Briscoe/van der Zande Pick Up the Pieces and Win Motul Petit Le Mans!
Ryan Briscoe and Renger van der Zande extended their points lead in the IMSA Weather Tech SportsCar Championship with a surprise victory in the 23rd annual Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Van der Zande and the No. 10 Cadillac DPi.V.R were running in third place, nearly 20 seconds in arrears of Pipo Derani (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac) and Ricky Taylor (No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05) when the leaders came together in Turn 6 with around 12 minutes to go in the 10-hour endurance race.
The No. 31 Cadillac and the No. 7 swapped the lead several times on the track and in the pits over the final two hours and the intensity of the battle was obvious as the race drew to a close. The leaders were rarely separated by more than a second over the last 60 minutes of the race, with Taylor putting Derani under extreme pressure on several occasions.
Working through traffic in the Esses, Taylor got a run on Derani and tried to outbrake the Cadillac into Turn 6. But the Acura appeared to lose front end grip. It nudged Derani’s car and sent it spinning backwards into a tire barrier. Taylor also spun and nearly collected van der Zande as he returned to the track. IMSA officials reviewed the incident, but decided to take no action against either driver.
Taylor and teammates Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi recovered to finish second, with the sister Penske Acura driven by Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud taking third. The race ended under caution after the No. 912 Porsche in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class crashed with less than five minutes left on the clock.
The No. 6 Penske Acura dominated the first half of the race but got swept into an incident involving three other cars near the pit exit. The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac shared by Sebastien Bourdais, Loic Duval and Tristian Vautier finished fourth, with Derani, Felipe Nasr and Felipe Albuquerque classified fifth.
Van der Zande cut about 10 seconds of his deficit to the leaders in the final hour, but he appeared too far behind to think about victory until Taylor and Derani clashed.
“I was just chipping it down and chipping it down,” van der Zande said. “We kind of gambled on the setup, and in the hot, it was not so easy. But in the dark, when it was colder, the car was really flying. We’ve been working so hard on the car, and this was really nice.”
Briscoe and van der Zande opened an eight-point gap over Taylor and Castroneves in the DPi point standings, with Derani third, 12 points behind the leaders.
“This is massive,” exclaimed Briscoe. “It was such a great finish, and it just shows never give up and just hang in there. Renger did a hell of a stint there at the end, and he kept saying, ‘I’m not going to give up.’ Then fortune fell our way. We had a fast car all afternoon and I’m just so proud of this team.”
The dark cloud that has hung over a pair of GT entries in the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season lifted under the lights Saturday night at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR and the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 scored much-needed class victories in the 23rd annual Motul Petit Le Mans to break victory droughts.
The No. 911, with Nick Tandy, Fred Makowiecki and Matt Campbell taking turns behind the wheel, won in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class – logging Porsche’s first victory of the season and the first for the No. 911 since VIRginia International Raceway in August 2019.
The No. 63 Ferrari, driven by Cooper MacNeil, Jeff Westphal and Alessandro Balzan, took home the GT Daytona (GTD) win. It’s the first for the car since MacNeil, Gunnar Jeannette and Daniel Serra won the Motul Petit Le Mans two years ago.
GTLM honors appeared headed to the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE until near the end of the 10-hour race, when Augusto Farfus ran wide exiting the final turn and the car plowed through the dirt and grass just off track. Farfus was forced to pit to have dirt and debris cleared off the nose of the car and was relegated to a third-place finish.
Makowiecki was nearly 20 seconds back in second place when Farfus had his off-course excursion. After taking the lead in the No. 911, the Frenchman kept Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R in arrears the rest of the way. A pair of late full-course cautions bunched the field but Makowiecki wasn’t deterred and took the checkered flag under yellow. It delivered the first Motul Petit Le Mans triumph for him and Campbell, and the fourth in the iconic race for Tandy.
“Petit Le Mans is one of the big races during the season, you really want to get it,” said Makowiecki. “It was a very tough race, tough weekend, and I’m so proud about my team because we did not give up. We had some good moments, some bad moments, but we had the right one.
“It doesn’t count to lead nine hours and 59 (minutes), what counts is the last minute.”
The second-place finish by Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg allowed the No. 3 Corvette to widen its GTLM points lead to 28 over the No. 4 Corvette. Garcia and Taylor lead No. 4 drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner by the same margin with two races remaining.
The No. 63 Ferrari made it known from the start that it would contend in GTD, with Westphal taking the lead from the second starting position on the opening lap. The car remained near the front the entire race, despite absorbing contact on more than one occasion while battling in traffic around the 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit.
Back in the car for the finish, Westphal made the decisive pass for the lead with just more than an hour to go. He pushed the No. 63 hard into Turn 10 and past Jack Hawksworth in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. From there, Westphal drove home the win – something he wasn’t expecting when the race weekend started.
“We showed up with a car that had great pace over one lap but it was killing the rear tires,” Westphal said. “Throughout each day, we made it better and better. We didn’t lose faith, we kind of just marched along and it really came alive in the race.”
Hawksworth, Aaron Telitz and Michael De Quesada finished second in the No. 14 Lexus. The No. 44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracan GT3, with drivers Andy Lally, John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly finished third.
Telitz unofficially moved into the points lead, two ahead of Hawksworth and four up on No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche drivers Ryan Hardwick and Patrick Long.
The next race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Oct. 30 – Nov. 1.