IMSA: Honda takes out Peit Le Mans as DP era ends



Olivier Pla held off Pipo Derani in a battle of Honda-powered Ligiers to win Saturday’s Petit Le Mans presented by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, while Corvette Daytona Prototype drivers Dane Cameron and Eric Curran captured the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a fourth-place finish.

“It was a dream weekend from the beginning,” said Pla, who won his second TOTAL Pole Award in Friday’s qualifying session. “I had a really good feeling and sometimes it works. I always go for it, but I really wanted this one.”

Pla was joined by Ozz Negri and John Pew in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Curb Records/AERO Honda Ligier JS P2, leading 230 of the 412 laps in their second victory of the season. After 10 hours of competition, Pla beat Derani to the checkered flag by 3.524 seconds, stopping a late-race charge by the Daytona and Sebring-winning No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Honda Ligier JS P2 co-driven by Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek.

“I was catching him a little bit at the end, but unfortunately there were a few GT cars between us at the restart,” said Derani. “It was a great result for Ligier. We couldn’t do it this time, but congratulations to Ollie (Pla) and his team.”

To celebrate its 250th Prototype race, Michael Shank Racing featured a red, white and blue livery on the No. 60 and invited spectators from the outstanding crowd to autograph the race car during the pre-race grid walk.

The race also marked the final appearance of the Daytona Prototype, which has competed in North America since 2003. Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, joined by Max Angelelli, finished third in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette Daytona Prototype, taking the podium position from the championship-bound Curran and Cameron in the closing laps.

“It felt like a real fight the whole year,” said Cameron, joined by Curran and recently crowned IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud for the finale in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Whelen Corvette DP. “This is a very stressful race, there are a lot of things that go wrong.”


The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE co-drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and James Calado broke through for their first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victory of the season in Saturday’s Petit Le Mans presented by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, the final race of the season.

Meanwhile, the No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R duo of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin picked up their first WeatherTech Championship GTLM title with a third-place class result alongside endurance co-driver Marcel Fassler.

The No. 62 Ferrari team had shown plenty of speed – particularly during the second half of the season – but bad luck plagued them prior to Saturday’s race. In the 10-hour Petit Le Mans, however, the Risi Ferrari spent the entire race among the GTLM front-runners, and the vast majority of it at the head of the field.

Fisichella took the lead for the final time with just under 30 minutes remaining when Dirk Mueller brought the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT – which was on a different strategy – onto pit lane. He brought the No. 62 Ferrari home to victory by 15.618 seconds over Mueller, securing his and the Risi team’s first WeatherTech Championship race victory since VIRginia International Raceway in 2014.

“From when we came here from the first practice we were always on the top,” Fisichella said. “The car’s balance was really good. We made some adjustments in the right direction. I think we dominated the race and the guys did a fantastic job on the pit stops. We, both of us, we drove at the maximum. I think it was a perfect race and we deserve this victory this year. It’s good for us, and Mr. Risi and the crew.”

It was Fisichella’s third victory in WeatherTech Championship competition, but the first for both Vilander and Calado. It also was the first GTLM victory of the season for Ferrari. The No. 62 team also won the DEKRA Green Award. The award recognizes the cleanest, fastest and most efficient team in the GTLM class in each race through a scoring system developed in a partnership between IMSA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and SAE International.

Mueller wound up second in GTLM alongside his No. 66 teammates, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais. In their most recent race together, Mueller, Hand and Bourdais combined to win the GTE Pro class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The No. 4 Corvette team picked up its seventh podium result of the 11-race season to sweep WeatherTech Championship and Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup drivers’ titles for Milner and Gavin, team championships for Corvette Racing and manufacturer championships for Chevrolet.

“Every year, this class somehow gets more competitive,” Milner said. “This year was even that much more so. Ford came in with a great car, great drivers, and pushed us to the end. A good example of the guys who keep pushing was the Risi guys; they got the win and you could see the relief on their faces. That shows how much it means to get a win in this class. This whole year, we can think about all the good memories and moments we had. I’m proud to be a part of this team and represent Chevy and Corvette. It’s exactly what a driver wants in a car, is a chance to win. It’s good to see all those efforts were rewarded this year”


In the final WeatherTech Championship race for the Dodge Viper GT3-R, No. 33 with the Monkey Viper teammates Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Marc Miller sent the car out on top with a GT Daytona (GTD) class victory in the Petit Le Mans presented by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.

“It is emotional,” Keating said. “The goal was to give it a good sendoff. Viper has such a rich racing history, and to do our last race in the Viper with IMSA at Petit Le Mans and go out on top is a huge deal. 2017 is the last year they’ll build the production-car Viper and it seemed fitting to finish off the season this way. Last year we had Viper Exchange on the car, and I happen to be in the Viper business, and I’ve been involved in the Viper community. It means a lot to Dodge and the Viper clubs, and to the dealer, and to me as an individual. It means a lot to go out on top.”

It was the third GTD victory of the season for Keating and Bleekemolen, while it was the first in WeatherTech Championship competition for Miller, a full-time 2016 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge competitor who joined the team as a third driver for Petit Le Mans.

Bleekemolen – who earned the TOTAL Pole Award in qualifying on Friday – originally crossed the finish line behind Andy Lally in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3, but the No. 44 car was moved to last place in the GTD class as John Potter, who was paired with Lally for the full season, did not meet the three-hour drive-time requirement for a Bronze- or Silver-rated driver in the Pro-Am class.

Patrick Lindsey, Joerg Bergmeister and Matt McMurry teamed up to finish second in the No. 73 Park Place Porsche / Justice Brothers Inc. Porsche 911 GT3 R. Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Segal finished third in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3.

Nielsen and Balzan wrapped up GTD championships for themselves and the Scuderia Corsa team with their seventh podium result of the season. Nielsen became the first woman to win a major, full-season professional sports car championship in North America, while Balzan picked up his second title, having also won the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT championship in 2013.

It was the second consecutive GTD title for Scuderia Corsa, which won last year with drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler. Audi claimed the GTD manufacturers’ championship.

pc-plmPrototype Challenge

PRI/Mathiasen Motorsports took its third Prototype Challenge (PC) victory of the season in the No. 52 Prisma/Professional Security Consultants/Westfield ORECA FLM09, with Robert Alon, Tom Kimber-Smith and Jose Gutierrez combining to lead all but 65 of the 404 circuits.

“It’s great to end the season with a win,” Kimber-Smith said. “We’ve been consistently strong this season, we just had some bad luck at a couple of circuits. My teammate’s stints (Alon) were really impressive, he set the fastest lap of the race in our car. It’s amazing at how much he’s progressed in the last nine months.”

James French, Kyle Marcelli and Kenton Koch finished second in the No. 38 Ric-Man Construction/ Children’s Miracle Network/NeuroSpine Institute ORECA. French needed a late pit stop for a splash of fuel with six minutes remaining, putting him 51 seconds behind the winners.

Rolex 24 At Daytona PC winners Misha Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson and Chris Miller rounded out the podium, taking third in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports LaModerna/Hi-Tide Boat Lifts/Red Line Oil entry.

While Starworks Motorsport parked its No. 8 ORECA with less than two hours remaining due to brake problems, a sixth-place finish was good enough for Alex Popow and Renger van der Zande to tie the race winners in the final standings with 355 points each. For the tiebreaker, the Starworks drivers took the championship due to winning four races.

“It’s a sweet and sour feeling, because we wanted to win the race,” Popow said. “But a championship is a championship. It’s amazing for what we’ve done all year. We’ve fought a lot up until now. We won it this way, but racing is what it is.”

For consolation, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and drivers Alon, Kimber-Smith and Jose Gutierrez took the championship in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, winning the team title while edging Kenton Koch for the driver’s title by one point.