Michael Shank Racing has claimed a monumental victory in the 19th annual Petit Le Mans, in the team’s final Prototype start, leading a Ligier JS P2 Honda 1-2 finish in the final race for DP machinery.
A fourth place overall finish, however, for the No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP gave Dane Cameron and Eric Curran the Prototype championship.
Olivier Pla took the No. 60 car to a 3.524-second victory over a hard-charging Pipo Derani in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM car, despite a misfire for the Shank entry and eight-minute dash to the checkered flag.
It came after a late-race yellow for the No. 70 Mazda Prototype of Joel Miller, which exploded in flames after running third overall, and poised to help deliver the first-ever P2 sweep of the overall podium in series history.
However, Miller’s Mazda ground to a halt, on fire, with 15 minutes remaining after an impressive run, highlighted by a race-leading triple-stint by Spencer Pigot.
The Mazda’s retirement handed third overall to the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Jordan Taylor, who shared driving duties with brother Ricky and Max Angelelli.
Newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud teamed with Cameron and Curran in the championship-winning No. 31 Action Express entry.
The trio benefited from a left-rear puncture for the sister, title-contending No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP of Filipe Albuquerque with three hours and 45 minutes remaining, which dropped them nearly two laps behind.
Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, who entered the weekend one point behind teammates Curran and Cameron, rebounded to finish fifth overall.
Action Express also took the P class Teams’ Championship, while Chevrolet locked up the Manufacturer’s Championship by starting Saturday’s race.
Up front, Pla shared the overall win with Ozz Negri and John Pew, in Pew’s final start with the Ohio-based team, which celebrated its 250th Prototype start in Saturday’s ten-hour season finale.
The win for the Shank crew came after an up-and-down race for the pole-sitting entry, including a left-rear wheel hub issue for Pla in the opening pit stop and also a late-race spin for the Frenchman, prior to the fifth and final yellow.
An engine misfire in the closing stages also put the team on the edge but they managed to hold on for their second win of the season.
Derani, Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek, meanwhile, came up one position short of completing a sweep of wins at Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans in the same year.
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports claimed top honors in Prototype Challenge in a dominant run, although losing the championship in a tie to Starworks Motorsport’s Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow.
Tom Kimber-Smith took the No. 52 Oreca FLM09 to a one-lap victory over the No. 38 Performance Tech entry of James French in second.
Kimber-Smith shared the class win with Robert Alon and Jose Gutierrez, marking back-to-back Petit Le Mans class victories for the Bobby Oergel-led squad.
With van der Zande, Popow and David Heinemeier Hanssson finishing sixth in class, after brake and suspension issues, they and the PR1/Mathiasen duo both ended up on 355 points.
However, van der Zande and Popow’s four class wins on the season, compared to Kimber-Smith and Alon’s three, gave the title to the Peter Baron-led Starworks squad.
RESULTS: Petit Le Mans