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Season Review

Sportscar365’s Prototype Drivers of the Year

Sportscar365 selects the top prototype drivers of the 2022 season per category…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Sportscar365 is recognizing its top competitors and moments from 2022. The final awards go to the standout prototype drivers of the year, as chosen by website staff.

DPi – Tom Blomqvist

Joining Meyer Shank Racing at the start of the year, Tom Blomqvist was the revelation of the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, in helping take the Ohio-based team to the DPi title.

The 29-year-old son of rally legend Stig Blomqvist impressed at the wheel of the Acura ARX-05, teaming with fellow full-season driver Oliver Jarvis plus MSR’s NTT IndyCar Series stars Hello Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud for victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Blomqvist and Jarvis would not visit victory lane again until the title-deciding Motul Petit Le Mans but collected a string of five runner-up finishes, including several races the duo arguably should have won.

While the car count or level of diversity in the final year of the DPi formula was somewhat lacking, the six full season entries — spread between the MSR and Wayne Taylor Racing Acuras and Cadillac DPi-V.Rs from Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing and JDC-Miller Motorsports — provided fierce competition as one of the strongest fields in recent memory.

It makes Blomqvist’s achievements all the more impressive given the deep pool of driver talent that made up the season.

Honorable Mentions: Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (DPi runner-ups), Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande (CGR’s dynamic duo)

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Hypercar – Brendon Hartley

After twice finishing in the runner-up Toyota Gazoo Racing crew, Hartley finally became a three-time FIA World Endurance champion.

It was an impressive season for the New Zealander, who also claimed his third 24 Hours of Le Mans victory alongside four-time winner Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa.

The former Porsche LMP1 star was a natural fit into Toyota’s lineup when he replaced Fernando Alonso in 2019-20 and has frequently been at the forefront of the No. 8 car’s headline achievements.

Toyota drivers are always so hard to separate when it comes to individual awards, such is their level of consistency that got them on the manufacturer’s elite roster in the first place.

But Hartley gave strong evidence to be this publication’s 2022 Hypercar driver of the year, in part due to his pre-race performances.

He defeated Le Mans qualifying maestro Kamui Kobayashi by four-tenths of a second to claim the Hyperpole award in June, before setting a blistering lap time to top the charts at the Bahrain season finale by eight-tenths.

Hartley’s race pace was often outstanding, too. He was the quickest driver on average in the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid at Le Mans, as well as the dry six-hour races at Monza and Fuji where he was also the fastest Toyota pilot outright using the same metric.

Hartley continues to be one of the world’s finest prototype drivers, both as a sensation behind the wheel and as a team player. Based on that, it would be no surprise if the 33-year-old went on to become a four-time world champion and Le Mans winner.

Honorable mentions: Ryo Hirakawa (WEC title on debut), Matthieu Vaxiviere (superb for Alpine, second in championship), Jose Maria Lopez (atoned for big Sebring crash with some top-tier drives, particularly at Le Mans), Romain Dumas (excellent for Glickenhaus)

Photo: Prema

LMP2 – Louis Deletraz

Louis Deletraz was already a European Le Mans Series champion following his first full season in prototype competition. For his sophomore year, he doubled up and developed himself into one of the hottest properties on the driver market.

The 25-year-old Swiss played an integral role in Prema’s breakthrough maiden ELMS campaign alongside Ferdinand Habsburg, Lorenzo Colombo and Juan Manuel Correa.

In each of the seven races, he was given the task of bringing the car home through the closing stints, meaning he saw the checkered flag first at Paul Ricard, Imola, Barcelona, and Portimao.

He combined the title-winning campaign with Prema’s first venture into the FIA World Endurance Championship alongside Colombo and Robert Kubica. While that proved less fruitful, it peaked with a strong run to second place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In addition to his strong year on European soil, Deletraz enjoyed success in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Notably, a class victory at Motul Petit Le Mans allowed co-driver John Farano to seal the LMP2 title driving for Tower Motorsport.

After two years of stringing together results in LMP2 machinery, Deletraz was bound to show up on the radar of prospective top-class teams and manufacturers.

In that light, it should come as no surprise that he’s been snapped up by Wayne Taylor Racing to be the endurance driver for its GTP effort in IMSA next year.

Honorable mentions: Antonio Felix da Costa (WEC champion with JOTA), Will Stevens (WEC champion, ELMS race winner with Racing Team Turkey in one-off at Spa), Paul-Loup Chatin (returned IDEC Sport to winning ways at Monza), Ferdinand Habsburg (race winner in both WEC and ELMS)

Photo: MPS Agency

LMP3 – Malthe Jakobsen

Danish teenager Jakobsen has been driving LMP3 cars since 2020, but this year was the standout season that set him on the path to potential greatness in higher categories.

The 18-year-old swept the board in European Le Mans Series qualifying, taking six out of six pole positions in an astonishing feat that had never been achieved before.

His single-lap speed in Cool Racing’s No. 17 Ligier JS P320 Nissan then translated into prowess under racing situations.

Jakobsen, who claimed three fastest laps in LMP3, was the star member of the Cool lineup alongside his Bronze-rated co-drivers Mike Benham and Maurice Smith.

The trio won the season-opener at Paul Ricard and finished on the podium twice more, before snatching the title by winning in the Portimao season finale after problems befell Inter Europol Competition.

Jakobsen also won the LMP3 class at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Sean Creech Motorsport, as he took his promising European reputation Stateside.

His stellar year was capped by a call-up to test the Peugeot 9X8 at the FIA World Endurance Championship post-season rookie test where he was the fastest newcomer.

Honorable mentions: Colin Braun (IMSA LMP3 champion), Tom Dillmann (Michelin Le Mans Cup champion)

Photo: MPS Agency

Best Bronze – Francois Perrodo

Long-time GTE competitor Perrodo tried his hand at LMP2 in 2017 and 2018 but struggled to get to grips with the faster Oreca 07 Gibson and its high downforce levels.

That spurred a return to the comfort of the GTE-Am ranks where Perrodo claimed his second and third WEC titles with AF Corse.

Having asserted himself as the top amateur driver in that arena, the Frenchman went back to a slightly slower LMP2 class this year to try and improve on his past efforts.

It was a successful venture as Perrodo won the WEC Pro-Am title with four out of six victories alongside his AF Corse co-drivers Alessio Rovera and Nicklas Nielsen.

It could have been more, were it not for a penalty at Monza and contact with the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Alexander Sims that brutally ended Corvette Racing’s hopes of GTE-Pro glory.

The clumsy collision on the Mulsanne Straight was Perrodo’s lowest point of the year, although the 45-year-old demonstrated class by personally heading over to the Corvette garage and offering his apologies to the heartbroken American squad.

Perrodo quickly managed to put that episode behind him and returned to the top step of the Pro-Am podium at Fuji and Bahrain, securing the title in the process.

He, Nielsen and Rovera dovetailed their world title success with a campaign in the bigger European Le Mans Series Pro-Am field.

While they lost out on the title to Racing Team Turkey, there was still a victory at Barcelona and three further podium finishes that indicated Perrodo has improved as a driver since his last LMP2 foray.

Honorable mentions: John Farano (IMSA LMP2 champion), Maurice Smith (ELMS LMP3 champion), Ben Keating (IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup LMP2 champion, overall podium at Daytona in first DPi start)

The latest news, photos and video features from the trusted Sportscar365 web staff.

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