Third NAEC class win of the year after Daytona and Sebring
A third PC class victory of the season helped Andrew Palmer secure the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s North American Endurance Cup title at Petit Le Mans on Saturday (October 3).
The 21-year-old Californian, along with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports team-mates Mike Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith, overcame dreadful weather conditions, several full-course cautions and even the race being suspended to wrap up the PC category Drivers’ crown at an event abandoned with two of its scheduled 10 hours remaining.
The points awarded at the four-hour mark and subsequent retirement of their main rivals meant Palmer was effectively champion before the finish, but there was still the matter of winning a third endurance classic of the season – following victories at Daytona and Sebring – to fight for at Road Atlanta.
Kimber-Smith’s pole lap had laid the foundations on Friday, and the Englishman continued where he left off at the start of Saturday’s race by maintaining the lead for much of his initial two-hour stint.
Palmer climbed aboard with the car leading its class but had barely got up to speed when the first of several full-course cautions, which would become a feature of his stint, were called. The Spyder Active Athlete remained behind the wheel for the following three rain-hit hours, during which time he defied the conditions to extend his advantage to more than a lap and pick up maximum points for leading at the four-hour mark.
Guasch’s subsequent stint lasted just three laps before atrocious weather, aquaplaning and accidents prompted officials to suspended the race. Conditions had scarcely improved when the action resumed an hour later, but Guasch was still able to retain the lead throughout his stint before Kimber-Smith returned to the cockpit.
At that point the crew’s championship was safe, but all three were still desperate to end their campaign on a high by securing a third blue riband victory of the year. A gear selection issue made that look increasingly unlikely as the clock ticked towards eight hours, but when the same Starworks car that had inherited the lead as a result of Kimber-Smith’s issues spun, the PR1/Mathiasen trio were back in the box seat when the race was stopped for good just a couple of laps later.
“This programme didn’t come together for me until very late so to win a title and three of the world’s biggest endurance races at my first attempt, and in a sports-prototype too, feels incredibly special,” said the Pomona College student. “The whole team has been fantastic all year, and I also need to thank Mike and Tom for the incredible job they’ve done. It’s really been quite some season.
“Mentally, we all agreed it was the hardest race of our careers,” he continued. “The conditions were absolutely terrible out there but somehow we all kept it on the track when it was a lot easier to aquaplane, spin or have an accident. My stint featured a lot of caution periods so I ended up soaked and freezing cold, which isn’t something you often hear a driver say. Keeping warm was really tough and in those circumstances it’s easy to lose concentration. The conditions were awful, which personally made it all the more satisfying to build our lead each time the race went green.
“Winning the NAEC PC Drivers’ crown with Tom and Mike, and also securing the Teams’ title for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, is the greatest achievement of my career so far. Everyone’s worked so hard to accomplish both this year. We’ve won the three endurance races to win in North America and finished second at Watkins Glen – which is also an iconic circuit – along the way, so we can all be very proud of a job well done.”