Eric Curran has described the range of emotions in the closing stages of Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, which ended with his second IMSA Prototype championship in the last three years.
Curran and Action Express Racing co-driver Felipe Nasr emerged with drivers’ title following a decisive call from the pit box for Nasr to conserve fuel in his final 48-minute stint.
Both the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R and title contender Colin Braun in the No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca 07 Gibson pitted on Lap 405, with Braun vaulting to fourth following the round of stops and in position to steal the title away.
However, Braun was forced to come back to the pits for a splash with 9 minutes to go, with Nasr attempting to hold on while battling a power-related issue.
Slipping to ninth and running lap times equivalent to the GT Le Mans cars, the Brazilian gained a position on the final lap, courtesy of a LMP2 car running out of fuel on the final lap.
The result was enough to eke out the championship by three points over Braun and co-driver Jon Bennett, who came home one position ahead in sixth.
Nervously watching in the pix box, Curran said the fuel mileage run added a whole extra level of drama.
“I was almost in tears from us not pulling this championship off in the last 30 minutes to tears of us actually pulling it off,” he told Sportscar365. “One extreme to the other! It was an interesting way to go about it.
“Tim [Keene], on the box, said we didn’t quite have the speed at the end, so let’s just slow everything down and look at fuel mileage, and not do that extra stop.
“The CORE guys went full speed, and had to do that extra stop, but we went slow speed and didn’t stop.
“It was just enough that we had enough points in the end to pull it off.”
The lack of pace for the Whelen-sponsored Cadillac DPi, which Curran and Nasr shared with Gabby Chaves was caused by rubber buildup that was found in the exhaust post-race.
“We felt it earlier in the day, and we hoped that it wasn’t an issue but towards the end it really started slowing it down,” Curran explained.
“[We decided] if we don’t have the power just to save fuel, and that’s what we did. It all worked out.”
Curran’s second WeatherTech Championship title comes after news that the 43-year-old will shift gears to a Michelin Endurance Cup-only role with the team next year, with Pipo Derani set to join Nasr for the full season.
“It’s unbelievable, it makes me want to go back to full time!” Curran said with a laugh.
“Looking back, on starting to drive for Action Express in 2015, Dane [Cameron] and I almost won the championship the first year in the rain [at Petit Le Mans].
“We were ten minutes away from winning the championship then, and we won it in 2016. We finished second in 2017 and here we go, winning it again.
“Top-three in the championship, four years in a row, it doesn’t get much better than this. Now, a Tequila Patron [North American Endurance Cup] championship to add to the list. It’s pretty awesome.”
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report.