By IMSA Wire Service
Experience is paying off in the race for the 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, as previous champions are among the leaders in all four classes with two of four races already in the books.
The stature of the Michelin Endurance Cup is such that teams – especially those that have won it before – build their race strategies around maximizing their points at each scoring interval. At the Rolex 24 At Daytona points were distributed after six, 12 and 18 hours as well as at the finish; at both the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans, points are distributed at four and eight hours in addition to the finish and at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen the scoring intervals are at three hours and the checkered flag.
Since the inception of the Michelin Endurance Cup in 2014, Action Express Racing has won its class every year. It’s No. 5 Mustang Sampling team won the first four consecutive, while its No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi V.R team won last year’s Prototype title.
With a victory last Saturday at Sebring and a runner-up race result at Daytona, the No. 31 team and its co-drivers Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran are currently tied for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) lead in the Michelin Endurance Cup standings with the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi and its season-long co-drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande.
The No. 10 squad opened the year with a win at Daytona and finished second to the No. 31 team last weekend. Both teams are nine points ahead of the third-place No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi of Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi in the Michelin Endurance Cup standings. On the DPi manufacturer front, Cadillac leads Acura by six points, 34-28.
Two years ago, Performance Tech Motorsports won the Michelin Endurance Cup in the final season for the Prototype Challenge (PC) class. This year, the team is leading the LMP2 standings with co-drivers Cameron Cassels and Kyle Masson in the No. 38 ORECA, thanks in large part to scoring the maximum five points in all three scoring segments en route to their Sebring victory last weekend. They’re eight points ahead of the second place No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA team and drivers Matt McMurry and Gabriel Aubry.
After winning at Sebring, the No. 911 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR and its co-driving trio of Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki took the lead in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) Michelin Endurance Cup standings. The No. 911 team and Pilet won the Michelin Endurance Cup in 2017, while the team’s No. 912 Porsche entry also won in 2014.
The GTLM battle is a close one, with just one point separating the leading No. 911 team from the second-place No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT squad of Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon.
In fact, there’s a two-way tie for third between the No. 66 Ford GT team of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais and the No. 912 Porsche trio of Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Matthieu Jaminet – and there’s just five points between first at last. Ford and Porsche are tied atop the Michelin Endurance Cup manufacturer standings with 21 points, three ahead of Chevrolet.
In the GT Daytona (GTD) class, the quest for a Michelin Endurance Cup threepeat by the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG and its Mercedes-AMG GT3 co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen is off to a solid start.
The No. 33 team, which also includes Brazilian driver Felipe Fraga, has a three-point lead, 25-22, over the Daytona- and Sebring-winning No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 team and drivers Mirko Bortolotti, Rik Breukers and Rolf Ineichen. Three teams are tied for third in the GTD standings with 18 points each.
Mercedes-AMG has the same three-point margin in the GTD manufacturer standings over Lamborghini, 25-22. Audi is currently third with 20 points.
The next Michelin Endurance Cup round is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on June 30.
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the 100-minute BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach on Saturday, April 13. The race features only the DPi and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes as part of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach event weekend. Tickets are available now on GPLB.com.
NBCSN will have live, flag-to-flag coverage of the race beginning at 5 p.m. ET. IMSA Radio also will cover the action live on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.