ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” made the phrase, “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat” part of our lexicon, and while there are plenty of examples of that each motorsports season, seldom have we seen it displayed more clearly than on the final lap of Saturday’s 10-hour Petit Le Mans, the season-ender for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi from the Action Express stable took the white flag in the lead, with the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica-Minola Cadillac DPi in second. But as the No. 5 car neared the checkered flag, it ran out of fuel, giving the win to the No. 10 of Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and guest driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, one of several IndyCar stars making an appearance at Road Atlanta.
Filipe Albuquerque, who shared the No. 5 with Christian Fittipaldi and Tristan Vautier, coasted home in fourth.
In the best showing for the Mazda DPis since the manufacturer began racing Prototypes in 2014, the No. 77 of Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Lucas Di Grassi finished second, 5.3 seconds behind the No. 10. Third was the No. 55 Mazda of Spencer Pigot, Jonathan Bomarito and Marino Franchitti. The Mazda have yet to win a Prototype race, but will likely be contenders in 2019, as the program is fully funded for at least another season.
This was the first win for the No. 10 Cadillac in an excruciating 15 races, and the first for van der Zande, who took over full-time driving duties with Jordan Taylor after Jordan’s brother, Ricky, moved to the No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi to co-drive with Hélio Castroneves.
Despite the disappointment of the No. 5 team, Action Express took home a consolation prize: The team car, the No. 31 Whelan Cadillac DPi, won the Prototype driver’s championship, with regular Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran, helped out at Road Atlanta by Gabby Chaves. The No. 31 finished eighth, one place behind its competition for the title, the No. 54 CORE Autosport Oreca LMP2, but that was enough to win the season title. This was the last race that the LMP2 Prototypes will run directly against the DPi Prototypes, and the cars will be divided into two classes in 2019.
In GT Le Mans, the No. 911 Porsche of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki took the win, but both Ford and Chevrolet had something to celebrate: the No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, with help at this race from Marcel Fassler, finished ninth in class, but that was good enough to give Magnussen and Garcia their second straight drivers’ championship, despite a crash with less than three hours left that cost them three laps to repair.
The No. 4 team car of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Fassler finished the race in second, with the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE of Jesse Krohn, John Edwards and Chaz Mosert in third.
And Ford took the GTLM manufacturer’s championship just by having the Nos. 66 and 67 Ford GTs start the race. The No. 67 finished fifth, the No. 66 was seventh.
In GT Daytona, the win went to the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Daniel Serra, Gunnar Jeanette and Cooper MacNeil, son of the founder of series sponsor WeatherTech. Second was the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 of Katharine Legge, Alvaro Parente and Trent Hindman, followed by the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis. That was good enough for Sellers and Snow to clinch the championship.
Technically, there’s one more race on the IMSA calendar for 2018 – the inaugural non-points Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring International Raceway in Florida Nov. 9-11, featuring GT-type cars.