***Tequila Patron ESM’s win in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans gives the Florida-based team overall victories in all three major North American endurance races over an 18-month period. The Scott Sharp-owned team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring last year.
***The race’s final restart saw the Prototype leaders take the green behind the GTD class-leading Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS, which led to chaos and ultimately a penalty for the No. 5 Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R of Filipe Albuquerque, who forced teammate Dane Cameron into the grass while trying to navigate around the GT cars.
***Cameron, who eventually finished second, said the situation needs a re-think. “I don’t know why the fuel capacities are the way they are,” he told Sportscar365. “The prototypes are 20 minutes or more shy on stint length to GT cars, so you get that all the time where we pit for our get-home mark and cycle to to the back and it’s just madness.”
***Despite the late-race drama, Albuquerque and co-drivers Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi took home the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup title, clinched following the retirement of the overall championship-winning No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac in the third hour.
***AXR’s No. 5 car completed 401 laps on Saturday, giving the team a total of 20,733.18 miles of racing in Patron Endurance Cup competition since the championship launched at Daytona in 2014. It was also the team’s fourth consecutive Patron Endurance Cup title.
***After a strong early run, the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson retired in the final hour with a deteriorating power-related issue. Contact with the No. 6 Team Penske Oreca 07 Gibson led to a broken header, according to team owner Troy Flis. “We knew it broke but we didn’t know how bad it really was,” he said. “It got to the point that we were just going to blow the motor up and we had to stop.”
***An engine-related issue halted the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac, less than three hours after Ricky and Jordan Taylor clinched the Prototype title by starting the race. It marked the first mechanical-related issue for the team since the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, according to Wayne Taylor.
***Performance Tech Motorsports’ quest of an undefeated season in Prototype Challenge was derailed just past the halfway mark when the No. 13 Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 Gibson of Nick Heidfeld made contact with Kyle Masson, damaging the class championship-winning entry.
***While Masson and co-drivers James French and Pato O’Ward returned to action, they finished 17 laps behind the class-winning No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports entry. “It still stinks for sure,” French told Sportscar365. “We were looking good for a while and had a two-lap lead. Everything was looking solid. But that’s how racing goes; things can change quickly.”
***Gustavo Menezes impressed in his debut with the Anglo-Swiss squad, leading laps in the fifth hour, prior to Heidfeld’s race-ending incident.
***While the drivers’ championships in Prototype, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona were locked up by just starting the race, the manufacturers’ titles in the production-based ranks went down to the checkered flag.
***Chevrolet claimed back-to-back titles in GTLM, thanks to a runner-up class finish for champions Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia on Saturday, with Ferrari taking the GTD championship. Cadillac, meanwhile, clinched the Prototype class title in dominant fashion.
***Porsche and drivers Dirk Werner and Patrick Pilet, meanwhile, picked up the Patron Endurance Cup titles in GTLM by a single point over Ford’s Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, with Riley Team AMG’s Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Mario Farnbacher, as well as Mercedes-AMG taking top GTD honors in the four-race championship.
***Stevenson Motorsports failed to finish its final race, with the No. 57 Audi R8 LMS facing multiple issues, including left-rear suspension failure, a spin from Andrew Davis and ultimately a crash with the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson that ended in retirement for the Audi.
***Both of the Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 cars retired, with the No. 93 car crashing out in the 6th hour in the hands of Mark Wilkins. The car had led for the majority of the first half of the race. The No. 86 Acura, meanwhile, made multiple trips to the garage, initially with splitter damage, before eventually calling it a night.
***Eight of the 17 GTD cars didn’t make it to the finish, marking a higher-than-usual rate of attrition. Among the other incidents was a heavy crash for Robert Alon in the No. 14 3GT Lexus and gearbox failure for the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Porsche, which completed only 15 laps in the hands of Cooper MacNeil.
***Mike Shinoda and Joe Hahn, members of Linkin Park, were at Road Atlanta on Saturday, supporting AMG and the No. 75 SunEnergy1 entry, which was carrying a tribute livery in honor of frontman Chester Bennington, who died in June. The band has established the “One More Light” fund in memory of Bennington, with funds going to raise awareness for mental heath, among other charitable organizations.
***Despite Stevenson Motorsports’ exit from competition, Audi is expecting to have at least two full-season entries in GT Daytona next year, according to Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke. Land Motorsport is poised for a full-time program with one Audi, although Alex Job Racing’s chassis is due to be returned to Audi of America following this weekend.
***There could also be additional Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the class next year, with Thomas Jaeger revealing to Sportscar365 that he expects up to two new entries. It’s understood IMSA Prototype Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo squad P1 Motorsports has purchased one car for a likely GTD campaign in 2018.
Continental Tire Challenge:
***Pole-sitter Paul Holton led most of the opening hour of Friday’s season-ending Fox Factory 120, but a slow stop which resulted in his C360R McLaren 570S GT4 going behind the wall with a loss of power.
***GS champions Dillon Machavern and Dylan Murcott didn’t have an easy run to winning the title this weekend as their Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR had to have an engine change before the race. Murcott slowed on-track in qualifying, less than five hours before the start of the race.
***It was revealed post-race that winners Jesse Lazare and Chris Green swapped McLaren GT4 chassis following Green’s heavy accident in Wednesday’s Promoter Test Day. The duo changed to its second car, typically run alongside the No. 69 entry, in time for Thursday’s timed practice sessions.
***Owen Trinkler and Sarah Cattaneo’s second consecutive ST class victory propelled the CRG I-Do Borrow duo to second in the class championship, ahead of the No. 17 RS1 Porsche Cayman of 2016 class champions Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante, which stopped on track with 30 minutes remaining.
***It came in what could be the final race for Cattaneo’s team, after announcing it will not return for a full season campaign with its Nissan Altima next year.
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report