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Friday December 15th, 2017 6:40PM

Tequila Patrón ESM scores Petit Le Mans victory at Road Atlanta

By IMSA Wire Service
  Contact Editor

BRASELTON, Ga. - Throughout most of Saturday’s 10-hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the pair of Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi cars were the class of the field.

The team’s No. 22 machine shared by Pipo Derani, Johannes van Overbeek and Bruno Senna, and the No. 2 Nissan DPi of Ryan Dalziel, Scott Sharp and Brendon Hartley were fixtures inside the top five for most of the race and ran either first or second for several hours. There were other challengers, to be sure, but it was readily apparent throughout the race that the Patrón cars would figure in the outcome of the race.

In the end, it all came down to the race’s final restart with 28 minutes remaining. Derani held the lead, with Filipe Albuquerque second in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, Hartley third in the No. 22 and Dane Cameron fourth in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi.

By the end of the first lap following the restart, Derani was leading Albuquerque, while Cameron relegated Hartley to fourth in the running order. But incidents and costly penalties wreaked havoc on the top three.

Teammates Albuquerque and Cameron tangled, resulting in an unjustifiable risk penalty for Albuquerque. Derani had a dustup with the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, bringing the No. 22 Nissan onto pit road to serve a penalty for incident responsibility.

In the end, Hartley had the cleanest closing stint. He and co-drivers Sharp and Dalziel were rewarded with a victory in one of the crown jewels of sports car racing, by 7.633 seconds over Cameron. It was Hartley’s first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory and second IMSA win, taking a GRAND-AM Rolex Series victory at Road America in 2013.

“We had a really strong middle of the race,” Hartley said. “We had a comfortable lead, actually. We had a little problem halfway through, which put us P4 or P5, so we had to fight back. I got past Filipe Albuquerque just before the last safety car. He got me back in the pits.

“Then, with the last restart, that was nuts. I mean, the three or four race contenders were at the back of the GTs and it was mayhem. In the end, I kept it clean, and the other two didn’t and that’s how I ended up in the lead. I was looking forward to a good scrap at the end with Filipe. It was a shame he got a penalty. It would have been a nice finish of the race, but I’m so proud of everyone involved, Ryan, Scott, the whole team. Not a scratch on the car after 10 hours of hard racing, and around here that says a lot. Awesome race.”

For Sharp, Dalziel and the Patrón ESM team, it was the third major North American endurance race victory in the past two years, after taking both the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring last year. It was the Patrón ESM team’s second win this season, as Derani and van Overbeek won in the No. 22 Nissan DPi at Road America in August. It was Sharp’s 15th IMSA win and Dalziel’s 10th IMSA.

“We came back fighting, a great effort from Patrón ESM, both cars,” said Dalziel. “I think either car could have won it. Its a shame we had the penalty. Super, super stoked for Scott and for the 2-car guys, they did an amazing job as always.”

Despite the late-race incident, 2016 WeatherTech Championship Prototype champions Cameron and Curran – who were joined for this race by Conway – came home second in Cameron’s final race with the team before going to the new Team Penske Acura DPi program next year. That was one spot better than his future teammates, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, who finished third in the No. 6 Team Penske ORECA LM P2 car.

Taylor Brothers Wrap Up WeatherTech Championship Prototype Title

Brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor brought home the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title for their father’s Wayne Taylor Racing team, ending a dominant campaign in their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.

The brothers swept the first five races of the season, opening with their first Rolex 24 At Daytona victory in January alongside co-drivers Max Angelelli, in his final start as a driver, and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon. In the next race, they teamed with British racer Alex Lynn to win the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, accomplishing the 36 Hours of Florida sweep 21 years after their father accomplished the same feat.

Then it was the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, which they won for the third consecutive year, followed by a dominating performance in the Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown at Circuit of The Americas. Their fifth and final victory in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park was somewhat surprising, as Ricky Taylor crashed in qualifying and started at the rear of the field.

The five victories proved to be insurmountable for the rest of the competition, and two more podium results over the final five races was more than enough to bring home the title. For Ricky Taylor, the championship was his first.

“Jordan and I did the best we could, but I think it really comes down to the team,” Ricky Taylor said. “Cadillac and Dallara worked together to get the car ready on track in September last year and then (we were) the first team with the car testing, learning.

“All of our guys were really open to learning how this new style of the cars work and what makes them fast. Then down to the mechanics, they’re like specialists in each of their areas and they’ve really shown this year how good people can all step up and do their job and really create a separation from the rest of the field.”

Jordan Taylor already knew what it felt like to win a title for his father’s team, having done so in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype class with Angelelli in 2013. But this one was different.

“I think the first one was obviously special because it was my first one,” said Jordan Taylor. “But I think being with Ricky the past four years now, we’ve been close a lot of times and it means a lot more to do it with family. Max is like family but I think it means a lot more having Ricky in the car.”

The Taylors will celebrate their accomplishments Monday night in the WeatherTech Night of Champions at Chateau Elan Winery and Resort in Braselton, Georgia.

No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports Team of Grist, Drissi, Falb Wins Motul Petit Le Mans

The final race in the history of the Prototype Challenge (PC) class featured a trio of first-time winners in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.

John Falb, Garett Grist and Tomy Drissi co-drove the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 to victory in the 20th Anniversary Motul Petit Le Mans on Saturday at Road Atlanta, as a seven-race PC win streak by the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09 team.

The complexion of the PC race changed just past the halfway point in the 10-hour race. Leader Kyle Masson in the No. 38 machine was involved in an incident with the No. 13 Rebellion Racing ORECA LM P2 car of Nick Heidfeld, removing both cars from contention. Two laps later, Drissi took the lead from his BAR1 teammate, Buddy Rice in the No. 20 entry.

The teammates traded the class lead a couple of times in the sixth hour, but the No. 26 pulled away over the last three-and-a-half hours to win by eight laps. While it was the first WeatherTech Championship win for all three drivers, it was Drissi’s fourth career IMSA win, with three previous victories in the American Le Mans Series. Falb and Grist had not won previously at the top levels of IMSA.

“The PC class, you know, it really did its job since 2010,” Drissi said. “They were great battles, I know they weren’t the P1 or P2 cars, or the big factory teams, but some of the greatest racing in those cars will be talked about by drivers and teams and fans. I’m just so happy to be here. It was so hard to fight today. Everybody was on it ten tenths. I think before my next race I need to do some pushups.”

Performance Tech Motorsports Goes Seven-For-Eight In The 2017 WeatherTech Championship

One race after clinching the WeatherTech Championship Prototype Challenge (PC) class title, the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09 team of James French, Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Masson came within five hours of completing a historic sweep of all eight PC races in the class’ final season due to an incident.

The trio still came away with a third-place trophy, and will add more hardware to their trophy case in Monday night’s WeatherTech Night of Champions when they pick up the WeatherTech Championship PC season championship, as well as the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

It was an outstanding season for the No. 38 team, which hadn’t won a WeatherTech Championship race prior to 2017. But they changed that in a big way right from the get-go this year with dominating victories in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring setting the tone for their championship run.

“We’re definitely super, super happy,” O’Ward said. “I mean, it was a bummer that we couldn’t get the last one. We were one race off of a perfect season, but it was great. The bad luck had to come sometime and a bunch of bad things happened this race. We’ve just got to own it. It’s part of racing and you have to learn how to win or lose. We’d won every single race, we got every fastest lap, almost every pole.

“I’m actually happy with how it went. I’m looking forward to next season. I’m want to be in a P car, so hopefully that becomes true.”

It wasn’t just race victories for the team, either. French built up quite a collection of TOTAL Pole Award hats, taking seven of eight this season, with only the Sebring pole going to another competitor, Gustavo Yacaman.

“In general, it’s a good way to go out,” French said. “We couldn’t ask for more than a championship. We really were hoping for the perfect season, though. We were so close. We just got caught up in that little incident. Through all the races, they were just a blast. We had great camaraderie between the three of us, Kyle and Pato, and with everybody on the team. We had really good results and a great time doing it.”

BMW Team RLL Scores Motul Petit Le Mans Victory In GTLM Class At Road Atlanta

BMW Team RLL capped off an impressive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season Saturday with its second win in a Tequila Patrón North American Endurance event this year Saturday in the Petit Le Mans.

Alexander Sims held off Antonio Garcia over a final 28-minute sprint to the checkered flag to give the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM co-driven by Bill Auberlen and Kuno Wittmer its third GT Le Mans (GTLM) win of the season. The team’s other two wins came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and the six-hour Patrón Endurance Cup race at Watkins Glen.

It was a milestone victory for Auberlen, who was making his 400th career start with BMW. It was his 58th career IMSA win, putting him two behind Scott Pruett who leads all-time with 60 wins.

“I’m the most fortunate person in the world,” said Auberlen. “It’s been a privilege driving for BMW for 21 years, and on my 400th race to win … I’m amongst a lot of great guys here, a lot of great teammates. A lot of the smartest people in the world here working for BMW. I’m very thankful and so happy.”

“Co-driving with such a legend, I mean this guy is amazing to drive with,” added Wittmer. “He teaches every young kid out there a trick or two. And Alex (Sims) at the end, a ball of talent. It’s just really, really pleasant to be with these two guys.”

The No. 25 BMW team finished the season second in the GTLM standings.

Three different manufacturers made up the top three spots with the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Alessandro Pier Guidi.

*Corvette Racing Finishes Second, Wins GTLM Class Championship

Garcia finished second in the race, but along with co-driver Jan Magnussen and the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R team, went onto win the GTLM driver and team class championships. Chevrolet also won the manufacturer championship. The duo was joined by Mike Rockenfeller in the runner-up effort at Road Atlanta.

“It’s been a hard-fought year for Corvette Racing,” said Magnussen. “We haven’t always had the fastest car, but I think we got the most out of it. We overachieved on the bad weekends and got a little more out of it than we should have. To be in a category that is this competitive where the cars are so close and you are fighting every lap, to have a points margin this big at the end of the year means we did a lot of stuff right.”

Garcia, Magnussen and the No. 3 Corvette team will be crowned Monday night at the Chateau Élan Winery & Resort in Braselton, Georgia. The WeatherTech Night of Champions will recognize team, driver and manufacturer champions in all four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes – Prototype (P), GT Le Mans (GTLM), Prototype Challenge (PC) and GT Daytona (GTD) – as well as recognize champions of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

Montaplast Audi Team Wins GTD Class

The Montaplast by Land-Motorsport team may not campaign a full-season entry in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, but when they show up at a track they have to be considered one of the favorites.

That was certainly the case this weekend with Connor De Phillippi, Sheldon van der Linde and Christopher Mies co-driving to an impressive victory in the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. It was the team’s third start of the season in the No. 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3, after finishing second at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and fourth at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

It was the first career WeatherTech Championship win for the team and each of its three drivers.

“We almost got our first win at Daytona,” said De Phillippi. “We left there with a very sour taste in our mouth because we knew it was right in front of us. We recovered, we did some homework. We improved in some areas we knew we needed to after the first two rounds and we came here and gave it all we had.”

Despite a lengthy lead in the final hour, a late-race caution set up a 28-minute dash to the checkered flag with De Phillippi suddenly just ahead of the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Michael Christensen. It didn’t take long, however, for De Phillippi to pull away, eventually winning by 15.518 seconds.

Christensen held on to second for he and co-drivers Daniel Morad and Michael de Quesada. The No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Lindsey, Joerg Bergmeister and Matt McMurry rounded out the podium.

Nielsen, Balzan Win Second Consecutive GTD Championship With Ferrari

Scuderia Corsa co-drivers Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan won their second consecutive class championship despite a ninth-place finish in the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3. While it wasn’t the finish the team was hoping for, the champions rode remarkable consistency to the title with seven podium finishes and one win on the season.

“We did a thing that not a lot of people have done,” Nielsen said. “One is fine, but twice is even greater. This one is even tougher than last year. The mentality of never resting on previous results, and always pushing and working harder than we ever have before has been our advantage. And that’s why we’re standing here today.”

Despite running in the top-five for much of the day, a broken axle in the race’s fifth hour sent the team behind the wall for lengthy repairs. The team was looking to sweep both the season championship and the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, but the mechanical issue eliminated the team from Patrón Endurance Cup contention.

“At the very end, we were also able to win the manufacturer championship for Ferrari on its 70th anniversary so it’s great honestly,” said Balzan. “The race was not easy, but I’m focused on what we won. And I really want to thank everybody because it’s a great season.”

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