|October 12, 2019|
IMSA Wire Service
BRASELTON, Ga. – The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi controlled the first four hours of today’s Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, keeping alive its hopes of repeating as champion of the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
In addition, the No. 31 moved into the lead in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup that offers points at designated junctures during the four WeatherTech Championship endurance races.
Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran, co-drivers of the No. 31, led every lap through the first three hours before swapping the top spot with its Action Express Racing sister car, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac, and the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda through a series of green-flag stops in the fourth hour.
With six hours remaining, the No. 31 was in first place, ahead of the No. 5, the No. 77 and the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura shared by Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal. The No. 31 trails the No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura co-driven by Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud by 12 points in the WeatherTech Championship heading into the race. To repeat in the driver and team standings, the No. 31 must win the race and have the No. 6 finish no better than ninth.
Michelin Endurance Cup competition offered points at the four-hour mark. Picking up five points for leading, the No. 31 grabbed the lead by a single point over the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.
In Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) competition, both entries encountered difficulties in the opening hours. The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LMP2, with Cameron Cassels as the wheel, was hit from behind by Castroneves in the No. 7 Acura DPi less than 90 minutes into the race, bringing out the first full-course yellow when the No. 38 slid into the Turn 4 barrier.
The damage ended the race for the No. 38, with the No. 7 assessed a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility. Nevertheless, the No. 38 and co-drivers Cassels and Kyle Masson did clinch the Michelin Endurance Cup in the LMP2 class.
The other LMP2 entry, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA, wrapped up the class team and driver (Matthew McMurry) championships by starting the race but suffered early mechanical issues. At the four-hour mark, the No. 52 was more than 20 laps behind the DPi leaders.
The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs, making their final appearance as a factory-backed effort, used superior mileage to dominate the early hours of GT Le Mans (GTLM) competition. After four hours, the No. 67 Ford GT with drivers Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon was in first place ahead of the No. 66 with drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais.
The No. 67 also closed within three points of the No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR shared by Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki for the lead in the Michelin Endurance Cup. In the overall GTLM standings, the No. 912 Porsche has a 12-point lead over its sister No. 911. The No. 912 and season-long co-drivers Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor will wrap up the GTLM team and driver crowns by finishing seventh in class or better.
The GT Daytona (GTD) class saw some of the wildest racing through the opening hours at Michelin Raceway. At the four-hour mark, the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 with drivers Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeff Westphal led, with the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga in second. The Nos. 63 and 33 had some spirited battles, including a time when Fraga was assessed a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.
The No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 essentially clinched the GTD driver and team titles when it started the race. In Michelin Endurance Cup competition, the No. 33 Mercedes holds a slim two-point lead over the No. 63 Ferrari after four hours.
Live coverage of the Motul Petit Le Mans continues on the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com until 5:30 p.m. ET, when it moves to NBCSN for the final five hours of coverage. Radio commentary is available at IMSARadio.com, RadioLeMans.com and on SiriusXM Radio.
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