By IMSA Wire Service
BRASELTON, Ga. – On a picture-perfect fall day in front of a huge crowd at Road Atlanta, five IMSA championships already have 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 No. 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 No. 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 No. 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 No. 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 No. 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 No. 31 team to play for, however, with the WeatherTech Championship still on the line. Their competition for the Prototype title, the No. 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 No. 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 No. 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 No. 67 Ford GT shared by Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and IndyCar champion Scott Dixon by six points, 38-32.
The No. 66 will clinch the Patrón Endurance Cup if it is running third or better at the eight-hour mark, or if the No. 67 is not the leader at eight hours. In terms of the overall WeatherTech Championship in GTLM, the No. 3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Marcel Fassler was in the catbird seat 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 No. 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 No. 86 Acura NSX of Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente and Trent Hindman.
Legge and the No. 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 No. 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.
Live Motul Petit Le Mans coverage continues on FS2 through the checkered flag at 9:05 p.m. ET. The race also is available on the FOX Sports Go app with FS1 authentication. Live IMSA Radio coverage also is available now on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 119/XM 202/App 972).
– The No. 25 BMW, which has won the last two consecutive WeatherTech Championship races and also is the defending GTLM winner at Motul Petit Le Mans suffered damage to the front of the car in the first 10 minutes of the race after contact with the No. 66 Ford. It was running ninth in class at the four-hour mark, one lap behind the leader.
– After starting from the Motul Pole, Pipo Derani gave up the lead 25 minutes into the race when the No. 22 Patrón ESM Nissan DPi slowed with a flat left-rear tire. The Brazilian made an unscheduled pit stop, but rejoined the race and the No. 22 team worked their way back to third at four hours.
– The Motul Petit Le Mans came to an early end for the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi when Juan Pablo Montoya crashed in Turn 3. The Colombian driver was not injured.
– The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW also was forced to retire early when Dillon Machavern crashed heading into Turn 1. Machavern careened into the wall after contact with the WeatherTech Championship Prototype championship-leading No. 31 Cadillac DPi driven at the time by Eric Curran, with both the No. 5 Cadillac DPi and the No. 64 Ferrari also in the middle of the action. While the other three cars continued without incident, the day came to an end for the No. 96. Machavern also was not injured.
– The No. 55 Mazda DPi lost a left-rear wheel following a pit stop under full-course caution with just over eight hours left in the race. It limped around for a new tire and since battled back to the top three late in the fourth hour.