Sunday’s start-line melee at Laguna Seca has virtually eliminated two title contenders from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with both the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R and No. 66 Ford GT heading to Road Atlanta with slim chances, at best, of the Prototype and GT Le Mans class crowns.
A stacked up field at the start of the America’s Tire 250 led to contact between the No. 99 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Misha Goikhberg and Joao Barbosa’s No. 5 Action Express Cadillac DPi, which spun and was clobbered by Dirk Mueller’s Ford and the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy.
It resulted in one of the biggest accidents of the season, all coming before the cars took the green flag.
“It seemed they all started going, and then they checked up,” Barbosa said. “I checked up, and I felt a big hit in the rear, and I spun around.
“Then I saw the GT traffic coming at me, and I just braced myself. It was a big hit, but the Cadillac is an amazing car, a strong car.”
Mueller, meanwhile, saw it from the opposite vantage point.
“At first I only saw some smoke from one Action Express car that rubbed the wall,” he told Sportscar365. “So I’m like, ‘OK, it’s just him’ but then I couldn’t see that car spinning. I saw an [opening] and nearly made it but he kept rolling.”
Seconds later, Tandy’s Porsche slammed head-on into the side of Barbosa’s car, causing significant damage to both machines, which were retired virtually on the spot.
In fact, with the Action Express Cadillac DPi not making it to the start line, Barbosa and title contender Filipe Albuquerque, who entered the weekend second in the championship and only seven points out of the lead, scored zero points on Sunday.
It’s dropped Albuquerque to sixth in the Prototype points standings, with a nearly insurmountable 33-point deficit heading into next month’s Motul Petit Le Mans.
“I’m sorry for all the Mustang Sampling Racing guys,” Barbosa added. “They worked all weekend to get the car ready.
“We had a really good shot today. The car was really good on race pace. Unfortunately, we’re out of the race, and the championship gets that much tougher now. We’re very disappointed.”
For Mueller and co-driver Joey Hand, who were only nine points out of the class lead entering the weekend, they now face a 15-point gap to Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen.
The gap could have been larger, however, if the team hadn’t repaired the No. 66 Ford for it to complete two laps, some 90 minutes after the accident, and overtake the No. 911 Porsche in the classification.
“That’s why we went back out,” Mueller said. “But we’re out of the championship now. Today was really disappointing because it was completely out of our hands.”
The No. 67 Ford of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe also lost significant ground in the championship on Sunday after contact later in the race led to steering damage, which led to a trip behind the wall for repairs.
Corvette’s Magnussen and Garcia will be crowned GTLM champions if they finish fifth or higher in the ten-hour finale.