The 2022 IMSA season is long over; it’s already a little more than halfway through the offseason as of this writing. Teams tested new 2023 equipment at Daytona International Speedway ahead of January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona earlier this week.
Unlike NASCAR, IMSA doesn’t really waste time handing out its year-end awards. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship banquet was way back on Oct. 2, the night after the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans. IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge teams had their banquet just hours after their final race of the year.
Despite that fact, there’s no reason why we can’t hand out some imaginary awards based on actual on-track events.
The Farewell Award
In 2022, the DPi class as a whole was in a lame duck situation. It was the final year of the class where manufacturers could create their own bodywork on key parts of LMP2 chassis and run their own powerplants.
It is a formula that more or less was created after INDYCAR introduced manufacturer-specific body kits starting in 2015. Unlike INDYCAR, whose manufacturer body kit debut at St. Petersburg was dominated by debris cautions and a flying piece of carbon fiber hitting a fan during the race, IMSA had no such problems with the roll out of the DPis.
The DPis were created to create a more unified top class. Previously, the Prototype class was a mix of previous-generation LMP2 cars with boosted horsepower and the third generation of Daytona Prototypes that had come in from Grand-Am.
Originally, the DPis were grouped together with LMP2 cars as one Prototype class. There were three manufacturers on the grid in Daytona for the first race in 2017, those being Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan. Acura joined up in 2018. In addition, there were teams running ORECA 07, Ligier JS P217 and Multimatic-Riley Mk. 30 LMP2s in the race.
Car count in the class varied over the years. At the start in 2017, there were 12 cars in the combined Prototype class, seven of which were DPis (three Cadillacs, two Nissans and two Mazdas). There were 20 teams in the Prototype class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2018, including 10 DPis.
2019 saw the DPis split off from the LMP2 cars, which continued on as their own class in a Pro-Am fashion. The number of DPi cars peaked during the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona when 11 of them were on the grid. Since then, the numbers have dropped off.
Nissan never truly supported the Nissan DPi. After Extreme Speed Motorsports dropped out at the end of 2018, CORE autosport acquired a car and raced it in 2019, paying the manufacturer fee to IMSA itself. When CORE switched to a Porsche 911 GT3 R in the GT Daytona class, that was it for the Nissan DPi in racing. The car does live on as the track-only Ligier JS PX. Mazda dropped out at the end of 2021 as well.
Only six cars ran the full season in 2022, four Cadillac DPi-V.R.s and two Acura ARX-05s. Only a part-time second Cadillac for Action Express Racing added to the lineup. Despite that, the DPi class provided some competitive racing for fans in 2022.
In addition, the DPis were likely the fastest prototype sports cars on earth this year. The only true direct comparison between the DPis and the Hypercars in the FIA World Endurance Championship was at Sebring in March. The pole lap for the 12 Hours of Sebring was more than two seconds faster than the pole for the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring.
With the new LMDh cars making their racing debut next month in Daytona, the DPi cars will no longer race in IMSA. They will likely be seen in HSR events and various museums going forward.
The First-Timers Award
This award goes to Till Becholsheimer, Mario Farnbacher and Kyffin Simpson, who earned the first-ever IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship class victory for Gradient Racing in October’s Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. They were the only team to earn their first victory in WeatherTech in 2022.
Life is a journey, Love is a trip and the study of them will make you hip! pic.twitter.com/UKPe5duxGk
— Gradient Racing (@GradientRacing) October 4, 2022
Gradient Racing is a part-time organization that is the reincarnation of CJ Wilson Racing, a team that primarily competed in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. The team has competed in past years in the WeatherTech Sprint Cup races only. For 2022, it switched to only the Michelin Endurance Cup races. Long Beach was a late addition to the schedule that saw the team take a second-place finish on the tight city streets.
The Motul Petit Le Mans was a very unusual race in that the GTD teams were in front of the GTD Pro teams for the vast majority of the race, a rarity in 2022 caused by an early full-course caution.
The end of the race came down to a battle between Farnbacher and Inception Racing’s Jordan Pepper. Farnbacher was able to get past Pepper to take the class lead just as Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Earl Bamber and Renger van der Zande collided and crashed in turn 1 to bring out a full course caution.
The final 35 minutes of the race were a hard battle as Pepper did his best to get back into the lead, but Farnbacher was able to hold on for the win by 1.943 seconds.
The Walkoff Award
It is rare that someone could leave on top, but it appears that CORE has done exactly that.
A fifth-place finish in the Motul Petit Le Mans was good enough to give Jon Bennett and Colin Braun the LMP3 championship. As it turns out, that will be it for the team. A month after winning the championship, CORE announced it is closing its doors.
Why? At the time, it seemed owner/driver Bennett was going to focus on his other business, Composite Resources. Then, it was announced that Braun was hired to pair up with Tom Blomqvist at Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian for 2023, an offer that Braun couldn’t refuse.
SportsCar365.com published an article shortly afterward that indicated that Bennett chose to shutter the team the minute Braun told him that he had the Shank deal. Indeed, the reason the team continued on as long as it was something of a gentleman’s agreement between Bennett and Braun to race together until something greater came along for Braun. That is effectively what happened.
The Leaving It All Out There Award
Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet claim this award for their all-out brawl to try to win the GTD Pro class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January. Vanthoor, driving in a one-off for KCMG, went up against Jaminet in the full-time Pfaff Motorsports Porsche in a duel that brought the fans to their feet.
Both drivers are Porsche factory racers and were not willing to give each other a break. There was contact made between the two drivers on multiple occasions. Vanthoor was able to put the moves on Jaminet to take the lead with four minutes to go and looked good to win.
However, Jaminet was able to get the lead back just as the overall leader took the white flag. Vanthoor made one more move to get the lead back in the bus stop chicane. Contact was made, both drivers went through the dirt and Vanthoor spun. With overall leader Helio Castroneves right behind, this was the final braking zone of the race and Vanthoor went for it.
Afterward, Vanthoor posted about the battle on his Twitter feed.
— Laurens Vanthoor (@VanthoorLaurens) January 31, 2022
This battle had all the makings of a short track battle in NASCAR. Both Jaminet and Vanthoor didn’t care about points or anything. It was for the glory. Both drivers gained a lot of respect on the world stage for their battle.
The What If? Award
Over the past couple of years of dealing with COVID-19, you’ve likely dealt with supply-chain issues for seemingly everything under the sun. Race teams are most definitely not immune to those issues. Few dealt with issues quite as bad in IMSA as Paul Miller Racing.
Ahead of the season, Paul Miller Racing switched from its Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo to the new BMW M4 GT3. The supply chain at that point was bad enough that the team did not receive its new car in time to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. As a result, it sat out the season opener.
The thought at the time was that it wouldn’t have gotten the car before the beginning of May. Ultimately, it arrived in time for Sebring.
Despite this, PMR’s Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers might have had the better season. The duo had two victories (Long Beach and Lime Rock) along with three podium finishes. It also won the WeatherTech Sprint Cup championship by 226 points over The Heart of Racing’s Roman deAngelis.
The full-season title was won by DeAngelis, who claimed victory in two races (Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) and had three second-place finishes. The championship was a solo title due to Maxime Martin running the GTD Pro-class No. 23 instead of teaming with deAngelis at Daytona and Sebring at the beginning of the year.
As it stands, Sellers and Snow finished sixth in the final points despite missing the Rolex 24 and getting excluded in Watkins Glen, 219 points behind de Angelis. That is less than a full race. PMR having the car (or a car) for Daytona and having a decent run could have swung the championship.
The Complete Mess Award
June’s Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen was stopped with less than 90 minutes to go for a full hour due to lightning within 8 miles of Watkins Glen International.
In the case of Watkins Glen, the red flag completely turned the race upside down. The red flag came at a time when a number of drivers had not reached the minimum drive time that is necessary to score points. That was originally 30 minutes for DPi drivers and 90 minutes for everyone else. With the red flag, this was cut down to 77 minutes for drivers outside of the DPi class. Despite that, nine separate teams were classified at the rear of their classes due to violating the regulation.
The GTD class winners on the road from Winward Racing were busted, as were the GTD Pro class winners from BMW M Team RLL. That left The Heart of Racing’s No. 27 with deAngelis, Martin and Ross Gunn on a lap of their own, ahead of all the other GT teams. Other teams, such as DragonSpeed in LMP2, had to make costly pit stops after the final restart to make driver changes so they wouldn’t get sent to the rear at the finish.
After the race, there were a lot of angry people in regards to the officiating and post-race penalties that affected nearly 20% of the field. All of this came seemingly out of nowhere. It didn’t even rain all that much during the delay, so everyone ran to the finish once the race restarted on slick tires.
The Promotion Award
VOLT Racing’s Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman earn this award for their consistent season in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. The duo took only one victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca but followed that up with four additional podiums and one finish worse than seventh all year, culminating in the Grand Sport championship. It is Hindman’s second Pilot Challenge title, while Brynjolfsson earned his first.
The team was run by Wright Motorsports in 2022 after previously being under the Archangel Motorsports banner. As a result, the title is actually the second straight title in Michelin Pilot Challenge after Jan Heylen won the title in 2021.
The reward for the championship is pretty substantial. Brynjolfsson and Hindman are moving up to WeatherTech’s GTD class for 2023 in a florescent yellow Porsche 911 GT3 R.
For Hindman, it is a return to full-time WeatherTech competition. He drove most of the season for Wright Motorsports in place of Ryan Hardwick in 2021 after Hardwick was injured in Daytona. He is a past champion, winning the GTD title with Farnbacher in an Acura NSX GT3 for Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian in 2019.
Brynjolfsson has never raced in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship before. He’s known to like raw race cars. He’ll get plenty of that and more.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.