-minute sprint race from start to finish.
But it was far from easy. Bourdais, who claimed the Motul Pole Award with a track record lap of the Belle Isle Raceway 2.3-mile, 14-turn temporary street course on Friday, led the first half of Saturday’s race before bringing the No. 01 Cadillac V-Performance Academy DPi-V.R in to hand off to van der Zande.
While saving fuel to make the single-stop strategy work, the Dutchman withstood intense pressure from Oliver Jarvis in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 DPi throughout his 50-minute closing stint.
Meanwhile, Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi was catching them at a rapid rate while trying to execute a two-stop gameplan. Derani caught the lead duo and Earl Bamber in the third-place No. 02 Cadillac Racing DPi-V.R with about 25 minutes remaining.
From there, it was a nail-biter to the finish, with van der Zande in control at the front and a frenetic battle for the remaining two podium positions. Derani briefly moved into third place, but ultimately crossed the finish line fourth after a fierce scrap with the No. 02 Cadillac. However, the No. 31 Cadillac was found underweight in postrace technical inspection and moved to the rear of the class.
Bourdais and van der Zande completed 73 laps, a record distance for the Detroit race that ran without a full-course caution for the first time. They won by 0.398 seconds over Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Acura, followed by Bamber and co-driver Alex Lynn in the No. 02 Cadillac.
“What a day!” Bourdais exclaimed after his ninth career IMSA victory. “It was definitely not the easiest race we ever won, but I’m super proud of that whole (No.) 01 Cadillac team. We had to save a ton of fuel. Renger brought it home, and it was very hard. It was hard-fought, but it’s that much sweeter when you win it.”
The triumph was a long time in the making for the No. 01 team, which has endured a rollercoaster 2022 season. The points for the Detroit pole position and race win vaulted Bourdais, van der Zande and the No. 01 into fourth position, unofficially 143 points behind Jarvis, Blomqvist and the No. 60 Acura with four races still remaining.
“It seems like it’s been feast or famine for the (No.) 01,” said team owner Chip Ganassi, whose organization prepares the Nos. 01 and 02 Cadillacs and collected the team’s 63rd IMSA win. “They either win or something stupid happens.”
Bourdais has earned pole position for four of the last five WeatherTech Championship races, but prior to Detroit, he and van der Zande won just once this season on the streets of Long Beach, California, and failed to finish on three occasions.
With 14 turns packed into 2.3 miles, the Belle Isle street circuit presented a host of challenges to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona (GTD) competitors in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic. However, the key to victory Saturday lay as much on the quarter-mile stretch of pit lane as on those 2.3 miles of racetrack.
A canny race strategy and a flawless pit stop put the No. 17 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F GT3 of Kyle Kirkwood and Ben Barnicoat into a lead Barnicoat was destined to hold to the finish, leading the No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn across the line by 2.263 seconds after 100 minutes and 67 laps of green-flag racing.
The win was the first of the season for Vasser Sullivan Racing and the first career GTD victory for both Barnicoat and Kirkwood – in the first Belle Isle race for either driver.
Though the winning Lexus started from the GTD pole, De Angelis got the drop on Kirkwood at the green flag to thrust the No. 27 Aston Martin into the lead. The Canadian duly maintained the top spot for 24 laps from a fuel-saving Kirkwood before peeling off to the pits for the only stop of the race. Crucially, when the Aston Martin returned to the track, Gunn was on cold tires even as Kirkwood ran another lap on hot Michelins before hitting pit road for service and to hand the Lexus over to Barnicoat.
“We got passed by the time I hit the throttle at the start, which was weird,” said Kirkwood. “It was the first time I’d been on pole in the middle of a pack of GTDs and Daytona Prototypes. It was all new, but I just raced hard, raced clean and saved as much fuel as I possibly could, which put us in position to do an overcut (going one lap farther than De Angelis) and the overcut worked perfectly.
“Then the Vasser Sullivan guys did an awesome job and we had a speedy pit stop, and that put us out in the lead. And as everyone knows, track position is absolutely crucial around this place.”
Indeed, when he emerged from pit lane, Barnicoat was a bit surprised at the length of his advantage on Gunn – some four seconds.
“From there, it was easy – initially,” he said. “I started saving fuel but then there were a couple of laps in the middle where it got quite tight managing to let the prototypes come through. That allowed them to get close, so from there I had to scrap the fuel saving for a while and drop the hammer a bit. I’d like to say it was straightforward but winning is never straightforward. You’ve got to have a great group of people around you and fortunately we do with the Vasser Sullivan team.”
On the heels of a runner-up finish at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course three weeks ago, Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers brought the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 home in third place, with the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus of Frankie Montecalvo and Aaron Telitz finishing fourth.
Stevan McAleer and Mike Skeen finished fifth in the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 to retain the GTD season points lead, unofficially 34 ahead of Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen, who finished seventh Saturday in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The race was also the fourth of eight counting toward the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup. Snow, Sellers and the No. 1 BMW lead that battle by 134 points over Robby Foley, Bill Auberlen and the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW that wound up in eighth place on Saturday.
The next race for the WeatherTech Championship, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International set for June 23-26, is the third of four rounds in the 2022 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.