Soggy Petit Le Mans a showcase for good drivers, a sad end to the season for others

Tom Kimber-Smith: 'I don't think I've ever been that wet in my life, even in the shower.'

Soggy Petit Le Mans a showcase for good drivers, a sad end to the season for others
#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Sebastien Bourdais
#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Sebastien Bourdais
#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Sebastien Bourdais
#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Sebastien Bourdais
#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America: Patrick Lindsey, Spencer Pumpelly, Madison Snow
GTD winners #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America: Patrick Lindsey, Spencer Pumpelly, Madison Snow
PC winners #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09: Mike Guasch, Tom Kimber-Smith, Andrew Palmer
#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia: Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal
#911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR: Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz
#31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Eric Curran, Dane Cameron, Max Papis
#31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Eric Curran, Dane Cameron, Max Papis
#54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09: Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, Anthony Lazzaro
#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America: Patrick Lindsey, Spencer Pumpelly, Madison Snow
Tom Kimber-Smith
#01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford/Riley: Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Scott Dixon
Scott Pruett
Nick Tandy, Porsche Team
#52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09: Mike Guasch, Tom Kimber-Smith, Andrew Palmer
#52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09: Mike Guasch, Tom Kimber-Smith, Andrew Palmer

BRASELTON, Georgia – 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, and 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. When the race was stopped due mostly 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.

The 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.

Prototype shocker

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, helping out on the long races, 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 champions, and all three of the drivers won the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. The NAEC is awarded to the teams with the best record 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.” There was a puzzling one-hour, five-minute red flag midway through the race, but it fell when conditions weren't that bad, and they got worse as soon as the green flag fell. 

The No. 01 Ganassi car was second in the Prototype class, fourth overall, with drivers Pruett, Joey Hand and Scott Dixon. Third was the No. 31 Action Express car.

Prototype Challenge

The Prototype Challenge title was decided early in the race, with the CORE Autosport Oreca-Chevrolet of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Anthony Lazzaro took their second straight championship, despite the fact the car finished 29th of the 36 starters.

The PC race win, as well as the NAEC 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, 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, driver 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.”

Park Place takes GTD win

The GT Daytona win went to the No. 73 Park Place Porsche 911 GT America of Patrick Lindsey, Madison Snow and Spencer Pumpelly, their second of the season. It was especially satisfying for Pumpelly, who lives in Atlanta. “This is as sweet as it gets,” he said.

The GT Daytona NAEC title went to the No. 93 Riley Dodge Viper GT3-R, which only ran the four longest endurance races. Drivers Cameron Lawrence, Al Carter and Marc Goossens wrapped up the title with a third-place finish in the class.

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 12th-place finish, 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.”

Next up for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as that is what the series will be called in 2016: The Rolex 24 at Daytona January 30 and 31, in the newly rennvated ($400 million worth) Daytona International Speedway.

shares
comments
Sensational win for GTLM Porsche at Petit Le Mans

Previous article

Sensational win for GTLM Porsche at Petit Le Mans

Next article

Porsche shocks the field with Petit Le Mans overall victory

Porsche shocks the field with Petit Le Mans overall victory
Load comments
The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence Prime

The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence

Following the latest convergence connection permitting Le Mans Hypercars from the FIA World Endurance Championship to compete against LMDh entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from 2023, it could open up enticing options not only to manufacturers but also for the calendar and race formats

WEC
Jul 13, 2021
Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy Prime

Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy

Can Mazda win this year’s IMSA Prototype championship? Undoubtedly. But it will be the culmination of an achingly hard struggle, after which the brand has decided to quit. David Malsher-Lopez tells the story of a bizarre blend of heartache and positivity.

IMSA
Apr 6, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Prime

Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

After a 100-minute sprint race to whet the appetite, the 2021 IMSA SportsCar Championship gets underway properly this weekend. With plenty of significant changes during the winter, here are the key points you need to keep an eye on

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars Prime

Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars

Having gone over seven years without a race win through spells with McLaren, Renault and Haas, Kevin Magnussen's departure from Formula 1 for IMSA with big-hitters Chip Ganassi Racing could give him what he craves most - a chance of success

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights Prime

Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights

Oliver Gavin has stepped down from the full-time Corvette Racing line-up after a stellar career with the team spanning nearly 20 years. He looks back on a stint that encompassed, among other successes, five Le Mans 24 Hours victories.

Le Mans
Jan 28, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Prime

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it…

Le Mans
Jan 24, 2021
The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked Prime

The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked

The 2020 edition of the Florida sportscar classic is finally taking place this weekend, eight months after its traditional date in March. That meant there was plenty of time for Motorsport.com to pour over its previous 67 races and select the best.

IMSA
Nov 11, 2020