Five IMSA championships have already been clinched in the first four hours of the Motul Petit Le Mans, the 2018 season finale for both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
The #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi and co-drivers Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr secured Action Express Racing’s fifth consecutive Patrón Endurance Cup when Nasr was scored as the race leader at the four-hour mark in the race. The lead brought five points toward the Patrón Endurance Cup, running the #31 team’s total to 36 points.
The fewest amount of points they could score combined in the remaining two segments is four, while the most the second-place #7 Acura Team Penske DPi co-drivers Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor could add to their current, 28-point total is 10 points. That gives the team title to the #31 AXR entry and the driver title for Curran and Nasr.
“It was great,” Nasr said. “It was good help from Eric when he was in the car. He got the car up front and we were already thinking about the four-hour mark. They got me a little bit early in the car as planned, but I think at the right spot.
“Again, the calls from Action Express to pit on the right time just put us in a much better position. I was able to do very good, fast laps out there. The Whelen car is handling very good, especially in the warm conditions. We just seem to keep up a much better balance than the cars around and it’s looking good.”
Action Express won the previous four Patrón Endurance Cup team and driver titles from 2014 to 2017 with its #5 Mustang Sampling entry and co-drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa.
Three manufacturer championships also were clinched in the early running of Motul Petit Le Mans. By starting the race, both Cadillac and Ford clinched the Prototype and GT Le Mans (GTLM) manufacturer championships, respectively. Ford also wrapped up the Patrón Endurance Cup manufacturer championship in the GTLM class.
Cadillac leads the Patrón Endurance Cup manufacturer standings as well with two more scoring intervals to come, holding a three-point advantage over Acura.
There’s still plenty for the #31 team to play for, however, with the WeatherTech Championship still on the line. Their competition for the Prototype title, the #54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 machine co-driven by Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Romain Dumas, was running fifth at the four-hour mark. The #31 would clinch the title with a second-place run or better in race.
The Patrón Endurance Cup in GTLM will go to Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, but which team takes it is still up for grabs. The #66 Ford GT trio of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais were leading at four hours to earn the maximum points, and now leads the #67 Ford GT shared by Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and IndyCar champion Scott Dixon by six points, 38-32.
The #66 will clinch the Patrón Endurance Cup if it is running third or better at the eight-hour mark, or if the #67 is not the leader at eight hours. In terms of the overall WeatherTech Championship in GTLM, the #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Marcel Fassler was running in third place at the four-hour mark. It needs to finish fourth or better to clinch the title.
Everything in the GT Daytona (GTD) class is still up in the air after four hours. The #33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz was the four-hour leader to extend their class lead in the Patrón Endurance Cup standings to five points, 36-31, ahead of the #86 Acura NSX of Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente and Trent Hindman.
Legge and the #86 team also continue to trail in the overall WeatherTech Championship GTD title chase. They were running eighth in class at four hours, while the points-leading #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis was running third.
Mercedes-AMG leads the Patrón Endurance Cup manufacturer standings by four, 37-33, ahead of a two-way tie between Lamborghini and Acura.