Kranz, de Wilde Win Final 2021 Race but Fall 10 Points Shy of Championship
Moritz Kranz and Ugo de Wilde did everything they could by winning the IMSA Prototype Challenge season finale Thursday morning at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. It wasn’t quite enough, however, to stop Josh Sarchet and Dakota Dickerson from winning the championship.
Kranz and de Wilde controlled the one-hour, 45-minute race, leading all but two of 67 laps in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08 and taking the checkered flag 3.191 seconds ahead of the pack. Sarchet and Dickerson needed to finish at least fifth to sew up the crown and, despite some late dramatics and with an assist from a competitor, did just that in the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320. It gave Sarchet and Dickerson a 10-point cushion over Kranz in the final Le Mans Prototype 3-1 (LMP3-1) class standings.
“This championship didn’t necessarily come down to one race,” said Dickerson, who drove the nail-biting final stint. “The whole season we’ve been there. The podium finishes in the early part of the season really got us here. To have this (points) buffer coming into this race really is a testament to the team as a whole. Thank goodness we did have it. It came down to the wire but it feels really good to have this championship.”
Kranz – who drove in all six Prototype Challenge races this year, sometimes solo and sometimes with a co-driver – started from the pole position and built a 22-second advantage before a full-course caution with just more than an hour remaining. He turned the car over to de Wilde, who was occasionally threatened by Trent Hindman in the No. 7 VOLT Racing with Archangel Ligier but never surrendered the lead.
Dickerson took over the No. 54 Ligier for Sarchet in the final hour as well and was comfortably riding in third place when the final caution flag came out. The field squeezed coming to the restart with 17 minutes to go and Dickinson was tapped from behind by Rasmus Lindh in the No. 6 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier.
Dickerson plunged to seventh place. Knowing he had to gain two spots in a hurry, he charged.
“Luckily, the damage to the rear of the car wasn’t horrible,” Dickerson said. “The MLT guys did a great job all weekend and we had a super-fast car even with the damage.”
He quickly pushed the No. 54 into sixth place but couldn’t find a way past Garett Grist (No. 33 Jr III Racing Ligier) as the laps and clock ticked away. Suddenly, with less than three minutes remaining, Grist pulled aside to let Dickerson into fifth position and hand the championship to a fellow Ligier team.
“It was definitely way more intense than I thought it would be,” Dickerson said. “We’re very thankful for the (No.) 33 car to be a great teammate with Ligier. It’s a great part of being part of Ligier’s family.”
“Absolutely insane race; I couldn’t believe it,” Sarchet added. “In the end, we’re the champions, we deserved it and couldn’t be happier.”
The final points margin was as close as it could be. Sarchet, Dickerson and the No. 54 MLT Ligier, with one race win and podium finishes in every race but the finale, totaled 1,850 points. Kranz and the No. 21 Muehlner Duqueine had three victories but wound up with 1,840 points. By finishing second in the race, Hindman, Alan Brynjolfsson and the No. 7 VOLT Ligier advanced to third in the final standings with 1,600 points.
“We finished the season on a high and that always feels good,” Kranz said. “It didn’t work out for the championship, but sometimes things are not how it ends. We had a pretty good run. The season was pretty nice with all the good results and the wins. I will celebrate the win (and) forget the championship.”
In the LMP3-2 class for previous-generation cars, Mike Watt and Nic Jonsson won their second straight race in the No. 15 D Motorsports Ligier JS P3. Danny Kok and George Staikos, who clinched the class title last month at VIRginia International Raceway, finished second for the sixth straight time in the No. 61 Conquest Racing Norma M30.
David Grant and Keith Grant won the LMP3-1 Bronze Cup class for entries with only Bronze-rated drivers. The co-drivers of the No. 40 JDC MotorSports Duqueine are also the Bronze Cup season champions.