Mathieu Jaminet, Matt Campbell and Cooper MacNeil won the last race for IMSA’s GT Le Mans class at Motul Petit Le Mans in a 1-2 finish for the privateer WeatherTech Racing squad against the factory efforts from Corvette Racing and BMW Team RLL.
Jaminet took the checkered flag just 0.318 seconds ahead of Kevin Estre in the sister WeatherTech Porsche 911 RSR-19 after late contact between Nick Tandy and the overall winning Mazda DPi cost the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R a potential second place.
A final-lap reversal between the Porsches following Tandy’s incident resulted in the second major endurance race win of the year for the No. 79 WeatherTech crew which also prevailed in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Previous race leader Estre drew clear of Tandy’s Corvette after the final round of pit stops that took place with approximately three-quarters of an hour to go.
The two GT racing greats came to blows while fighting for the lead during the penultimate hour, in an episode that influenced the pit strategies for the final phase.
Estre first got past Jaminet in the No. 79 WeatherTech Porsche before closing in on Tandy, who shared the No. 4 Corvette with Tommy Milner and Alexander Sims.
Estre planted his Porsche down Tandy’s inside into Turn 10, but the pair touched and Tandy fought back which sent Estre out into the dirt for the next right-hand corner.
The contact caused some damage to Estre’s Porsche and the Frenchman pitted with an hour and 45 minutes to go, while Tandy continued under pressure from Jaminet.
The timing of Estre’s penultimate stop played into his hands when the GTLM front-runners came in for the final time. Estre had a few extra laps on his final stint tires and managed to power past Tandy at Turn 5 right after the Corvette driver exited the pits.
The 2018-19 FIA World Endurance champion then pulled away from the Englishman, who fell into the clutches of Jaminet.
Tandy, who previously drove for Porsche, lost second place with 10 minutes to go when his Corvette incurred left-front damage after a touch against Mazda’s Harry Tincknell in the Turn 10 braking zone.
Jaminet was several seconds behind Estre until the final lap when the WeatherTech cars reversed positions.
Augusto Farfus, John Edwards and Jesse Krohn picked up the final podium position in the pole-sitting No. 24 BMW M8 GTE run by the factory RLL squad.
Tandy did not return to the track after pitting his injured Corvette, marking a double retirement for the American manufacturer.
Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia also failed to finish, but sealed the GTLM drivers’ championship simply by taking the start of Saturday’s race.
After a strong opening, their No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R retired when Taylor slammed into the rear of the Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 as the GTD field bunched up in preparation for a restart. All drivers walked away from the multi-car crash.
The other GTLM retirement was the No. 25 BMW of Connor De Philippi, Philipp Eng and Bruno Spengler, which exited in the eighth hour when De Philippi ran wide out of Turn 12 and incurred damage on the car when he took to the grass along the main straight.
Vanthoor, Robichon Lift GTD Crown for Pfaff
Pfaff Motorsports pair Laurens Vanthoor and Zacharie Robichon earned the GT Daytona class championship by finishing second in the season finale alongside Lars Kern.
The Heart of Racing claimed the race victory with its Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Ross Gunn, Roman De Angelis and Ian James, while season honors went to the Pfaff squad which arrived at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta as the points leader.
Gunn crossed the line 7.857 seconds ahead of Vanthoor after a battle between the pair during the last couple of stints.
Vanthoor and Robichon’s title cause was aided by an early issue for their main rivals Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
The Paul Miller squad continued running and climbed several positions at the four-hour mark when half a dozen GTD cars, including some of the podium contenders, were eliminated in the accident that also claimed the No. 3 Corvette from GTLM.
However, finishing behind the trouble-free Pfaff Porsche wasn’t enough for Sellers and Snow to reverse the deficit alongside their Petit Le Mans co-driver Corey Lewis.
Zach Veach, Frankie Montecalvo and Robert Megennis rounded out the podium in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, ahead of the Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Daniel Juncadella, Daniel Morad and Michael de Quesada.
Correction: the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R collided with the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3, not the No. 19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo as originally stated in this article.
RESULTS: Motul Petit Le Mans