Continental Tire Beyond the Podium explores the post-race news and notes from both the 19th annual Petit Le Mans IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge curtain-closer at Road Atlanta.
Petit Le Mans:
***Michael Shank Racing’s victory gave Ligier and Honda a clean sweep of major endurance race wins this year, following overall triumphs at Daytona and Sebring from Tequila Patron ESM. As a result, Honda took home the Manufacturers Championship in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
***In what’s become a final-race tradition, fans signed the nose of the No. 60 MSR entry while on the grid. Post-race, it went to longtime driver John Pew, who bowed out after a ten-year stint with the Ohio-based team in style with his second win of the season.
***Magnus Racing will not contest its post-race penalty, which dropped the No. 44 Audi R8 LMS to a 12th place class finish after crossing the line first in GTD. A team representative told Sportscar365 they had misunderstood the rule, which stated that its season-long Bronze/Silver rated driver must complete the minimum drive time of three hours in the race.
***John Potter completed the opening 52-minute stint and did not get back in the car. The team had been under the impression its Silver-rated third driver, Marco Seefried, would have qualified for the minimum time requirement.
***IMSA changed the rule for 2016 in the wake of last year’s Petit Le Mans, when Bill Sweedler completed only a single lap in the race to score points and win the GTD title with Townsend Bell in the rain-shortened event.
***Mazda’s hopes of its first overall podium finish went up in flames with just 15 minutes to go when a broken fuel injector took Joel Miller out of the race in dramatic fashion. “I think everybody knew the No. 70 Mazda was here to play. At the end, the Lola did well for its final race. She’s a tired girl but she did well,” Miller said.
***It came after an impressive run for the No. 70 car, which led in the hands of Spencer Pigot, who pulled an ironman quadruple stint just after climbing out of the No. 55 car, which retired in the third hour with electrical issues.
***A potential double class podium finish for Turner Motorsport was thwarted when teammates Jens Kilingmann and Markus Palttala collided in the final hour, sending Klingmann’s No. 96 BMW behind the wall and out of the race. The No. 97 BMW finished fourth in GTD, following the controversial incident.
***Longtime Viper dealer Ben Keating gave the Dodge Viper GT3-R class victory in its final outing in top-level international competition. “To do our last race with the Viper and go out on top is such a huge deal,” Keating said. “2017 will be the last year they’ll build the production car Viper and it seemed fitting to finish off the season [with a win].”
***The win was also special for Bleekemolen, as the Dutchman began his GT racing career with the ORECA-built Dodge Viper GTS-R in 2001, winning his first races with Carsport Holland in the FIA GT Championship. He said the run to the checkered flag was the “toughest stint of my life” after not having a functional air conditioning or drink bottle system in the final two hours in his battle with Andy Lally.
***A broken pickup point on the tub of the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 parked the Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow-driven entry in the eighth hour, but the duo still managed to claim the Prototype Challenge title, in a tie-breaker with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport’s Tom Kimber-Smith and Robert Alon. Kimber-Smith and Alon lost the title due to scoring only three wins compared to van der Zande and Popow’s four on the season.
***The DeltaWing retired in the fourth hour due to a broken timing chain belt. It brought to an end a tough season for the Tim Keene-led operation, which will now have one more race for the car on the schedule in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
***Despite winning Daytona and Sebring, and a runner-up finish in the Petit Le Mans, Tequila Patron ESM lost out on the Patron Endurance Cup Prototype title to the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque, who came home fifth on Saturday.
***ESM’s relationship with Honda appears to have come to a bitter end, following allegations from Ed Brown that the MSR car had a different engine mapping to their car in the race. “I felt like for the sister [Shank] car to be able to run two degrees more wing and have four miles an hour on us, it probably wasn’t the right thing to do. I think it was payback for us moving to Nissan for next year,” Brown said in the team’s post-race press release.
“In fairness, we’ve been a good partner. We milked their 04b, which was a horrible car. We did a lot of things for them over the years. For them to treat us that was disappointing. But we still got second, and we showed them that even with them playing the games, we are still pretty fast.”
***In addition to Action Express (P), PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports (PC) Corvette Racing (GTLM) and Magnus Racing (GTD) claimed Patron Endurance Cup titles, although it was The Heart of Racing/AJR’s Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas that took the GTD drivers’ title due to the drive-time violation for Magnus.
***Champions will be honored Monday evening at the “WeatherTech Night of Champions” awards banquet at the Chateau Elan Spa and Winery in Braselton, Ga.
Continental Tire Challenge:
***There was heartbreak for Mazda in the closing minutes, when Stevan McAleer pitted his No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 with engine failure while running second, which would have been enough for he and co-driver Chad McCumbee to claim the ST class title. “Freedom Autosport did a great job all season, but unfortunately, it blew up,” McAleer said.
***The 2015 ST class champions dropped to fourth in the standings with their 21st place finish, behind the Murillo Racing pairing of Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing, as well as HART’s Chad Gilsinger.
***Remarkably, McCumbee completed his stint with a broken right arm, sustained last week while working on a car at his shop. “Driving was tough. It was a lot different experience doing it with one hand,” he said. “We knew what we had to accomplish today, and that was how my whole stint went.”
***Multimatic Motorsports is unlikely to defend its GS championship next year, with customer support of its new-for-2017 Ford Mustang GT4 car likely to take priority. It’s understood C360R is poised to expand into a two-car operation and fly the flag for the Blue Oval in the new-look class, which will adopt GT4 regulations.