Dramatic Motul Petit Le Mans Ends with No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura Team Celebrating Race Victory and Season Championship
Blomqvist, Jarvis Earn First WeatherTech Championship Title in DPi Swansong; Castroneves Stays Undefeated in IMSA Since End of 2020
Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis needed to finish ahead of Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque to win the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) drivers’ championship.
Blomqvist, Jarvis and Helio Castroneves combined to win the 25th Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, claiming the drivers’ title for Blomqvist and Jarvis and winning the team championship for Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian in the season finale Saturday for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“I’ve never dug so deep in my life,” said Blomqvist, who anchored the victory with his final stint. “I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend.”
A quick pit stop with 45 minutes left pushed the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05 past the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 co-driven by Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley. As Albuquerque chased Blomqvist into Turn 2 with 14 minutes left, the No. 10 car made contact with the lapped car driven by Philip Ellis.
The contact damaged the rear suspension on the No. 10 Acura, ending its championship chances and leading to celebration for MSR.
“What a race,” Jarvis said. “It looked like we were out of it with about an hour and 20 to go. I’ve been on the receiving end where I led a few years back and had an issue and failed to be leading, so I know how it feels. They had a fantastic year, so full credit to them, but for Meyer Shank to come away with a championship is something really special.”
The pit stop turned out to be the winning move for the No. 60 car. With 51 minutes remaining, two Cadillac Racing drivers – Renger van der Zande and Earl Bamber – crashed in Turn 1. During the ensuing caution period, Albuquerque, then leading, pitted with Blomqvist on his rear wing.
“I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time, and obviously we had less fuel to fill up. I was able to jump him, and then it was just going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line.”
The No. 60 came into the race trailing the No. 10 by 14 points, setting the stage for a winner-take-all situation. It ended with yet another championship for Meyer Shank Racing.
“In the last four years, we’ve had three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win (with Castroneves in 2020), and the Rolex 24,” co-owner Michael Shank said. “It doesn’t get any better.”
The championship was the final for the DPi class, which will be replaced next season by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP). The 2023 season begins with the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29.
Tower Motorsport Sweeps LMP2 Win and Championship
John Farano and Tower Motorsport completed a three-peat at Motul Petit Le Mans, winning the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class race for the third straight year and sewing up the class driver and team championships in the process.
Driving with Louis Deletraz and Rui Pinto de Andrade in the No. 8 ORECA LMP2 07, the Tower trio led 59 of the final 66 laps to win for the second time this season. Farano and Deletraz also won at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in May. Saturday’s victory allowed Farano to claim the LMP2 driver’s crown by 126 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel, co-drivers of the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA, and the team championship by 79 points over the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA.
“Race win, team championship, driver championship – it’s all here tonight,” Farano said. “This is just unbelievable. What a team effort! These guys are really fantastic.”
While the No. 8 ran at or near the front all 10 hours, Deletraz found himself second to racing great Juan Pablo Montoya on the final restart with 32 minutes to go. The Swiss driver wasted little time overtaking the former IndyCar and WeatherTech Championship DPi champion, moving past the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA on the third lap after the restart and pulling away.
“He did a brilliant job there at the end,” Farano commented about Deletraz. “Getting by Montoya was not easy to do. He really did a great job. It was beautiful.”
Montoya, driving with his son Sebastian and Henrik Hedman, finished second. The No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA shared by Steven Thomas, Josh Pierson and Tristan Nunez placed third.
But for Farano, it was time to relish in a third straight Petit Le Mans triumph.
“We’ve won this event three years in a row, which is absolutely awesome,” he said. “I don’t need to tell you how hard that is to do, but this one here, we really won it in good fashion. The team was fantastic, no mistakes, kept it on track. It was just a beautiful, beautiful race for us.
“There’s no better fun than winning and standing on that podium. That’s absolutely awesome. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
The No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA and drivers Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker secured the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup for the LMP2 class by starting the race. They finished sixth in class Saturday after Keating slid into a tire barrier less than three hours into the race, causing irreparable damage to the car.
CORE autosport Wins LMP3 Season-Long War, Andretti Takes Motul Petit Le Mans Battle
Both championship contenders in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class went off course during the 10-hour race. Only one later emerged victorious.
The No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier JS P320 co-driven by Colin Braun, Jon Bennett and George Kurtz recovered from a spin to claim the WeatherTech Championship LMP3 drivers’ championship for Braun and Bennett and the team championship for CORE.
“We had to walk that line of being smart versus being aggressive,” Braun said. “The biggest thing for us came down to being fast when we needed to be, being smart when we needed to be and being aware of our situation.”
Braun and Bennett came into the event 83 points ahead of Gar Robinson and the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 he co-drove with Felipe Fraga and Kay van Berlo. Three hours and 25 minutes into the race, though, the No. 54 car slid off course with Kurtz behind the wheel.
Kurtz made it back to the pits for repairs and returned to the race, but what had been second place in class had become sixth in the seven-car field. When Fraga took the lead with 5:05 remaining, Robinson was in line for the drivers' championship.
Then, with four hours and 41 minutes remaining, Fraga went off in Turn 6, sending the No. 74 back to sixth and renewing the chances for Braun, Bennett and CORE. The No. 54 clinched it by finishing fifth in class and 15th overall, one position behind the No. 74.
“Jon and George did a great job,” Braun said. “We had good speed when we needed to, and other times we just had to be smart and try not to use the curbs, try to just save the car a little bit toward the end when it was coming down to a big mountain for the 74 to come back around.”
While the battle for the LMP3 championships were underway behind them, Jarett Andretti, Gabby Chaves and Josh Burdon were piecing together the class win in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320.
“It’s unbelievable,” Andretti said. “This is one of the hardest places to win, and I’m just so proud of everybody here involved with the team.”