Van Der Zande, Taylor and Hunter-Reay with Petit LeMans
Renger Van Der Zande, Jordan Taylor, and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the #10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. took the win, their first of the season.
The #10 Cadillac started the race ninth in class and looked destined to finish second with the race winding down until Filipe Albuquerque in the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R ran out of fuel when coming down the hill on the final lap, dropping from the race lead to fourth.
Albuquerque in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R led the race into the last lap following a pass around Pipo Derani with 25 minutes to go.
However, the Mustang Sampling-sponsored Cadillac DPi sputtered for fuel with just a few corners to go, allowing van der Zande to sneak by for the win.
Albuquerque came home fourth in the No. 5 Cadillac after the last-lap drama, with the No. 7 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 of Ricky Taylor completing the top-five.
These results meant that the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac with Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr take home the team and drivers championship in both the full WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season and in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R trio of Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay ended one of their team’s most challenging seasons to date.
“I feel like I have never been more happy than I am tonight,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “These guys, this team, our partners Konica Minolta, Cadillac, ECR Engines, everybody associated with this program, this was for them. It was a really tough weekend because we didn’t have the fastest car. We were five-and-a-half miles an hour slower than most of those other cars in a straight line. But, as usual, this team, when it’s time to do something and pull stuff out – our engineers and our drivers – they find a way to make it happen. Thank goodness because for all 15 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve never had a year without winning a race. And for the Petit Le Mans, it’s now three wins because I won as a driver and now twice as a team owner with Max. I can’t say enough about our chassis maker Dallara – it’s not only the technical side of everything they do with us, it’s the relationship we have with them. They truly, truly feel the pain with us and they win and lose with us, so I can’t say enough about them. We’ve got just really good partners. This year was a difficult year, but this is one heck of a way to make us feel good during the offseason.”
After struggling to qualify 12th for today’s race, victory might have seemed improbable for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team, even though it has mastered the art of contending for wins in time and again in the series’ iconic endurance events at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta over the last decade and a half.
The 32-year-old van der Zande, who replaced Ricky Taylor as Jordan Taylor’s full-time co-driver at the outset of 2018, drove a patient opening stint in working his way into the top-10. He handed the car over to Taylor at the one-hour, 13-minute mark during the first caution period of the race, and lightning-quick work by the crew enabled Taylor to restart just outside the top-five.
Taylor and Hunter-Reay on their opening stints, and then van der Zande during his second stint, took charge over the next five and a half hours and, with the help of consistently quick pit stops and driver changes, kept the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R in and around the top-five. The Dutch driver first took the lead during a round of green-flag pit stops at the six-hour, 45-minute mark, and he and Taylor were able to lead 55 of the next 60 laps until just past the eight-hour mark.
Van der Zande took over with 92 minutes remaining in the race and would take the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R the rest of the way. He rejoined the race in fifth place and gradually worked his way toward the front during the initial fuel-and-tire run, leading the final five laps before making his final fuel-and-tire stop with 43 minutes remaining.
He resumed in third place behind the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Felipe Albuquerque and the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan of Pipo Derani. Van der Zande passed Derani with seven minutes to go in the race, and he carefully bided his time in chasing down Albuquerque for the lead as the team suspected the No. 5 Cadillac would not have enough fuel to get to the checkered flag.
It was a nail-biting final few minutes as a determined Albuquerque was able to hold off van der Zande. But finally, just two turns from the finish, the No. 5 car sputtered and van der Zande got around him on the outside and took the win.
“It took 10 races to get my first win with the team and we finally got it done,” said the Dutchman. “I’m super happy and super proud of the team and I think this was a real team effort. We kept it on the black stuff, we gave it our all at the right time, but mainly on the fuel mileage and hitting the numbers they gave me was a big calculation at the end and the team got it done. We knew we were going to struggle during the day when it was hot. When I got in for Ryan on my second-to-last stint, it was starting to cool down and that’s when I started to feel like we do have a good car because it felt horrible before that. It was steering in, it was braking, it was doing everything I wanted. The closer we got to the end of the race, the better the car was getting, I could attack everywhere. At the end, it was a very calculation kind of game on track because you want to get position but you want to save fuel, as well. That’s the game that we played and we played it very nice. I’m very happy. We have a baby coming any time now so I have to head home now. I’ll be very anxious until it happens but this is a very nice thing to happen to end the season.”
“It was pretty crazy,” Taylor said. “It was a never-give-up strategy today. It was 10 hours and one of the toughest Petit Le Mans races there’s been in a long time, especially in the Prototype class. It was a tough year not having a win until now, and it would’ve been very disappointing to leave this season without a win. But our guys were unbelievable – the whole Konica Minolta crew. We were making up positions on every pit stops, which kept us up front for track position. And for the last two hours, Renger was saving fuel. If we wouldn’t have stuck to that strategy like we did, we would’ve ended up like the 5 car. We were pushing him every lap to save fuel and hit his numbers, and he was still able to keep the pressure on and it worked, passing for the win with two corners to go. To go through 10 hours of racing is unbelievable. Wayne Taylor Racing has won at least one race for all 15 years of its existence, so it’s a great way to end the way and a great way to lead into 2019.”
“This is a big one – Petit Le Mans is huge,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s so great racing with this team. I have such a great time with them, it’s easy to come from my full-time job in IndyCar and jump in here and work with these drivers. Jordan and Renger did a fantastic job today. Renger, to finish the race like that, was outstanding. We’ve come close, we finished second at Sebring, we had a great car at Daytona before we had some issues, and this is just fantastic to finish the year like this. We went from qualifying on the pole to winning (the IndyCar season finale) at Sonoma and now to this, it’s just been a fantastic to the 2018 season. Petit Le Mans is a big one. Next up, we have our eyes on winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona. I’d love to win that race. I just love being back here in IMSA.”
Porsche wins in GTLM, but Corvette wins title
Nick Tandy pulled away from the field on the final restart and completed a fuel mileage run to take GT Le Mans class victory at Motul Petit Le Mans, while a rapid repair job from Corvette Racing saved the drivers’ championship for Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.
Second in class was the #4 Corvette C7.R. This race was a metaphor for the whole season for Corvette, extremely consistent. Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin with Marcel Fassler ran a virtually incident free race and were rewarded for it. They would cross the line just a handful of seconds behind the winning #911 Porsche at the end.
Garcia and Magnussen looked poised to secure their second consecutive drivers’ championship, and the third for Corvette, in relatively easy fashion when their season appeared to come unraveled with two and a half hours to go.
Garcia spun the Corvette while leaving the pits after a routine pit stop during the race’s fifth full course caution and made front-end contact with the wall.
The Spaniard limped the car back around the track and immediately pulled the car behind the wall where the Pratt & Miller crew made repairs. Garcia emerged from the paddock and returned to the race three laps down in ninth place in class.
Garcia, who remained behind the wheel to the finish following the accident, clawed back to eighth and earned enough points to claim the second straight drivers’ title for the pairing as their rivals in the No. 67 Ford GT faded to fifth in the final stint.
“We didn’t win a race, but we won the title and that’s what matters,” Magnussen said after the race. “We showed fighting spirit and didn’t give up. It sucked an hour ago when the car was in the wall, but we still just about won it!”
The drama for the win, meanwhile, centered around whether or not Tandy could nurse the fuel in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR for close to an hour on the final stint.
The Englishman made every drop count and crossed the line 11.443 seconds ahead of Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
Tandy shared top class honors with Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki, marking the trio’s third major endurance win of the year, alongside GTLM class honors at Sebring and overall victory in the Nürburgring 24.
The No. 24 BMW M8 GTE came home ahead of the sister No. 25 machine in third and fourth, respectively, while Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Ford finished fifth in class.
All nine of the GTLM class entrants were still running at the finish.
Ford claimed the IMSA WeatherTech manufacturer’s championship for GTLM at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Saturday, the first season title for the Ford GT.
Ferrari Wins in GTD
In GT Daytona, Daniel Serra vaulted past Alvaro Parente and into the class lead with under 40 minutes to go and held on to take the victory in the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Scuderia Corsa.
Parente had jumped to the class lead by virtue of a short fill from his Meyer Shank Racing crew on the final pit stop but could not hold off the Brazilian who went on to win by 0.916 seconds after a late-race rally by the MSR driver.
A third-place finish for Paul Miller Racing’s No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was enough to clinch the class championship for Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow who, along with co-driver Corey Lewis, ran amongst the front runners all day.
Serra shared the class win with Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette in the WeatherTech-sponsored Ferrari.
Robert Renauer and Wright Motorsports rallied from multiple punctures and a late-race penalty to finish fourth in the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R he shared with Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen, ahead of Townsend Bell in the No. 64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.
Thus the team and drivers championship for the full WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season goes to the #48 Paul Miller Racing team with Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers.
“There are no words… first of all, I want to thank the fans for coming out, I’m glad we could put on a show for them…thank you to Paul Miller Racing, and thank you to the #86, they are as classy as it gets.” Said Bryan Sellers.
The #33 Team Riley Mercedes-AMG of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz, and Ben Keating took home both the team and drivers championship for the North American Endurance Cup in GTD.
The race, which saw the distance record for the event broken by the overall winners, was slowed five times for full course yellows.
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