GT cars beat Daytona Prototypes In Petit Le Mans

Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet embarrass the Daytona Prototypes with their Porsche 911
Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet embarrass the Daytona Prototypes with their Porsche 911

BRASELTON, Ga. – No, it didn't go the full 10 hours, but the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda was easily the toughest TUDOR United SportsCar Championship endurance race of the 2015 season – tough on drivers, crews, officials and fans, some of whom returned to their cars in the Road Atlanta parking lots and found them axle-deep in the red Georgia mud.

The rain never stopped, ranging from drizzle to downpour, with tantalizing skies that often looked to be lightening up but never quite did.

"We weren't racing, we were just trying to survive," said Scott Pruett, driver of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype, which finished second in class, fourth overall.

Wait, fourth overall? Yes, for the first time since 2003, when the TRG Porsche 911 won the Rolex 24 At Daytona – thanks in part to then-fragile Prototypes – a GT car not only won overall, but another GT car scored a second-place finish.

Again, the winner was a Porsche 911, number 911, driven by 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner Nick Tandy, co-driving with Patrick Pilet, who won the season championship in GT Le Mans (GTLM). When the race was stopped due to visibility issues as darkness approached, Tandy was in the lead, just ahead of the No. 24 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE driven by John Edwards, Lucas Luhr and Jens Klingmann.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]The No. 24 team came to Road Atlanta with a shot at the title behind Pilet and Porsche, "But those guys were just unbeatable all day long," BMW driver Edwards said. Third in GTLM, and sixth overall, was the No. 4 Corvette Racing C7.R of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Ryan Briscoe.

It looked like the Prototype win was going to go to one of the Action Express teams – the No. 5 Corvette DP of Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais, or the No. 31 Corvette DP of Eric Curran, Dane Cameron and Max Papis. The No. 31 was pitting off-sequence with other Prototypes, and showed a lot of speed. But when the checkered flag flew during a caution period – unexpectedly, with virtually no notice to the teams – the No. 5 crossed the line just behind the two GTLM cars.

So not only was the No. 5 car the winner of Petit Le Mans, regular drivers Barbosa and Fittipaldi repeated as season-long and Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup champions. The Patrón Endurance Cup is awarded to teams at different segments in the four longest races – Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.

"In two years, this car has missed completing only one lap," Fittipaldi said. "It's such a team effort."

Still, conditions were, at times, "really horrendous," Bourdais said. "It was very stressful."

The No. 01 Ganassi car was co-driven by Pruett, Joey Hand and Scott Dixon. Third was the No. 31 Action Express car.

The Prototype Challenge title was decided early in the race, with the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun taking their second straight championship, despite the fact the car finished 29th of the 36 starters.

The race win, as well as the Patrón Endurance Cup title, went to the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen entry of Mike Guasch, Tom Kimber-Smith and Andrew Palmer. Second in Prototype Challenge was the No. 8 Starworks entry of Renger van der Zande, Mirco Schultis and Mike Hedlund.

Said Kimber-Smith about his stint in the open-cockpit car, "I don't think I've ever been that wet in my life, even in the shower."

In GT Daytona (GTD), TRG-AMR Aston Martin driver Christina Nielsen came to Petit Le Mans with a one-point lead in the championship, and while her No. 007 car stayed out of trouble, the ninth-place finish in class wasn't good enough for her to take the title.

That went to Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell, drivers of the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia they shared here with Jeff Segal. They finished fourth in class, 20th overall. Sweedler drove only one lap, but that was all he needed to gain points. "We executed, we did what we needed to do."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]The GTD win went to the No. 73 Park Place Porsche 911 GT America of Patrick Lindsey, Spencer Pumpelly and Madison Snow. It was the second of the season for Lindsey and Pumpelly, who lives in Atlanta. "This is as sweet as it gets," he said.

The GTD Patrón Endurance Cup title went to the No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R, which only ran the four longest endurance races. Drivers Cameron Lawrence and Al Carter wrapped up the title with a third-place finish in the class co-driving with Marc Goossens.

The heartbreak award, if there is one, has to go to the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette Daytona Prototype – driver Richard Westbrook qualified on the pole by a large margin, and led during the opening stint unthreatened by anyone else. But he turned the car over to Michael Valiante during a caution period, and Valiante spun on the front straight. He turned the car over to Mike Rockenfeller, and he spun on the front straight. Though they rallied back to a fifth-place finish in class, their title hopes were over.

In all, a tough day for all involved.

"There were difficult conditions," said Prototype Challenge driver Jon Bennett. "But that's what endurance racing is all about. This is not for children."

During the off-season, the series becomes the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with TUDOR taking a long-term role as official timepiece. The first race of 2016: The Rolex 24 At Daytona January 30-31, at Daytona International Speedway, where fans will be the first to experience the track's $400 million DAYTONA Rising renovation.

Results

Pos CPs Class No Drivers Laps Diff FLap Lap Make Status
1 1 GTLM 911 (Tandy*)/Pilet/Lietz 199 -.— 1:28.874 123 Porsche 911 RSR Running
2 2 GTLM 24 J.Edwards/(Luhr*)/Klingmann 199 5.475 1:30.772 51 BMW Z4 GTE Running
3 1 P 5 Barbosa/(Fittipaldi*)/Bourdais 199 8.524 1:28.420 53 Corvette DP Running
4 2 P 01 (Hand*)/Pruett/Dixon 199 8.773 1:29.999 48 Ford EcoBoost Riley DP Running
5 3 P 31 Curran/(Cameron*)/Papis 199 9.908 1:29.083 49 Corvette DP Running
6 3 GTLM 4 (Gavin*)/Milner/Briscoe 199 11.764 1:31.042 125 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R Running
7 4 P 10 (R.Taylor*)/J.Taylor/Angelelli 199 13.378 1:29.588 54 Corvette DP Running
8 4 GTLM 25 (Auberlen*)/Werner/Farfus 199 14.446 1:30.405 42 BMW Z4 GTE Running
9 5 GTLM 62 Kaffer/(Fisichella*)/Vilander 199 20.840 1:30.932 128 Ferrari F458 Italia Running
10 6 GTLM 3 Magnussen/(Garcia*)/Briscoe 198 1 Laps 1:30.960 125 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R Running
11 7 GTLM 17 (Sellers*)/Henzler/P.Long 197 2 Laps 1:29.620 49 Porsche 911 RSR Running
12 5 P 90 (Westbrook*)/Valiante/Rockenfell 197 2 Laps 1:28.840 18 Corvette DP Running
13 8 GTLM 912 Bergmeister/(Bamber*)/Makowie 196 3 Laps 1:29.198 40 Porsche 911 RSR Running
14 1 PC 52 Guasch/(Kimber-Smith*)/Palmer 194 5 Laps 1:33.994 58 ORECA FLM09 Running
15 2 PC 8 van der Zande/Hedlund/(Schultis 194 5 Laps 1:32.522 112 ORECA FLM09 Running
16 3 PC 16 Drumwright/Drissi/Yount/(Mowle 193 6 Laps 1:33.763 46 ORECA FLM09 Running
17 1 GTD 73 Lindsey/(Pumpelly*)/Ma.Snow 192 7 Laps 1:37.802 46 Porsche 911 GT America Running
18 2 GTD 44 (Potter*)/Lally/Renauer 192 7 Laps 1:37.173 118 Porsche 911 GT America Running
19 3 GTD 93 Carter/Goossens/(Lawrence*) 192 7 Laps 1:37.232 49 Dodge Viper GT3-R Running
20 4 GTD 63 Sweedler/To.Bell/(Segal*) 192 7 Laps 1:37.203 44 Ferrari 458 Italia Running
21 5 GTD 45 (Cosmo*)/Thorne/Thompson 192 7 Laps 1:38.600 122 Audi R8 LMS Running
22 6 GTD 64 Westphal/(Serra*)/Cressoni 192 7 Laps 1:37.853 55 Ferrari 458 Italia Running
23 7 GTD 23 I.James/(M.Farnbacher*)/Riberas 192 7 Laps 1:38.570 116 Porsche 911 GT America Running
24 8 GTD 22 MacNeil/(L.Keen*)/A.Davis 192 7 Laps 1:37.984 25 Porsche 911 GT America Running
25 9 GTD 007 (Nielsen*)/Wittmer/B.Davis 191 8 Laps 1:39.506 115 Aston Martin V12 Vantage Running
26 10 GTD 48 Haase/(von Moltke*)/B.Miller 191 8 Laps 1:39.189 27 Audi R8 LMS Running
27 11 GTD 97 (Marsal)/Palttala/Priaulx/B.Johns 189 10 Laps 1:40.975 119 BMW Z4 Running
28 12 GTD 33 (Keating*)/J.Bleekemolen/S.Blee 185 14 Laps 1:39.602 118 Dodge Viper GT3-R Running
29 4 PC 54 (Bennett*)/Braun/Lazzaro 174 25 Laps 123 ORECA FLM09 Running
30 6 P 07 (T.Long)/Joel.Miller 167 32 Laps 113 Mazda Prototype Not Running
31 7 P 70 (Nunez)/Bomarito/Tremblay 158 41 Laps 120 Mazda Prototype Not Running
32 5 PC 85 Goikhberg/(C.Miller*)/Mitchell 145 54 Laps 48 ORECA FLM09 Not Running
33 8 P 0 Rojas/(Legge*)/Meyrick 133 66 Laps 55 DeltaWing DWC13 Not Running
34 6 PC 11 Junqueira/(Cumming*)/Menezes 105 94 Laps 53 ORECA FLM09 Not Running
35 9 P 60 Pew/(Negri Jr.)/M.McMurry 100 99 Laps 49 Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 Not Running
36 7 PC 88 (Popow*)/Rayhall/Falb 79 120 Laps 43 ORECA FLM09 Not Running
37 8 PC 38 French/Mee/Daly 0 199 Laps 0 ORECA FLM09 DNS

*Qualifying Driver (Starting Driver)

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