Renger van der Zande said he “almost crashed” into Ricky Taylor as the Acura Team Penske driver rejoined the track following a race-deciding collision with Pipo Derani in the closing stages of Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans 10-hour enduro.
Running third but making up ground on the leaders, van der Zande was 12 seconds behind when the top two came together with mere minutes remaining in the race.
After managing to miss Taylor at Turn 6, van der Zande found himself leading a race that could have gone a very different direction for himself, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon.
Their No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R battled a voltage issue for much of the day and also had a near-incident early in the seventh hour when Briscoe had a wild moment in the Turn 10A heavy braking zone that forced him to bail out through the gravel run-off.
Van der Zande admitted luck played a factor in WTR’s improbable overall win, which was its second of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season after the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January.
“It was pretty tricky,” said van der Zande. “[Taylor] was coming back on track, trying to get out of the way, but I almost crashed into him.
“My engineer screamed on the radio, like ‘hey, they crashed, they crashed!’
“Then I came there and it was like ‘Hallelujah’, straight to the lead and the safety car. Sometimes it’s good to be lucky, but we had good speed in the car.”
Van der Zande explained how the battery problem affected the No. 10 WTR Cadillac’s performance in the earlier stages of the race.
“We had trouble with batteries; we didn’t have AC or a fan,” he said.
“It was really hot in the car. We had to take off the power steering, down to the minimum. We went from 30 seconds down to 12 and never gave up.
“I didn’t think we’d win it today because we still had 12 seconds, but they messed up and we took advantage. They raced a little bit too hard… and we went to the lead.
“It’s a good [points] lead for two races [remaining] but so much can still happen.
“Guys crashed into each other and Mazdas had issues. We could have [gone] laps down. We didn’t; we won it.”