Drama all the way to the chequered flag in the season finale

The 21st edition of Motul Petit Le Mans started under shining sunlight, in the season finale in WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 2018.

Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22 with Pipo Derani had taken Pole Position, in front of Mazda Team Joest #77 and #55, while the other Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #2 would start fourth.

Before the race, Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 (start position P9) was leading the Prototype championship, ahead of CORE autosport ORECA #54 (start P14) and Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 (start P11).

In GTLM, BMW Team RLL #24 with John Edwards took the Pole, followed by Corvette Racing #3 with Jan Magnussen among others and Porsche #912. Magnussen together with Antonio Garcia were leading the championship, nine points ahead of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 (start P4) and #66 (start P6), with Porsche #912 in fourth position.

Petit Le Mans start 2018
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Michael L. Levitt

Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 driver Daniel Serra had taken Pole in the GTD class, in front of 3GT Racing Lexus #15 and Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #28.

Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 with Christina Nielsen would, unfortunately, have to start third last, since the team must change the engine after the third free practice. Behind them was Magnus Racing Audi #44 and Park Place Motorsports Porsche #73, since both had changed tires after the qualifying.

Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 (start P5) was the leading GTD car, ahead of Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 (start P6) and Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 (start 9).

The first lap was rough, where #2 was one of the big losers and fell back all the way to tenth position, while Acura Team Penske #7 was up to fourth.

Corvette Racing #3 & #4
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Phillip Abbott

Antonio Garcia in Corvette Racing #3 had taken the lead in GTLM. BMW Team RLL #24 fell back down the field after Connor De Phillippi drove into Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 with Joey Hand. The two cars didn’t hit each other hard but De Phillippi misjudged the distance under a slipstream overtaking, which luckily only costed a headlight on the BMW.

The two Mazda Team Joest cars swapped positions 20 minutes into the race, when Oliver Jarvis in #77 was slowed down slightly by Corvette Racing #3, and Jonathan Bomarito in #55 could drive away in second place.

25 minutes into the race there was a huge drama when the leading Pipo Derani in Tequila Patron ESM #22 got a puncture on his left rear tire. Luckily he didn’t have any other damage and got a set of new tires mounted on the car.

Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA #38 was the first team to get a penalty because their wheel rotated while they were op on the airjacks. It costed them a drive-through penalty.

CORE autosport ORECA #54 was back to the pits shortly after their first stop, where Jon Bennett got out and Romain Dumas got in.

Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

An hour into the race, Park Place Motorsports Porsche #73 spun in Turn 7, when Tim Pappis was a bit nervous that Ben Keating in Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 hit the wall in front of him. The rear of Pappis’ car ended up on the wall for a short moment, but he could continue without problems.

JDC-Miller Motorsport ORECA #85 also had a spin as Simon Trummer attempted to overtake Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86. Fortunately there was no contact.

After 66 minutes, the Safety Car was deployed for the first time when Acura Tema Penske #6 with Juan Pablo Montoya hit the tire wall in high speed. Luckily he got out of the car himself, while the car was totally damaged and out of the race.

BMW Team RLL #25 used the chance to repair the damage on the front of the car, where they chose to replace the whole front end including the splitter and headlights.

When the race was restarted, Acura Team Penske #7 was leading, in front of Mazda Team Joest #55 and #77. In GTLM it was BMW Team RLL #24 ahead of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 and Corvette Racing #3. But both #24 and #67 hadn’t pitted for the second time, while the other GTLM cars had.

Acura Team Penske #7
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

3GT Racing Lexus #15 had taken the lead in GTD, followed by the two Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 and #93.

Tequila Patron ESM #2 was flying, with Ryan Dalziel behind the wheel, and came up to third place, ahead of Mazda Team Joest #77 with Tristan Nunez.

A couple of drive-through penalties were handed out for speeding up in the pitlane, to Park Place Motorsports Porsche #73 and BMW Team RLL #25 respectively.

An hour and 45 minutes into the race, there was another Safety Car period when Turner Motorsport BMW #96 hit the wall very hard in Turn 1. There was no tirewall in front of the concrete, so the rear end of the BMW M6 GT3 car was completely destroyed. Luckily, Dillon Machavern could climb out of the car by himself. The incident happened when four cars drove side-by-side down the start/finish straight. Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 was on the inside and kept its line to Turn 1, when Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 next to it drove into the side of Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #64, that hit #96 as the result – without the slightest chance to save the car. The stewards decided that it was an accident and did nothing more about the case.

Under the FCY period, Mazda Team Joest #55 suddenly lost a rear wheel and had to drive the entire lap on three wheels. Spencer Pigot drove the car back to the pits and got a new tire, so that he was ready again for the green flag.

Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

There was a hard battle between Helio Castroneves in Acura Team Penske #7 in the lead and Ryan Dalziel in Tequila Patron ESM #2 in P2. Castroneves blocked as much as he could, so Dalziel had to pull slightly back again.

Shortly after that, there was another FCY period, when JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA #99 sat firmly in the gravel in Turn 10.

With 7 hours and 25 minutes left on the clock, the car got restarted. Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 had the lead, in front of Acura Team Penske #7 and Tequila Patron ESM #2. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 was leading the GTLM category, head of Corvette Racing #3 and Ford #67. Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #64 led GTD in front of Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 and Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #29.

Dirk Müller in #66 and Jan Magnussen in #3 had a duel for the lead, but the Ford had one less pitstop, so it wasn’t a real fight.

Porsche #911 had had a tour on the grass, which filled the cooling grill up with grass, so Fred Makowiecki had to pit to get it cleaned.

Suddenly, Tequila Patron ESM #2 was slowing down on the track and had to pit. The team must drive the car back to the garage due to a suspension problem. It costed them ten laps before they could get back to the track.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

With under seven hours left, Acura Team Penske #7 with Helio Castroneves took the lead of the race, in a nice outbraking against Eric Curran in Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31.

After three and a half hours, Filipe Albuerquerque in Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 went off the track in Turn 1 when he was in a battle with Helio Castroneves.

Shortly afterwards, Lucas di Grassi in Mazda Team Joest #77 went past the championship contender Colin Braun in CORE autosport ORECA #54, in the fight for third position.

After four hours, Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 got a puncture on the left rear tire, which costed Patrick Long an extra pitstop.

Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 led the race after four hours, ahead of Acura Team Penske #7 and Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 was leading the GTLM class, in front of #67 and Corvette Racing #3. In GTD, Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 was first, followed by Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #29 and Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48.

Turner Motorsport BMW #96
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Acura Team Penske had breathed life in car #6 again, and it was noticed by the race director by giving them a drive-through penalty for driving the car through the paddock area instead of pushing it.

Meyer Shank Racing Acura #93 had a longer pitstop, where the mechanics were repairing something in the engine compartment. Thus they lost two laps to the leaders in the class.

Four hours and 45 minutes into the race there was another FCY, when Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA #38 had a broken rear suspension. JDC-Miller Motorsports #85 pitted under FCY with a puncture. It turned out that #85 got the puncture after being hit by Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5, the latter which then penalised with a drive-through.

3GT Racing Lexus #14 lost a rear wheel under FCY. Dominik Baumann tried to get the car back to the pits so that the mechanics could mount new tires, but it had to be transported back to the pits on a recovery truck.

Mazda Team Joest #55
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Shortly after the restart, Garcia drove Corvette Racing #3 up to third position, which would be enough to secure the championship. But they were only halfway through the race.

Sebastien Bourdais in Ford #66 fell back to P6 and now had his teammate, a Porsche, a BMW, and two Corvettes in front of him.

BMW Team RLL #24 was also in trouble when both Corvettes closed in, and soon afterwards also Porsche #912. A few corners later, the Porsche went past, too, and then Ford #66 was catching them up.

Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #29 pitted with a puncture after about five and a half hours of the race. Ten minutes later Magnus Racing Audi #44 also got a puncture, on the same left rear tire.

Less than half an hour after their latest puncture, #29 came to the pits again with a punctured left rear tire.

P1 Motorsports Mercedes #71
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

With four hours left, Mazda Team Joest #77 got the lead, after Graham Rahal in Acura Team Penske #7 had atour on the grass in Turn 2.

3GT Racing Lexus #14 had to retire with only three hours and 20 minutes left due to technical problems.

With three hours left on the clock, Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 was leading the race, ahead of Mazda Team Joest #55 and Acura Team Penske #7. The three cars were within three seconds from each other.

In the GTLM class, Corvette Racing #4 was first, followed by Porsche #912 and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67. Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Marcel Fässler in Corvette Racing #3 was fourth, only 6,2 seconds from the leader.

GTD saw Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 with the lead, in front of Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86, and Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48. Christina Nielsen, Patrick Long and Robert Renauer in Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 was P4, one lap from the leading Mercedes. David Heinemeier Hansson, Jack Hawksworth and Sean Rayhall in 3GT Racing Lexus #15 was P7 in the class.

Porsche #911 & Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

There was a bit of action in GTD class, where Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 went to attack Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33. But instead, #86 ended up losing a place to Paul Miller Racing Lambo #48.

JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA #99 went off on the grass and hit one of the sponsor signs, that he dragged with him for the whole lap before the mechanics in the pits pulled it from the car.

The lead in GTD changed when Luca Stolz in #33 could no longer hold Corey Lewis in #48 back, and a lap afterwards Trent Hindman in #86 also went past.

Two hours and 46 minutes before finish there was another Safety Car on the track, when Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 ended up on the gravel, after Miguel Molina lost control of the car under braking in Turn 6.

3GT Racing Lexus #15
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

There was a huge drama under the Safety Car period, when Antonio Garcia in Corvette Racing #3 hit the wall on the way out of the pits. Garcia drove the car back to the pits, where it got transported back to the team’s awning and eight mechanics immediately started to repair the front of the car. The team was extremely lucky that it happened under FCY, so they only lost five and a half minutes in the pits, which was equivalent to two laps behind the Safety Car.

When the race was restarted, Acura Team Penske #7 got a drive-through penalty for overtaking under the Safety Car. Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 got a Stop & Go on 2 minutes and 46 seconds, since they drove past the SC and was suddenly one lap ahead of everybody in their class.

Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 took the lead in GTD class, due to a different pitstop strategy from the competitors.

P1 Motorsport Mercedes #71 had a short tour in the tire wall, when Felipe Fraga was spun around by Earl Bamber in Porsche #912. It gave the latter a drive-through penalty, and caused them to lose the lead in GTLM. When Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 went up to second place, it made Corvette Racing #3 wouldn’t need to finish higher up in order to win the championship, due to their incident earlier in the race. #71 came back to the track without significant damages on the car, apart from missing a side-view mirror.

CORE autosport ORECA #54
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Richard Dole

112 minutes before the chequered flag, the lead changed from Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 to Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5, when Filipe Albuerquerque outsmarted Jordan Taylor.

Corvette Racing #4 and Meyer Shank Racing #86 came really close to each other in the pits. #4 pitted seconds before #86 was done with refuelling, so #86 had to pushed back and lost valuable seconds, before Alvaro Parente could leave the pits.

With about one and a half hours left, AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA #52 went off track in Turn 1. Even though Will Owen could drive a bit further he had to stop on the track, which deployed another SC.

An hour and 23 minutes before the finish, the race was restarted.

Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 got a drive-through penalty when Robert Renauer had a contact with Daniel Serra in Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63.

Tequila Patron ESM #22 had the overall lead, ahead of Mazda Team Joest #77 and Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5. In GTLM, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 kept the lead, in front of BMW Team RLL #24 and Porsche #911. Corvette #3 was eighth and lacking one point to win the championship, which at the moment would go to #67.

Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Paul Miller Racing Lambo #48 was leading the GTD class, ahead of Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 and #64, while #58 fell back to P6 after the penalty, just after 3GT Racing Lexus #15.

Porsche #911 and Corvette #4 fought for third place, with an hour left on the clock. #4 was right on the side of #911 but had to fall back behind.

55 minutes before the finish some things happened in GTLM, where Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 not only lost the lead to BMW Team RLL #24 but also Porsche #911. Thus the odds seemed to be on Corvette Racing #3’s favour again, that still could win another position in order to win the championship. Corvette Racing #4 was right behind #67, so things could still change quickly.

3GT Racing Lexus #15 spun by itself in Turn 7, and came back to the track without any help.

Corvette Racing #4 came out in front of both BMW Team RLL #24 and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67, when the three of them pitted at the same time.

Pipo Derani had some of bad minutes in Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22, when first he had a light ontact with a GT car out on the track, then he stalled under a pitstop and lost a couple more seconds.

Oliver Jarvis in Mazda Team Joest #77 also had a tour on the grass when he outbraked himself in Turn 2.

Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

With 35 minutes left, Paul Miller Racing Lambo #48 had its sight set to the victory in GTD championship, Corvette Racing #3 in GTLM, and CORE autosport ORECA #54 amongst the prototypes.

Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 took the lead of the race, with 27 minutes left, when Filipe Albuerquerque drove past Pipo Derani in Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22 on the track. Renger van der Zande in Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 was hovering behind, less than a second behind #22.

Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 took the GTD lead with 20 minutes left, ahead of Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 and Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48.

CORE autosport ORECA #54 had to pit with only nine minutes left on the clock, to get a little bit of fuel, and thus they fell back to seventh, only two places ahead of Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31, who then in the position to win the championship.

Renger van der Zande in #10 snatched the second place from Pipo Derani in #22 with just 7 minutes left of the race, with 0,6 seconds up to Albuerquerque in #5.

Derani in #22 pitted with three minutes left for a bit of fuel.

Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Phillip Abbott

Just when the race looked to be decided, the leading Mustang Sampling Cadillac ran out of fuel in Turn 10. The black car crawled slowly up the hill in Turn 10b, and got overtaken by Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 with Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mazda Team Joest #77 with Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, and Lucas di Grassi, and Mazda Team Joest #55 with Jonathan Bomarito, Marino Franchitti, and Spencer Pigot.

In GTLM, Porsche #911 won with Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet, and Fred Makowiecki, ahead of Corvette Racing #4 with Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin, and Marcel Fässler (on double duty in both #3 and #4) and BMW Team RLL #24 with Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, and Chaz Mostert.

The GTD class was won by Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 with Daniel Serra, Gunnar Jeannette, and Cooper MacNeil, ahead of Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente, and Trent Hindman in Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86, and Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 with Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, and Corey Lewis. Christina Nielsen, Patrick Long, and Robert Renauer in Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 finished in forth place, while David Heinemeier Hansson, Jack Hawksworth and Sean Rayhall finished in P10 for 3GT Racing Lexus #15.

Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 with Eric Curran og Felipe Nasr are the Prototype champions, only three points ahead of CORE autosport ORECA #54 with Colin Braun and Jon Bennett, while Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 with Renger van der Zande and Jordan Taylor finished third, four further points behind.

Cadillac won the constructor’s championship for the Prototypes in front of Acura, Nissan, and Mazda.

Magnus Racing Audi #44
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen in Corvette Racing #3 won the GTLM championship, with six point down to Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 with Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, and six further points to Corvette Racing #4 with Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin.

Ford won the GTLM constructor’s championship ahead of Chevrolet, Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari.

Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 with Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow won the GTD championship, in front of Katherine Legge and Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86, as well as Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating.

Christina Nielsen and Patrick Long finished in seventh place in the GTD championship for Wright Motorsports Porsche #58, while 3GT Racing Lexus #15 driver David Heinemeier Hansson finished in eleventh place.

Lamborghini won the GTD constructor’s championship ahead of Acura, Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, Lexus, Porsche, Audi, and BMW.

Misha Goikhberg won the Jim Trueman Award, as the best gentleman driver in the Prototype class, while Ben Keating won the Bob Akin Award as the best GTD driver. It means that the two will get a ticket to Le Mans 24-hour race in 2019, which is a huge prize.

Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 also won Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC) amongst the prototypes, in front of Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 and Acura Team Penske #7 with Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 with Dirk Müller and Joey Hand won TPNAEC for the GTLM cars, ahead of Porsche #911 and Ford #67, while Corvette #3 finished all the way down on sixth place.

JDC-Miller Motorsports #85 & Risi Competizione Ferrari #62
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 won TPNAEC for the teams, ahead of Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 and Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48. Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 finished in P9, while 3GT Racing #15 finished 12th.

It was the ending to the crazy season. What could you wish for more than the last race of the season being decided two corners before chequered flag, some championship candidates crashing their car less than three hours before the end of the race, but coming back to fight for the championship, and all the other exceptional things about this particular race.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 2018 was everything one could hope for, regardless your favourite finished on the podium or not – there were great races throughout the majority part of the season.

It won’t be long before the 2019 season starts at Daytona in January. So for now the teams can relax a little bit and enjoy their time off, before they start the preparations for the new season.

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