Wayne Taylor Racing’s Renger van der Zande, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon claimed a dramatic victory in the Motul Petit Le Mans 10-hour race after Pipo Derani and Ricky Taylor collided whilst battling for the lead in the closing stages.
Acura Team Penske’s Taylor made an attempt to pass Action Express Racing’s Derani for the win but the pair came to blows at the Turn 6 right-hander.
Their contact resulted in Taylor’s No. 7 Acura ARX-05 spinning around, while Derani’s Cadillac DPi-V.R ran deeper through the gravel and into the barriers.
This enabled van der Zande, who was approximately 10 seconds behind the front-running pair, to seize the lead before delivering an unlikely victory for the WTR Cadillac.
Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi were classified second at the end of the race, which came about under full course caution conditions after a heavy crash for the No. 912 GT Le Mans-class Porsche 911 RSR-19 at the Esses.
Team Penske’s other trio of Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud picked up a podium in their Acura while Sebastien Bourdais, Loic Duval and Tristan Vautier finished fourth for the JDC-Miller Motorsports/Mustang Sampling squad.
Derani and his co-drivers Felipe Nasr and Filipe Albuquerque were shown in fifth at the conclusion.
Wayne Taylor Racing’s first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory since the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona bolstered van der Zande and Briscoe’s title hopes as the pairing’s DPi points lead extended over the other crews in the top class.
Despite strengthening their grip on the championship, the WTR duo and Dixon were not looking like contenders for the win until Derani and Taylor’s race-deciding clash.
During the last couple of hours, the event looked set to be won by either the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac or the No. 7 Team Penske Acura.
These two cars engaged in a thrilling tussle, with Penske’s car leading consistently from the halfway mark until the start of hour nine when Rossi overtook Nasr.
However, the positions flipped again during the following stint when Derani made an undercut move on Taylor at Turn 7 before blasting off down the back straight.
The leading cars pitted simultaneously with 38 minutes to go, while Taylor leapfrogged Derani whose slightly longer previous stint necessitated a longer fuel fill.
Derani then reversed the positions on-track with a bold dive underneath Taylor into Turn 1 before the pair clashed in dramatic circumstances with just over 10 minutes to go.
This marked the final twist in an unpredictable race that featured several candidates for the DPi win and a high attrition rate among the cars in the top prototype class.
The No. 6 Penske Acura dominated the opening stages, with Cameron’s impressive opening stint setting his car up for a command that would persist through the first five hours.
Two cautions- one for Gabriel Aubry nosing the No. 85 JDC-Miller Cadillac into the Turn 1 barriers and the other for an LMP2 spinner – kept the front-runners close in the opening half but the Cameron/Montoya/Pagenaud Acura always had an edge.
However, its lead disappeared when Cameron tangled with an LMP2 competitor at Turn 3 just before the halfway point, with the American driver slipping to fourth.
While the No. 6 Acura kept itself on the lead lap after its incident, Penske’s effort became focused on the No. 7 and its duel for the lead with the Action Express Cadillac that ended with both entries missing out on the win to Wayne Taylor Racing.
At the same time as Cameron’s rotation, Mazda driver Oliver Jarvis crashed after contact from the Scuderia Corsa GTD Ferrari as the British driver exited the pits.
This marked the end of Mazda’s challenge, considering the Multimatic-run team had already lost several laps on its other RT24-P prototype because of a costly brake change.
The No. 55 Mazda that was affected earliest of the two cars recovered to eighth overall and sixth in DPi with Harry Tincknell, Jonathan Bomarito and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Starworks Wins LMP2 after Hunting Down PR1
LMP2 class honors went to Tower Motorsport by Starworks with its Oreca 07 Gibson driven by Job van Uitert, Mikkel Jensen and John Farano.
Their win came after chasing down the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca that led throughout the contest until the penultimate hour when a place change occurred.
The PR1 car then retired to its paddock area behind the wall after encountering a broken suspension, which promoted Performance Tech Motorsports’ Colin Braun, Matt Bell and Jim McGuire to second.
Additionally, Inter Europol Competition claimed a top-three result on its IMSA debut with its Oreca driven by Austin McCusker, Rob Hodes and Jakub Smiechowski.
RESULTS: Motul Petit Le Mans