Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

2019 Motul Petit Le Mans Preview

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

All that’s left is 10 hours.

Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans will conclude the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the newly-renamed Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta circuit near Braselton. The 2.54 mile road course will see many endings besides the championship, so let’s dive straight into that before we get into the classes.

The Ford GT and Corvette C7.R will be making their final starts as factory programs in the GTLM class. Ford has decided to shutter the GT project while Chevrolet is moving onto the mid-engined C8.R for 2020. The Porsche 911 RSR will undergo several changes for 2020 but will remain mostly similar to its current GTLM competitor.

This will also be the final race weekend for the CORE Autosport DPi team. While also running the Porsche GTLM effort, the Nissan DPi competitors are shuttering the prototype portion of the team following team owner Jon Bennett’s decision to retire from racing at the end of the 2019 season.

Petit Le Mans also marks the end of the road for the No. 5 Action Express Racing entry, the team downscaling to one car for the 2020 WeatherTech Championship season.

The DPi category has 11 cars on the entry list for the first time since Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Ricardo Juncos’s team has their No. 50 Cadillac DPi on track after their car suffered a tremendous impact north of the border. LMP2 has its usual entry list of two cars.

GTLM has nine cars on the roster this weekend with two cars from Ford, Porsche, Corvette and BMW and the sole Risi Competizione Ferrari joining the eight GTLM regulars on track. This is the Houston, Texas-based team’s first race in WeatherTech Championship competition since the Rolex 24.

GTD has only 12 cars participating, bringing the total entries to just 34 for this race. Compared to the last endurance race at Watkins Glen, there are four fewer cars on the grid. Black Swan Racing and Park Place Motorsports are not here with their Porsche 911 GT3 entries while Starworks Motorsport and Moorespeed are not participating with their Audi R8 LMS GT3 machines.

Rejoining the GTD grid as per usual for the endurance races is Precision Performance Motorsports with their No. 47 Lamborghini Huracan GT3. The Lamborghini Super Trofeo standouts are looking to close 2019 on a strong note.

After opening practice, the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac was fastest overall with Felipe Nasr turning a lap of 1 minute, 9.093 seconds to average 132.343 mph. In GTLM, the Ford GT duo went 1-3 with Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 going around Michelin Raceway in 1 minute, 16.810 seconds.

In GTD, the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 was fastest with a lap of 1 minute, 19.306 seconds from Bill Auberlen.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.