Surprising defeat for Cadillac!

As the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship enters its final leg, we were treated to an exciting race on Wisconsin’s Elkhart Lake road course where, finally, Cadillac’s stronghold was broken. Last weekend’s action at Road America got underway in difficult, mixed, weather conditions which meant not much valuable data could be gathered for what was forecast to be a dry race. That is, until the third and final free practice session but even that didn’t go all the way. Katherine Legge suffered a significant crash in the fast Canada Corner (anyone recalls her Champcar shunt there?) which almost ruled out the No. 93 Acura she shares with Andy Lally.

Michael Shank’s crew, though, decided to repair the damaged chassis – with help from the RealTime Racing Acura mechanics who campaign the same type of cars in Pirelli World Challenged and are based close to the track – and they managed to do just that, the blue NSX being ready for the pre-race warm up session. This meant, however, that Legge and Lally – who came to Road America sitting third in the standings – had to start from the back. This brings us to how the rest of the field was ordered by qualifying. First up was the GT-D which was an impressive showcase by Dutchman Jeroen Mul who, on his first visit to Elkhart Lake, took his first ever series pole in the No. 16 Change Racing Huracan. His time, a 2:06.649, was quicker by 0,174-seconds than the best that Jesse Krohn could do aboard the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3. It was the second pole in a row for a Lamborghini in GT-D while Porsche’s quickest car, that of Park Place Motorsport, was third fastest.

Continue reading for the full story.

Qualifying

The Wayne Taylor Racing driver reeled in a 1:53.058 which was over a second quicker than the best that Jose Gutierrez could do.

Not everybody from the Lamborghini camp had a good day on Saturday, however, as championship contenders Paul Miller Racing were heavily penalized by IMSA after they failed the post-qualifying tech inspection. The officials found unhomologated parts as well as a noncompliant ECU which was confiscated from the No. 48 crew. This led to the team being given a $7,500 fine as well as a 15-point penalization which essentially takes Madison Snow & Co. out of the title hunt. Snow, who put the sixth best time in qualifying, also had to start the race from the bottom of the grid. It’s unclear, at the moment, exactly what IMSA found on the Paul Miller Racing Huracan but it must be something that could lead the team to enjoy a clear performance advantage although this did not happen at Road America – although the PMR guys are at the top of the Lamborghini pile in 2017.

Up next was GT-LM and Ford showed its strength by sweeping the front row of the grid. Dirk Mueller was first, quicker by almost 0,8-seconds than team-mate Ryan Briscoe with a 2:01.422. It was the third pole for Ford in 2017 and the first for Mueller since this race last year – him and Joey Hand having been on a dry spell since the Daytona 24 Hours at the beginning of the season.

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Up next was GT-LM and Ford showed its strength by sweeping the front row of the grid.

Alex Sims was third in BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 M6 while the other BMW was fifth, in between the Bavarian sandwich being Porsche’s Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 912 Porsche. It’s worth mentioning that this weekend of racing coincided with important announcements from both these manufacturers. First of all, BMW Motorsport boss Jens Marquardt announced that a final decision on the North-American GT-LM program for 2018 will come prior to the end of August – although BMW had previously outlined a world-debut of next-year’s M8 GTE for Daytona – while Porsche officially announced that the 991 GTE will be available for customers in 2018, which might mean we could see an increased grid size in both IMSA and the WEC. With BMW and Porsche coming in behind Posche, it meant that Corvette was again at the back of the grid, still struggling with a rather unsatisfactory BoP that has seen the GM works crew struggle at both Limerock and CTMP. In spite of all this, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia still led the GT-LM standings coming into Road America. Also, Giuseppe Risi announced that his Ferrari will return at the GT-only VIR round later this month and it will run in all the remaining races as well.

You could reuse the same headline as in the previous race meetings after the Prototype Challenge qualifying. That’s because, again, James French was in a class of his own in the Performance Tech ORECA which was also the only car (out of a grand total of three) to manage a better time than the GT-LM cars as French went into the 1:59s. In spite of Performance Tech’s dominant run, Don Yount still had mathematical chances of taking the title and he was second quickest ahead of Mark Kvamme.

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Between the second and the sixth placed cars the gap was merely two tenths.

Somehow, “benefiting” from even less downforce than he had at Daytona, Ricky Taylor managed to piece together an amazing lap around the four-mile-long road course to take the Prototype class pole. The Wayne Taylor Racing driver reeled in a 1:53.058 which was over a second quicker than the best that Jose Gutierrez could do in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport No. 52 Ligier. However, between the second and the sixth placed cars the gap was merely two tenths. Third was Scott Sharp in the No. 2 Nissan-Ligier while VisitFlorida.com Racing’s brand-new LMP2-spec Ligier was fourth ahead of Johannes van Overbeek’s No. 22 Ligier-Nissan. The other two Cadillacs were at the back of the pack, over 1,5 seconds behind the pole sitter. The two Mazdas, as previously announced, did not take part in the event although Joest’s Ralf Juttner was on site to scale up his team’s future rivals.

Prototype Class

The race was decided by a number of caution periods in the latter stages of the event.

The Konica Minolta-sponsored No. 10 Cadillac managed to maintain its lead as the two-hour-and-40-minutes race got underway on Sunday afternoon and, after only three laps, Ricky Taylor’s advantage was up to almost four seconds. This was despite the fact that, due to the reduced downforce, the Cadillac takes longer to bring its Continental rubber into temperature. Ricky kept pushing and, not before long, there were 10 seconds separating the first two cars on the road.

The race was, however, decided by a number of caution periods in the latter stages of the event which put Jordan Taylor’s position in jeopardy for the aforementioned reason regarding tires. This was exactly the break that Pipo Derani was waiting inside the No. 22 ESM-entered Ligier-Nissan and, with 38 minutes to go, the Brazilian put a pass down on Taylor, driving past the No. 10 on the outside.

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With 38 minutes to go, the Brazilian put a pass down on Taylor, driving past the No. 10 on the outside.

It was, at the time, for the second position overall but that became P1 as the No. 85 JDC/Miller ORECA pitted for fuel under the next caution period. The pits were closed so the car could only take five seconds-worth of fuel which meant it had to go back to the pits after the green flag was waved once more. This took the ORECA out of the podium fight (it finished eighth overall) and, instead, promoted the sister No. 2 Nissan-Ligier on a podium position. Ryan Dalziel even managed to close the gap to Jordan Taylor but couldn’t get past.

The Scotsman eventually crossed the line third, giving ESM a double podium finish alongside team-owner Scott Sharp. It was, also, the first non-Cadillac win after seven consecutive victories for the American manufacturer that uses a Dallara chassis for its DPi program. Dane Cameron and Eric Curran finished fourth ahead of the No. 90 Ligier while Joao Barbosa was sixth in the other Action Express Racing Cadillac. Barbosa and Fittipaldi completed a troublesome race in which rear deck damage put the No. 5 prototype a lap down in the early running. The two veterans managed to rebound and, although Ricky and Jordan have extended their championship advantage to 26 points, their championship hopes are still alive with two more rounds to go for the DPi/LMP2 group.

Top 5 Prototype Class Results

Pos No. Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 22 van Overbeek/Derani Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi 71
2 10 Taylor/Taylor Konica Minolta Cadillac Cadillac DPi 71
3 2 Sharp/Dalziel Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi 71
4 31 Cameron/Curran Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi 71
5 90 Goossens Visit Florida Racing Ligier LMP2 71

Prototype Challenge Class

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James French and Pat O’Ward sealed the deal in the goodbye season of the Prototype Challenge cars as they became champions of 2017 following their seventh win aboard the No. 38 Performance Tech car. French and O’Ward continued the team’s winning streak in spite of Gustavo Yacaman’s best efforts, who came home on P2, 22 seconds adrift. With Don Yount suffering a crash, Brent O’Neill’s Performance Tech only needs finishing points at Petit Le Mans to also crown themselves champions in the Team’s championship ahead of BAR1.

Prototype Challenge Class Results

Pos No. Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 38 French/O’Ward Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09 70
2 26 Kvamme/Yacaman BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 70
3 20 Yount/Rice BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 60

GT-LM Class

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Ford and Porsche were at the fore for most of the time, but BMW again showed promising pace.

It was an up-and-down race in the premier GT category. Ford and Porsche were at the fore for most of the time but BMW again showed promising pace. Martin Tomczyk and John Edwards started from the back after RLL changed the No. 24 car’s engine the night before the race. The two though managed to make their way to a podium position before running out of fuel at the entrance of the pit lane. Porsche also lost a car during the race. Namely, the No. 911 of Dirk Werner which was involved in a collision with the No. 3 Corvette of Tommy Milner.

The latter and Oliver Gavin had stopped for the first time during the first hour in a bid to gain a few positions by opting for a different strategy. The No. 3, though, was found guilty after the incident and, as such, couldn’t fight for the podium. The 991 GTE was dragged out of the sand pit (which occurred after the second restart with 40 minutes left to go) but was later retired from the race.

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The No. 66 Ford of Mueller and Hand won the race after Hand’s pass for the lead on the third restart.

Milner was still running fourth after taking the penalty, but was being reeled in by Alex Sims. The No. 25 BMW eventually tried to make a pass work but Sims came from too far back and crashed into the side of Milner. This helped Antonio Garcia pick up two places to finish fourth. Milner was fifth with Sims sixth. The No. 66 Ford of Mueller and Hand won the race after Hand’s pass for the lead on the third restart. Laurens Vanthoor was at the loser of that but he managed to remain on P2 until the end to score the second consecutive podium finish for himself and Bruni. The No. 67 Ford filled the last step of the podium.

Top 5 GT-LM Class Results

Pos No. Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 66 Mueller/Hand Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT 69
2 912 Vanthoor/Bruni Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR 69
3 67 Briscoe/Westbrook Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT 69
4 3 Magnussen/Garcia Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R 69
5 4 Gavin/Milner Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R 69

GT-D Class

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Turner Motorsport’s recent turn of fortune culminated on Sunday with the team’s first class win since COTA last year.

Turner Motorsport’s recent turn of fortune culminated on Sunday with the team’s first class win since COTA last year. Jesse Krohn and Jens Klingmann dominated the event after Finn Krohn took over the lead from Jeroen Mul on the opening lap. Park Place Motorsport finished second behind the BMW although the No. 73 of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey had to stop for an unscheduled check-up. Third was the Stevenson Motorsport Audi of Lawson Aschenbach and Andrew Davis.

Michael Shank Racing’s weekend was disastrous. The rebuilt Legge/Lally car had a suspension failure in the first half of the race which kept it stationary in the garage for a while before it rejoining in the hands of Andy Lally. The ex-Magnus Racing driver then put the car into the wall in the final hour. The sister car battled through two punctures and finished towards back of the field. This ultra challenging weekend for MSR sees Legge and Lally drop to fourth in the standings, 33 points behind Balzan and Nielsen.

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Michael Shank Racing’s weekend was disastrous.

The Danish-Italian duo in the No. 63 Ferrari finished fifth (the seventh Top 5 finish for the pair) behind the No. 33 Mercedes-Benz of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen. The Riley-prepared car jumped the Ferrari 488 GT3 after the team elected to short-fuel Bleekemolen who actually ran out of gas just after he crossed the finish line!

While Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeanette switched to last year’s Porsche for Road America, there still should have been three Mercedes on the grid for the Wisconsin round. Sadly, the Lone Star AMG GT GT3 of Dan Knox and Mike Skeen failed to make the start due to cooling issues that also put the car out for qualifying. It was a tough race also for the Habul/Vautier Mercedes which suffered a suspension failure during the race.

Top 5 GT-D Class Results

Pos No. Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 96 Klingmann/Krohn Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 68
2 73 Lindsey/Bergmeister Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R 68
3 57 Aschenbach/Davis Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 68
4 33 Keating/Bleekemolen Riley - Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3 68
5 63 Nielsen/Balzan Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 68

What’s Next?

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Up next in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship is the GT-only VIR round on the weekend of 26-27th August, followed by Laguna Seca in September and the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October.

Full Results

You can check out the full qualifying results here.

Also, the full race results are here.

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