It was a chaotic qualifying race, ahead of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, this coming weekend.
The qualifying race is a new invention for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 2021, with qualifying being run yesterday, followed by a 100-minute race today. The race today, will decide the actual starting grid for the 24-hour race. Only two drivers were needed for this race, with three or four drivers needed in the actual 24-hour race.
The chaos already started following the qualifying yesterday. Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 with Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani had grabbed Pole, but was caught underweight, so the first starting position amongst the DPi cars went to Mazda Motorsports #55 with Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis, ahead of Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 with Loic Duval and Tristan Vautier, while Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing #01 with Kevin Magnussen and Renger van der Zande were third.
The LMP2 category was led by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 with Ben Keating and Mikkel Jensen on Pole, ahead of High Class Racing #20 with Dennis Andersen and Ferdinand Habsburg, while Cetilar Racing #47 with Roberto Lacorte and Antonio Fuoco was P3.
The LMP3 category is new to IWSC, and Mühlner Motorsports America #6 with Laurents Hörr and Moritz Kranz took first starting spot for that, ahead of Performance Tech Motorsports #38 with Rasmus Lindh and Cameron Cassels, and Core Motorsport #54 with Jon Bennett and George Kurtz.
GTLM had BMW Team RLL #24 with Augusto Farfus and Marco Wittmann on P1, ahead of the sister car #25 with Philipp Eng and Timo Glock, while Corvette Racing #4 with Alexander Sims and Nick Tandy were third fastest.
Last but not least, it was Wright Motorsports Porsche #16 who had posted the fastest GTD time, but that car was crashed during Saturday night practice, so the team had to buy the Black Swan Racing car back, resulting in Ryan Hardwick and Patrick Long having to start at the rear of the GTD field. That put AF Corse Ferrari #21 with Simon Mann and Nicklas Nielsen on first starting position for the qualifying race, ahead of Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #1 with Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, while Winward Racing Mercedes #57 with Philip Ellis and Russell Ward was third.
Riley Motorsports #74 and Team TGM Porsche #64 were unable to take the start of the race due to technical issues.
The green flag fell at 14.05 local time, with 47 cars roaring towards Turn 1. The weather wasn’t really great, so all cars started on rain tires.
Ben Keating in #52 actually had a spin on the formation lap, since he was either a bit too hard on the throttle and/or had put the Traction Control level too far down.
Kevin Magnussen i #01 was extremely aggressive at the start, trying to take second spot already going into Turn 1, but would have to wait until Turn 3, to finish off the manoeuvre. He took the lead, going into the Bus Stop Chikane on Lap 1, by outbraking Oliver Jarvis in the Mazda Motorsports #55.
Tower Motorsport #8 had a trip off course in Turn 5, but was quickly heading the right direction again.
RWR-Eurasia #51 also spun in Turn 5, but also recovered quickly.
NTE Sport Audi #42 and Riley Motorsports #91 both received a Drive-through penalty, for changing their start driver after the deadline.
Paul Miller Racing Lambo #1 was parked in the pits, after less than 10 minutes of racing. The mechanics were checking something in the engine bay. They opted to call it a day, and save the equipment for next weekend instead.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 was also handed a Drive-through, since Keating had charged all the way through the field, to take up his starting position, following his spin, which he wasn’t allowed to do.
There were troubles in Turn 1, when Tower Motorsport #8, Sean Creech Motorsport #33 and Era Motorsport #18 spun around, and was blocking the track. That resulted in the first Full Course Yellow of the day, so the cars could reverse and rejoin safely, without being at risk of being hit by other competitors.
The lead had changed in more than just DPi. The LMP2 lead was taken by Win Autosport #11, LMP3 leader was now Performance Tech Motorsports #38, Corvette Racing #4 in GTLM, while GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini #111 was the new GTD leader.
The race was restarted again, after just under 10 minutes of reduced speed.
Tristan Vautier in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 took second away from Jarvis in Mazda Motorsports #55 in Turn 1, so the Brit had lost two spots in two starts during the race.
Forty7 Motorsports #7 was off the circuit at Turn 6, but was able to rejoin again.
It only last half a lap, until Full Course Caution was out again, when Christina Nielsen in the Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche #88 went off the circuit in the Bus Stop Chicane. He was side by side with some of her competitors, brushed the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lambo #19, and got a shove herself in the rear of the car, sending her into the tire barrier, that she wasn’t able to reverse out of under her own power.
Penalties were handed out left, right and centre – Vasser Sullivan Lexus #12, TF Sport Aston Martin #97, Magnus by Archangel Acura #44, Alegra Motorsports Mercedes #28, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 and Wright Motorsports Porsche #16 all got 3 minutes and 56 seconds Stop & Go penalty for improper pass-around, since the cars there were a lap being during the previous Safety Car period, was allowed to rejoin at the back of the field.
All DPi cars except Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing #01 took the opportunity of FCY period 2 to pit for slicks.
Riley Motorsports #91 had to be pushed back to the garage, when the mechanics weren’t able to fix the issue in the pits.
Vasser Sullivan Lexus #12 got an additional 20 seconds Stop & Go penalty, since they had driven way too fast in the pits. Win Autosports #11 was handed a Drive-through for speeding in the pits – just not as much the #12 car.
The race went green again, after almost 20 minutes of yellow flag running. Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 instantly won some spots, when Felipe Nasr believed more in the brakes than Ricky Taylor in the Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Acura #10.
Magnussen in #01 was overtaken on the second green lap, since his rain tires were completely gone, and the slicks were the right choice to have on the cars now.
Nicklas Nielsen in AF Corse Ferrari #21 had a left rear puncture, with a lot of tire smoke erupting from the inner wheel arch. The Dane tried to get the car back to the pits, but would have to do almost a full lap, before he was back with the team.
Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 spun in the pit exit, when Alessandro Pier Guidi was a bit too fast on the throttle, on brand new slicks.
Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 took the DPi lead, when Nasr made a late dive on Vautier in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5.
Forty7 Motorsports #7 had another spin, all by themselves.
DragonSpeed #82 got a Drive-through penalty for incorrect manning on the fire extinguisher during their refuelling stop. Win Autosport #11 got another Drive-through, for speeding in the pits.
Cetilar Racing #47 had made its way into the LMP2 lead, when Antonio Fuoco took the lead from Mikkel Jensen in PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52.
GRT Grasser Racing Team Lambo #111 took the GTD lead, when Mirko Bortolotti managed to overtake Oliver Gavin in the Vasser Sullivan Lexus #14.
Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing #01 had dropped far down the field, when they pitted for slicks, a lot time after their competitors. Their prayers of caution hadn’t been heard so far.
Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 was called to the pits by the race officials, since they had a mechanical problem with the car.
WeatherTech Racing Porsche #79 had taken the GTLM lead, when Cooper MacNeil had managed to keep the car going for so long, that Kevin Estre was able to jump in the car, without having to refuel quite as much as the opposition.
Turner Motorsport BMW #96 were the new GTD leaders, after some sneaky pit strategy, helping them up the field.
Sean Creech Motorsport #33 had to go back to the garage, after leading the LMP3 category with Joao Barbosa behind the wheel.
Mikkel Jensen in the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 had managed to catch Antonio Fuoco in Cetilar Racing #47 again, and the Dane put the Italian under a lot of pressure.
Covette Racing #4 and #3 had managed to get past the WeatherTech Racing Porsche #79, when Estre would have to refuel.
There was a battle brewing for third in LMP2, with High Class Racing #20 having made its way into third, but with Racing Team Nederland #29 right behind, less than a second behind.
Jensen took the LMP2 lead with 10 minutes to go, when he dived very late on Fuoco in Turn 3.
Cetilar Racing #47, unfortunately, had to pit with 7 minutes to go, due to some technical issues on the car, that a Dallara technician tired to help the team mechanics solving.
Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 with Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr won the qualifying race, ahead of Mazda Motorsports #55 with Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis, and the Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 with Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 with Mikkel Jensen and Ben Keating won the LMP2 category, ahead of High Class Racing #20 with Dennis Andersen and Ferdinand Habsburg, while Tower Motorsport #8 with Gabriel Aubry and John Farano finished third.
The LMP3 category was won by Mühlner Motorsport #6 with Laurents Hörr and Moritz Kranz, ahead of Forty7 Motorsports #7 with Ryan Norman and Mark Kvamme, and Core Motorsport #54 with Jon Bennett and George Kurtz in P3.
Turner Motorsport BMW #96 with Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley won the GTD category, ahead of Pfaff Motorsports Porsche #9 with Laurens Vanthoor and Zach Robichon, and the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lambo #111 with Mirko Bortolotti and Rolf Ineichen.
So that is the starting grid – and the first points for the championship – decided ahead of the 24-hour race, that will run this upcoming Saturday and Sunday.
The teams can rest until Thursday, where three practice sessions, plus a fourth on Friday, before Warm-Up will lead into the race on Saturday 30 January 2021.
Update– GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini #19 was dropped to last in the GTD category, following the post-race scrutineering, since they were underweight. So Misha Goikhberg and Franck Perera lost their 6th place in the race due to this penalty.