BRASELTON, Ga. – Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Colin Braun took the lead Saturday night (Oct. 14) on a restart with 29 minutes remaining. From there, Braun held on to win the 26th Annual Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta alongside Tom Blomqvist and Helio Castroneves. The race was marred by 13 cautions for 94 laps.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande finished second, followed by Proton Competition’s Gianmaria Bruni, Neel Jani and Harry Tincknell. Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr and Josef Newgarden were fourth, while JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Jenson Button, Mike Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm were fifth.
There were a lot of opinions entering the race that there was going to be a lot of chaos Saturday. That chaos started before the green even came out. Tower Motorsport’s Ari Balogh spun out on the pace lap between turns 5 and 6 and bumped the wall.
Balogh was able to recover from the incident and actually took the green to start the race. Then, he clipped the curb in turn 2, got off-course and spun into the barrier to bring out the first yellow. Balogh was ok, but the car had to be towed back to the paddock. By the time they got back out, they were 23 laps down.
On the initial start of the race, Bourdais was able to get by pole sitter Louis Deletraz to take the lead. A second yellow due to a tire carcass on the track split the pit strategy. Bourdais and Deletraz stayed out while the rest of the GTP cars pitted.
Bourdais ended up losing time in lapped traffic, allowing Deletraz to get the lead lap back. Then, Deletraz made a pit stop.
Before Bourdais could stop, the scariest moment of the race occurred when High Class Racing’s Dennis Andersen and Triarsi Competizione’s Charlie Scardina came together right before the chicane. Scardina spun and collected Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Nick Tandy and Inception Racing’s Brendan Iribe.
Iribe struggled to get out of his McLaren due to the door mechanism being broken, but otherwise was fine. He was out on the spot. Tandy was forced to get out of the car when he wanted to be pulled out of the gravel so that he could drive to the pits. He would eventually continue after time in the paddock. Scardina and Andersen were also able to continue.
During the fourth yellow, there was a collision on pit road between Action Express Racing’s Alexander Sims and BMW M Team RLL’s Sheldon van der Linde. Sims had missed the red light at the end of the pit lane and stopped suddenly, resulting in van der Linde hitting him. Both drivers were given stop and 60-second hold penalties for running the red light, but not before both had to make additional stops for repairs.
The middle stages of the race were dominated by Porsche Penske Motorsport’s No. 7 with Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden and Felipe Nasr sharing. However, once the sun began to set, the No. 01 Cadillac came back to the front.
The key moment in the championship came with just over an hour to go. While van der Zande led, Filipe Albuquerque attempted a very aggressive move on Derani for second-place on the outside of turn 1. Derani gave Albuquerque next to no room. The result was that Albuquerque went off the track and into the tire barrier.
Albuquerque had to be helped to the Rapid Response Vehicle after exiting the car. Both Albuquerque and Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport were crushed.
Fuel was tight on most of the leaders. Braun had two more laps of energy than van der Zande. As a result, the need to conserve meant that van der Zande couldn’t get his tires up to temperature quick enough after a 30-minute caution..
Braun was able to quickly take advantage, sweeping into the lead shortly after the restart, While van der Zande kept close, incidents kept him from making a move to get the lead back before the finish.
In LMP2, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Ben Keating started from the pole, then lost the advantage to TDS Racing’s Steven Thomas on the initial start. Keating was able to retake the lead shortly after the restart.
Keating was able to pull away to a 16-second lead. Then, he spun exiting turn 6. Keating didn’t hit anything, but lost nearly his entire lead while trying to recover.
The race in class ultimately came down to a battle between Crowdstrike Racing by APR’s Ben Hanley and Era Motorsport’s Christian Rasmussen after the TDS Racing No. 11 crashed and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports dropped back. Rasmussen had led up until the Albuquerque crash, but was beaten out of the pits by Hanley.
Rasmussen attempted to get the lead back in the closing minutes. However, it ended in tears when Rasmussen spun exiting turn 3 and backed into the wall with less than 15 minutes to go. The crash ended his night. Hanley was able to hold on for the win with George Kurtz and Nolan Siegel.
The LMP3 class will not continue in WeatherTech after this race, so teams wanted to go out on top. Andretti Autosport’s Glenn van Berlo started on pole, but the Andretti team never factored into the battle for the win beyond the second hour as mechanical issues ended their day early.
Mechanical issues narrowed the class down significantly. JDC-Miller MotorSports was never a factor due to going behind the wall at the start. Performance Tech Motorsports was multiple laps down due to mechanical issues, then Brian Thienes spun and hit the tires after getting hit by Onofrio Triarsi.
Andrew Wojteczko Autosport’s No. 17 led laps relatively early, but stalled during an unrelated caution. He had to be towed back to the pits and lost several laps. The team later retired.
The race came down to a duel between Riley Motorsports, Jr III Racing and AWA’s No. 13, the only three teams to avoid significant trouble.
Felipe Fraga led until the closing stages, then cut a tire and was forced to pit. That allowed Jr III Racing’s Garret Grist, Bijoy Garg and Dakota Dickerson to claim the win. For Garg, it was his third win of the weekend as he swept the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge races.
In the GT classes, Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth and The Heart of Racing’s Ian James started on the class poles. However, the fastest GT driver early on was Doriane Pin in the Iron Dames Lamborghini.
Pin was able to pressure the top drivers in both GTD and GTD Pro early on. She eventually took the lead thanks to a strategy move, but once there, she drove off to a 12-second lead.
The aforementioned big wreck occurred right as Pin was about to make a scheduled stop. Having to drive through the pits without stopping at 60 kph dropped her down the order. Unfortunately for the Iron Dames, issues dropped them laps off the pace.
In GTD Pro, Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth started from the pole and led early. While he couldn’t hold off Pin, Hawksworth was easily able to stay ahead of the rest of the class.
Quick pit work put Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia into the class lead during the stops after the aforementioned big wreck. Corvette Racing led until the engine failed in the No. 3 Corvette with Tommy Milner at the wheel. The remainder of the race was a battle between WeatherTech Racing and Pfaff Motorsports.
Daniel Juncadella beat the Pfaff Porsche out of the pits, then held on for the victory for himself, Maro Engel and Jules Gounon. Pfaff’s Klaus Bachler, Kevin Estre and Patrick Pilet were second despite losing a fender early on. Risi Competizione’s Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra were third, then The Heart of Racing’s Ross Gunn, David Pittard and Alex Riberas.
The mistimed yellow and pit stops put Winward Racing’s Russell Ward in the lead. Meanwhile, Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow clinched the GTD title in Indianapolis. They were lucky that they did as Corey Lewis ended up being nudged into the tires at the end of the second hour to bring out another yellow. The team eventually returned to the race, but pulled out early due to a potential steering rack failure.
The trio of Ward, Philip Ellis and Indy Dontje was able to control the GTD class for much of the middle third of the race. Dontje told Frontstretch prior to the race that the team had a car capable of such feats and they lived up to it.
GTD was decided with the Albuquerque caution, much like the other classes. Ellis was leading prior to the crash, then pitted and lost the lead to US RaceTronics’ Loris Spinelli. Unlike the other classes, the others didn’t stop. As a result, they ended up ninth in class.
The race was going to come down to a battle between Spinelli and Wright Motorsports’ Jan Heylen. Unfortunately, Heylen crashed on the final restart and burst into flames, bringing out the yellow that ended the race. The caution gave US RaceTronics their first WeatherTech win with Spinelli, Misha Goikhberg and Patrick Liddy.
Turner Motorsport’s Michael Dinan, Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher were second, followed by Wright Motorsports’ Alan Brynjolfsson, Trent Hindman and Maxwell Root. Kellymoss with Riley’s Julian Andlauer, David Brule and Alec Udell were fourth, while The Heart of Racing’s James, Roman DeAngelis and Marco Sorensen were fifth.
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.
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