Championship Scenarios Abound At Petit Le Mans

Several championships are still in play as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship head to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the Petit Le Mans. (IMSA Photo)
Several championships are still in play as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship head to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the Petit Le Mans. (IMSA Photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s that time of year again.

With 11 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championships and three IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races in the books and just one more – Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 12 – still to go, championship scenarios are on the minds of everybody. And there’s still much in play.

In the Daytona Prototype international class, there’s a 12-point margin separating leaders Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 with 274 points from the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R squad of Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani (262 points). Cameron and Montoya picked up their third victory of the season last Sunday in the Monterey SportsCar Championship Powered by McLaren, while Nasr and Derani battled to a third-place finish.

Montoya and Cameron – who will share the No. 6 with 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud – can clinch the DPi championship outright with a result of eighth or better at Motul Petit Le Mans. If Nasr and the No. 31 team are to repeat as champions – and make Derani a first-time champion – it will need a win and a result of ninth or worse from the No. 6 team.

The Whelen Cadillac will have Eric Curran, with whom Nasr co-drove to the 2018 WeatherTech Championship title, back in the cockpit for the endurance race. Curran and Nasr also won the Michelin Endurance Cup last year – the fifth in a row for Action Express Racing – and they’re also in the mix for the 2019 title.

Nasr, Derani and Curran, who won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, are currently in second place but by only two points. Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande, in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, lead the competition and won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.

There are still three Michelin Endurance Cup scoring segments to go at Motul Petit Le Mans – after four and eight hours as well as the finish – with a maximum of 15 points and a minimum of six points available for all starters. As a result, there are still many permutations that would give either the No. 10 or No. 31 teams the 2019 title.

Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen winners Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Olivier Pla also are in mathematical contention for the Michelin Endurance Cup in the No. 55 Mazda Team Joest RT-24P, but they’ll need to sweep the maximum 15 points available across the three segments. They’ll also need the No. 10 to be outside the top three in all three segments and the No. 31 team to score fewer than nine points for the No. 55 to become Michelin Endurance Cup champions.

As far as DPi manufacturers are concerned, Acura needs only to score points at Motul Petit Le Mans to wrap up the WeatherTech Championship title. In the Michelin Endurance Cup race, Cadillac is currently in the driver’s seat with a six-point lead, 41-35, over Acura, the only other team mathematically eligible to win.

In the GT Le Mans class, it’ll be an intra-squad battle for the WeatherTech Championship title among the pair of Coca-Cola-liveried Porsche 911 RSRs from the Porsche GT Team. Leading the way is the No. 912 duo of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor with a 12-point advantage, 304-292, over their No. 911 teammates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet.

The No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R pairing of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, also are still mathematically eligible for their third consecutive WeatherTech Championship GTLM title. However, they’ll be eliminated as soon as the No. 912 rolls off the grid at Motul Petit Le Mans.

That sets up a similar scenario to the DPi title race. The No. 912, with Bamber, Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, would clinch the title outright with a seventh-place class result or better at Motul Petit Le Mans.

The No. 911 squad of Pilet, Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki could steal the championship from their teammates if they win Motul Petit Le Mans – which they did last year – and the No. 912 finishes eighth.

As far as the Michelin Endurance Cup is concerned, the No. 911 team has a six-point lead over a tie for second between the No. 912 and No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe. But there are still five teams and three manufacturers – Porsche, Chevrolet and Ford – mathematically in the hunt.

The races for both the WeatherTech Championship and Michelin Endurance Cup are straightforward in LMP2. The No. 52 PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA team and full-season driver Matt McMurry only need to compete in the race at Motul Petit Le Mans to wrap up the WeatherTech Championship title.

The script is flipped in Michelin Endurance Cup, where the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA and co-drivers Cameron Cassels and Kyle Masson will clinch that title as soon as the car leaves the starting grid.

The circumstances are similar in the race for the WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona championship. No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 co-drivers Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman have a 32-point lead, 264-232, over No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driver Zacharie Robichon – who won the inaugural WeatherTech Sprint Cup championship last weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

That means the No. 86 team and its co-drivers only will need to compete in Motul Petit Le Mans and they’re 2019 WeatherTech Championship GTD champions.

On the other hand, the battle for the Michelin Endurance Cup is still wide open in GTD, with no less than seven teams and 27 drivers mathematically in contention along with all eight manufacturers. No. 33 Riley Motorsports – Team AMG co-drivers Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga lead the way in their Mercedes-AMG GT3 by three points, 29-26, over the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 shared by Scuderia Corsa co-drivers Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeff Westphal.

Mercedes-AMG also has a two-point lead, 29-27, over Ferrari in the Michelin Endurance Cup GTD standings with three others – Acura, Audi and Lamborghini – just one point back in third.