Multiple titles across the regular IMSA and North American Endurance Cup standings were clinched yesterday, during the final round of the 2017 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season at Road Atlanta. It book-ended plenty of storylines over the past season of IMSA racing, in which three of the four classes had thrilling title races go down to the wire.
All Cadillac in Prototype ranks
Jordan and Ricky Taylor, drivers of the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi V.R. have been crowned the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Driver’s Champions, after starting the 20th anniversary edition of Petit Le Mans.
It was a tough race for the team, which retired after engine troubles, but their lead was such that in the end they still took home the silverware, and in the process, scored Wayne Taylor Racing the Team’s Championship.
The winning duo amassed 288 points total heading into the weekend, after winning the first five races of the year – including Daytona and Sebring – and finishing on the podium in the previous two before the trip to Georgia. They just had to start the race to clinch the title.
They’ve therefore scored Cadillac its first IMSA titles, and have become the first title winners in the DPi-era, the American marque’s DPI V.R proving the class of the field in Year 1 of IMSA’s new prototype era.
“We are happy to win the championship,” Ricky Taylor said. “The team and car have run flawlessly all year. It’s too bad to have an issue at Petit when we were fighting for the TPNAEC title. It was a crazy start to the race with the wet and then going dry. It was a lot of work at the start.
“The team did a great job all year, everyone at Cadillac, Dallara and our sponsors at Konica Minolta all have a hand this championship. The five wins to start the season was great and especially winning the Rolex 24 and Sebring – the stuff all drivers dream about. To win it with my dad, Jordan and Max, who is also family, is really a dream season.”
In addition to that, Cadillac also sealed the Manufacturer’s championship in the race. With standout performances from Action Express in addition to Wayne Taylor Racing throughout the year, the GM brand won a total of seven races en route to the title.
“Winning the IMSA regular season DPi drivers, team and manufacturer titles along with the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance driver and manufacturer championships reinforces the spirit of winning that is pervasive throughout Cadillac,” said Rich Brekus, global director of product strategy for Cadillac.
“It starts with our single-minded engineering group that develops award-winning road cars that are built by a quality driven manufacturing team, these accomplishments are a testament to what performance focus can achieve. Having strong team partners like Konica Minolta that won the drivers and team championships and put the car in the winner’s circle five times this year is impressive.”
And to wrap up an incredible day for Cadillac, the Action Express Mustang Sampling duo of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi claimed the NAEC DPi Driver’s and DPi Team’s titles. It was the team’s fourth straight NAEC title win.
“Four times in a row,” exclaimed Fittipaldi. “It is a huge accomplishment and it came from a massive effort from the whole team. For the drives to make sure they keep it on the black stuff, and obviously for the team and all the preparation-it boils down to Action Express doing an awesome job.
“If the car doesn’t finish, we don’t get points so we would never be in this position. We had the focus to have fast and consistent cars with the Corvette and then with the Cadillac.
“We are happy to win this TPNAEC this year and hats off to the 10 car guys on their overall IMSA championship as well. They did a great job, particularly at the first half of the season.
“We will regroup and learn from our mistakes, emphasize what we did well and then come back to be even stronger in 2018.”
Corvette and Porsche crowned in GTLM
In the GTLM ranks, sister GM brand Corvette Racing took the spoils.
During the opening stages of the 10-hour Petit Le Mans endurance race, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen clinched the GT Le Mans Driver’s title in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as well as the GTLM Team’s Championship. It was the Corvette team’s second consecutive Driver’s and Team’s titles after the #4 pairing of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner achieved the same feat in 2016.
The Garcia/Magnussen pairing claimed three class victories during the year, having won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as well as GTLM rounds at Circuit of The Americas and Virginia International Raceway. They also finished third at Watkins Glen.
“This championship was absolutely a team effort,” said Mark Reuss, executive vice president, of Corvette Racing said. “The drivers, crew members and engineers were versatile and adaptable, and everybody on the #3 Corvette C7.R team contributed throughout the season. Jan and Antonio were consistent, smart behind the wheel and took advantage of opportunities when it mattered most. This was a hard-earned championship.”
It is the second championship effort for the duo, with the first coming in the 2013 American Le Mans Series GT class. As a result, both of Garcia’s championships have come with Magnussen.
However, Corvette wasn’t the only brand to take titles in the GTLM division, as the #911 Porsche crew of Patrick Pilot and Dirk Werner sealed the NAEC Team’s and Driver’s championships by just a single point in the new-for-2017 Porsche 911 RSR.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, vice president motorsport and GT cars said: “We’ve clinched the first title for the new 911 RSR at this race. By winning the North American Endurance Cup for drivers and teams, we’ve shown that we were always at the front at the right time for the major endurance races and, hence, have underlined the reliability of our car over the season.
“For a maiden season with a completely new car, this was a good performance.”
Scuderia Corsa clich headline GTD titles despite tough Petit
Scuderia Corsa won GTD’s honours, despite a rough outing at Road Atlanta, finishing ninth after multiple issues.
Scuderia Corsa co-drivers Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan won the Driver’s championship, after Nielsen completed her minimum driver time in the race. The achievement is the duo’s second in a row after winning both titles in 2016. Consistency through the year, with seven podiums and only a single victory proved enough to win the hotly-contested GT3-based class and earn Ferrari the IMSA GTD Manufacturer’s title crown.
“We did a thing that not a lot of people have done,” Nielsen said. “One is fine, but twice is even greater. This one is even tougher than last year. The mentality of never resting on previous results, and always pushing and working harder than we ever have before has been our advantage. And that’s why we’re standing here today.”
The team’s issues in the final race cost them a shot at the NAEC titles though. Instead, that feat went the way of Riley Motorsports’ Mercedes trio of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Mario Farnbacher and Ben Keating. Mercedes also took Manufacturer’s honours in the NAEC.
Performance Tech sweep PC
Patricio O’Ward and James French won all four PC titles this year, the IMSA Driver’s and Team’s ahead of Petit Le Mans, before winning the TPNAEC awards last night.
It capped of a dominant season for the Performance Tech duo, in which they won seven of the eight PC races this year, the final for the spec ORECA FLM class.