|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 PatrÃ³n North American Endurance Cup champions. The PatrÃ³n 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 PatrÃ³n 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 PatrÃ³n 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.
|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|
|4||2||P||01||(Hand*)/Pruett/Dixon||199||8.773||1:29.999||48||Ford EcoBoost Riley DP||Running|
|6||3||GTLM||4||(Gavin*)/Milner/Briscoe||199||11.764||1:31.042||125||Chevrolet Corvette C7.R||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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