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SPORTSCAR365: Top 10 Races of 2017

Sportscar365 counts down the top 10 sports car races from an action-packed year…

Photo: Porsche

The 2017 sports car racing season produced countless thrilling races, from 24-hour enduros to 60-minute sprints, in all corners of the globe, and Sportscar365 was there to cover it all. 

In our first ‘Top 10’ countdown, Sportscar365 selects the best races of the year:

10. Blancpain GT Nürburgring – Incredibly, ten drivers went into the Blancpain GT Series race at the Nürburgring with a chance of securing the Sprint Cup title which ultimately went the way of Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonard. The championship advantage changed between several cars over the course of the action-packed 60-minute shootout, with title favorites Maxi Buhk and Dries Vanthoor both dropping out with separate issues.

9. PWC VIR An action-packed weekend, on and off the track, saw CRP Racing claim its first Pirelli World Challenge victory in nearly three years, and nearly sweep the opening SprintX weekend of the season, if for not a controversial opening race that was marred by pit lane penalties. Seven cars were penalized for not meeting the minimum pit stop delta in Race 1, which gave victory to TR3 Racing, its first in the series.

8. IMSA Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – The penultimate IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round of the season saw the first, and so far only, series win for a LMP2 car in the new era of Prototype competition. Renger van der Zande achieved this success with a daring late-race pass on Dane Cameron in the infamous Corkscrew. There was drama elsewhere, too, with John Edwards (GT Le Mans) and Alessandro Balzan (GT Daytona) winning their classes on fuel conservation runs.

7. Motul Petit Le Mans – Two weeks after the Laguna Seca round, there was late-race drama in the season-ending Petit Le Mans as well. Brendon Hartley took his Tequila Patron ESM entry to the victory after ten hours following penalties for the two leading cars in the closing stages. Bill Auberlen won in GTLM on his 400th race with BMW and the M6 GTLM’s final appearance, while BAR1 Motorsports denied Performance Tech a perfect sweep of the last ever Prototype Challenge season and Land Motorsport won its second major endurance race of the year.

6. WEC Bahrain – The FIA World Endurance Championship season finale at Bahrain will go down as the end of an era for the globe-trotting series before it switches to its ‘Super Season’ format next year. While Toyota Gazoo Racing took home its fifth win of the season, the Bahrain race brought the Porsche LMP1 program to an end after four years of competition. The race itself had plenty of drama with two collisions between LMP1 and GTE cars and a thrilling LMP2 title battle, highlighted by Bruno Senna’s ironman closing stint without power steering to give the class title to Vaillante Rebellion.

5. Rolex 24 at Daytona – If the WEC finale at Bahrain was the end of an era, this year’s Rolex 24 was the start of another. The Florida endurance classic welcomed in a new breed of prototypes with DPis and next-gen global-spec LMP2 cars, which put on a fantastic battle all throughout the race. Wayne Taylor Racing, whose lineup included NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, crossed the line first with its Cadillac DPi-V.R, just 0.671 seconds ahead after 24 hours of racing, following a drama filled final hour that saw Ricky Taylor and the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac of Filipe Albuquerque make contact while battling for the lead.

4. IMSA CTMP – Action Express Racing’s Dane Cameron and Eric Curran claimed victory in a wild, rain-affected race that saw Pro-Am driver Mikhail Goikhberg lead overall in the JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, championship leader Jordan Taylor collide with the No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner and David Ostella’s PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson end the race on its roof. Tire strategy proved key to Cameron and Curran’s only win of the season.

3. Nürburgring 24 – Land Motorsport won with an incredible comeback drive after seemingly dropping out of contention with an electrical issue towards the end of the race, giving Kelvin van der Linde, Connor De Phillippi, Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Mies a very emotional victory on the ‘Green Hell’. While the Land crew put in an impressive performance to lead the majority of the race, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus led the first hour after taking a shock pole in another one of the weekend’s surprises. 

2. Total 24 Hours of Spa – July’s Belgian enduro was easily one of the best editions of the race in recent memory with a very close field matched by a spot-on Balance of Performance. The race had more than its fair share of twists and turns with many leading competitors crashing out or hitting trouble, setting Sainteloc Racing up for its first win as an Audi factory team. With nothing to separate the leading six cars in the final hours of the race, the battle was ultimately decided by the 65-minute maximum stint time rule which in itself became one of the main stories of the weekend.

1. 24 Hours of Le Mans – After the dramatic finish to last year’ race, the 2017 edition had a lot to live up to but it managed it nonetheless. The LMP1 Hybrid field was marred with mechanical issues and while Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard gave Porsche its third straight win, the race was led for a while by eventual LMP2 class winners Thomas Laurent, Ho-Pin Tung and Oliver Jarvis for Jackie Chan DC Racing. A last-lap battle between Jonny Adam and Jordan Taylor decided the GTE-Pro win, while the all-rookie JMW Motorsport trio took home the GTE-Am honors.

The latest news, photos and video features from the trusted Sportscar365 web staff.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. alric8

    December 21, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Super GT @ Sugo and Autopolis and GT Open @ Spa should have been there. Le Mans was remarkable, but often quite boring.

  2. the boot

    December 21, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Sahlens Six Hour’s at the Glen Action Express vs JDC Miller deserved to be on this list. That was a fantastic battle.

    LeMans GT Pro was good but the rest of race was very meh.

    • jason

      December 21, 2017 at 11:38 am

      I think it is a good choice for #1. The attrition filled LMP1 class created a sense of unpredictability that is kind of lacking in endurance races in this era. This is something I miss a lot. By the time Audi started winning Le Mans in the 2000s. That ended.

      At the Daytona 24 we got high attrition amongst the protos until the DPs started becoming super reliable themselves by the mid 2000’s decade. A GT car should have won overall at Daytona in 2004 as well, The Doran was saved by the clock and the excessive red and yellow flags due to the rain.

      I miss the days when cars won these endures by multiple laps on occasion.

      • Andy Flinn

        December 21, 2017 at 2:36 pm

        Jason, that’s why they race for 24 hours (24 Hours of Daytona). If a GT car couldn’t grab the lead after 24 hours, well, it didn’t deserve to win the race in 2004. Also, if you remember, it was the Tony Stewart Crawford DP that really almost won the race in 2004 – not a GT car.

        Oh, and the 1978 and 1979 editions of the 24 Hours of Daytona, won by Brumos Porsche (by 30 laps!) and Interscope Porsche (by almost 50 laps!!) are rarely cited as the most exciting races in Daytona history.

        • jason

          December 21, 2017 at 3:21 pm

          They did not race 24 hours that year. There was hours upon hours of red and yellow flag periods. I think it was red flag for 3-4 hours.

          You are right about the 2nd point with cars winning by 30 laps. But having multiple cars on the lead lap each race every year is not special anymore. It was back in 1996 between Momo and Taylor’s team. Same for Viper vs Corvette in 2000.

    • Matt

      December 21, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Each restart, Vanthoor in the 912 Porsche make some killer passes trying to work his way back to the front as well.

  3. FlyingLobster27

    December 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

    N24 ahead of Le Mans and Spa for me. An absolutely incredible finale with Land’s pit kerfuffle giving them time to pull off an inspired tyre change.
    The SRO GT finals rarely disappoint, and the Sprint at the Nürburgring was a corker. It’s a shame they moved the Endurance final to Barcelona, but that was still very tense with the Grasser Lambo starting lower than expected.
    I got up for nearly every Super GT race, and Honda’s season was memorable, for the turn-around they pulled off. Their cars were dying on the warm-up lap in Okayama, but they were the first to beat the mighty Lexus at Fuji, and the Nakajima Racing Honda dominated Suzuka – I would never have called that.
    In the US, I really enjoyed IMSA at Mosport.

    Kudos to S365 for reporting on another great sportscar racing season! Roll on 2018!

    • alric8

      December 21, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      ‘that was still very tense with the Grasser Lambo starting lower than expected.’

      OK, I know Bortolotti is quick, but I didn’t realise 2nd place was lower than expected for the Grasser car to qualify.

      • FlyingLobster27

        December 21, 2017 at 2:26 pm

        Wow, I got my races mixed up. It was at the Nürburgring that the Lambo qualified low. Thanks for pointing that out, my bad!

    • Andy Flinn

      December 21, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      “In the US, I really enjoyed IMSA at Mosport.”

      Let me be the first to point out that Mosport is not located in the US. North America? Yes! US? No.

      • FlyingLobster27

        December 21, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        That too, thanks. “US” was shorthand for North American racing.

  4. jason

    December 21, 2017 at 9:52 am

    I agree with the list mostly. Very well done and thought out. Deserving to be in the top ten I think was IMSA at VIR. A race with tight finishes which were natural because they ran full green flag the whole way. In GTLM/Overall. BMW led the whole way but fuel problems forced them to stop near the end and Corvette held off Ford and Risi Ferrari. In GTD it wsa mano-A-mano duel between the Change Lambo and Turner BMW where Change won their first ever race at the end.

  5. Noah

    December 21, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Vilander’s run at the Bathurst 12 really stood out to me too, but this is a pretty solid list.

    • Justin Porter

      December 21, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Agreed, Toni Vilander’s conquest of The Mountain was a defining moment in the career of one of the best GT drivers of our time.

      Leaving it off the list in favor of WEC Bahrain?

      • Matt

        December 21, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        Yeah I couldn’t care less if it was “the best race ever”. Bahrain as a track/parking lot makes everything look boring.

  6. Parker

    December 21, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    The 2010s have been an incredible decade for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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