The Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R won the season ending round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Motul Petit Le Mans from pole position today at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The win by the team and sectors led during the race gave the Whelen Cadillac team the Michelin Endurance Cup Drivers Championship and Cadillac the Michelin Endurance Cup Manufacturer Championship for 2019.
Felipe Nasr had the wheel of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R for the start of the season ending IMSA Championship race. Showing the pace, the team had all during practice he drove out to a 21-second lead before the first caution 50-minutes into the race. Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran led the first 136 laps before pitting under the races second caution. Later in the afternoon Derani went into the grass in the esses which affected the aero under the red Cadillac which took the handling edge off the car.
As the race played out a late yellow with 40-minutes remaining flew setting up a sprint to the finish. There were three Cadillac DPi-V.R cars running 1-2-3 with 25-minutes to go. Just when the race restarted the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R that was in contention for a podium had to pit with a frontend issue leaving the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac and No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac teams to fight for the win. At the checkered flag, waved by retiring IMSA President Scott Atherton, the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R finished second to the race winning No. 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R of Nasr, Derani and Curran.
“This track has been good to me for years, but never a win,” Curran said. “This is a special day to win here at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. The Whelen Cadillac was really strong all week. Probably the best car I have been in with the team. Felipe and Pipo have been strong all year long. I was glad to come onboard and support them and get the win. The Action Express team did a great job all weekend. It is cool to wrap up the season with a win.”
Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Matthieu Vaxivere overcame some early contact and spins to finish second in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.
“I think our car came to life again at night, just like we usually have at Sebring and Petit,” Taylor said. “We always seem very strong at the end of these races. We were able to attack a bit more and I think we might have had the car to beat at the end, but it turned out to be about track position and who was able to get out front. The yellow was a bit poorly timed for us. If we would’ve been able to get it out in front of those guys, I think we would’ve had a good shot at winning. But it wasn’t our day to win. We started the season on a high and almost ended on a high. We always excel in these endurance races where it’s really a team effort from start to finish with strategy and preparation. We finished in the top-two in the three biggest ones (Daytona, Sebring and this weekend), so I think we can feel pretty good about that.”
Simon Trummer had the wheel of the No. 84 JDC-Miller Cadillac DPi-V.R for the noon start. As the team cycled through stints with Chris Miller and Stephen Simpson over the 10-hours the drivers maintained a strong pace and kept the yellow Cadillac clean coming to the checker in fifth.
“Honestly the JDC-Miller team executed really well, and our Cadillac was strong all day,” Miller said. “We were not able to keep it on the lead lap, but a top five is a good result. We ended the season on somewhat of a high note. We will look to learn more over the winter and come back even stronger. Thanks to everyone form JDC-Miller, Cadillac and ECR Engines for their work on giving us a great car all year.”
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R fought back to the front all day. As the handling went away on the sister car, Felipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Mike Conway began to run up at the front of the Dpi field. As the race wore they made their way into the lead. With 15 minutes remaining, the team had to pit to address a handling issue on the front of the car dropping them to seventh place.
“It’s unbelievable really,” Conway said. “We drove a good race, and everyone was doing a mega job. We got lucky there with the yellow, but I could see smoke coming off the car in some of the braking zones but couldn’t tell what it was. It must have been the brake disc wearing away and then it just blew up. It’s a bummer given there was 20 minutes left but happy to have left the race with our sister car in the lead.”
Misha Goikhberg, Tristan Vautier and Juan Piedrahita in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPi-V.R weathered some early contact at the four-hour mark where Piedrahita had contact with a GTLM Corvette and had to do a drive thru penalty.
“I think our JDC-Miller Cadillac was good today,” Piedrahita said. “We were not at the right place at the right moment. I think we were a little faster than our sister car all day and they ended up fifth. That is just the way it goes at these endurance races.”
The No. 50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R finished tenth in DPi on the day. The car was brought to the garage area four hours into the race with a power steering issue. The Juncos team made the repairs and got the car back out several laps down for Will Owen, Rene Binder and Spencer Pigot to take a top ten finish.
“Today was our strongest run in IMSA this year,” Owen said. “We had the best pace and all of us drivers we very close in our pace. We started ninth and we were able to move all the way up to third. However, on my stint we had an issue with the power steering and that cost us about 40 laps. That took away our chance of having a good result to finish off the year, which is something we have been trying for all year. I am proud of where we have come since the beginning of the year and the pace we have gained. I am so thankful for the team and all they have done this year and the work they have put in.”
The teams will celebrate the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season at the Night of Champions banquet tomorrow at Chateau Elan.
The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will start with the traditional Roar Before the 24 test at Daytona International Speedway January 3-5.
Source. Kyle Chura/Photo. Cadillac/Richard Prince