An impressive late-race drive by Jordan Taylor helped deliver Wayne Taylor Racing victory in Saturday’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, while Action Express Racing collected the inaugural Prototype class title in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Taylor drove the No. 10 Konica Minolta-sponsored entry to a 11.062-second win over Joao Barbosa, following a race-long duel between the pair of Corvette DPs, which went the way of Jordan Taylor in the closing stages.
While having led through the early hours, Taylor retook the lead from the No. 5 Action Express machine of Christian Fittipaldi with less than one hour and 30 minutes remaining and bridged out a sizable 30-second gap. However, it was erased with the race’s 13th and final full-course caution for a heavy crash, that set up a six-minute shootout to the finish. Taylor, however, was able to hold on. It marked brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor’s second win of the season, and first with longtime co-driver Max Angelelli.
“It was a great way to finish the season,” said Ricky Taylor, who qualified second and started the race, and passed the polesitting Barbosa for the lead on lap 10, 12 minutes into the race. “Great finish for Chevrolet for another one-two finish. Congratulations to the No. 5 car for the championship. We wish we were there to fight for the title win this weekend, but we will come back next year even stronger. We went from the lead the first half of the race, to a lap down, and back to the win. It was great.”
“Everyone on the team did a good job, including the drivers,” said Angelelli, who celebrated his 27th career sports car victory. “We definitely delivered. I am really happy for Chevy. Our Corvette DP was the fastest car on track. We won the race and this race for me is special because it is the fourth big race in the championship. I only need to win Sebring and then I have everything. Winter is going to be very short because we will be back soon ready for next year.”
“Winning this race 16 years ago, when Ricky and Jordan were 9 and 7, and now coming here and watching them win it with Max is just unbelievable,” said team owner and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor. “But winning it could never have been done without the support of Mark Kent and Jim Campbell and Mark Reuss and everybody from Chevrolet. And Konica Minolta, who really saved the day when they came on to sponsor us after Daytona and Sebring, I can’t be thankful enough. The team was flawless today, the drivers were flawless. We’ve had the best drivers all year. They’ve just not had the best luck. I think tonight proved what they can do. I do want to congratulate the No. 5 team on the championship. Those guys ran pretty flawlessly all year. They never put a wheel wrong. They deserved the championship.”
Barbosa and co-driver Christian Fittipaldi, meanwhile, claimed the P class championship with their runner-up finish with Sebastien Bourdais, while the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Scott Dixon completed the podium in third. The DeltaWing recorded a season-best fourth place overall finish, despite drivers Katherine Legge, Andy Meyrick and Gabby Chaves running the final three hours without first or second gears. It marked the team’s best career result. The French squad lost three laps early due to a loose turbo clamp but fought its way back onto the lead lap and given its speed, would have likely be a contender for the win.
The No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP lost considerable ground in the sixth hour when the it went behind the wall after Andrew Palmer’s No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS made contact with Richard Westbrook while on the wave-by lap during a full-course caution. Consequently the high rate of attrition resulted in only four P class cars finishing in the top-ten overall.
Prototype Challenge class honors went to the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport trio of Renger van der Zande, Mirco Schultis and Alex Popow, following a nasty late-race crash by Sean Rayhall, who appeared to be en route to class victory. Rayhall’s 8Star Motorsports Oreca FLM09 was hit by the No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 Italia of Tracy Krohn in the high-speed Esses, resulting in a massive airborne accident, which brought out the final yellow with 16 minutes remaining.
That accident gave the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car the lead but Gunnar Jeannette was forced to make a stop for a splash of fuel, giving the surprise class win to Starworks. The No. 54 CORE autosport entry of Colin Braun, Jon Bennett and James Gue finished second, ahead of Jeannette and Frankie Montecalvo. While Braun and Bennett clinched the PC drivers’ championship at Circuit of The Americas, their result gave CORE autosport its fouth consecutive teams’ title
Kuno Wittmer (GT Le Mans) and Dane Cameron (GT Daytona) have taken driver’s championships, while Team Falken Tire and Paul Miller Racing won the two classes. The Team Falken win marks the first win by a customer Porsche 911 RSR in North America as it’s Falken’s first win of the season, and fifth overall as a program going back to its first at Mid-Ohio in 2011, then with a 911 GT3 RSR.
“Before the restart, I asked and they said there were a couple of prototypes between us [and second place], so I thought maybe I’d be safe,” said Henzler, who beat Christensen to the stripe by a mere 0.937 seconds. “I had three laps and I was able to keep my pace and keep him behind. He never could really attack me, but he was close.”
Porsche was also able to take the GTLM Manufacturer’s Championship over Dodge, thanks to the 1-2 finish. Dodge ended third in the race with the No. 91 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R, with Wittmer moving over to the car with Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay had a brief off in the fourth hour at the exit of Turn 12, which kicked up some grass and dirt and required an unscheduled pit stop, but otherwise the race ran smoothly for the No. 91 car.
“To be honest, I’m a bit upside down on emotions due to the fact that Jonathan can’t be sitting beside me,” said Wittmer. “He deserves it just as much as I do. We worked all season to be in this type of position to get a point lead. Strategically we got split for Petit, which makes sense, because one of us did win.”
Corvette was able to salvage a fourth for the No. 4 Corvette C7.R, following a trouble-free drive for Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Ryan Briscoe. The No. 911 Porsche of Tandy, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet recovered to fifth after making two extra stops due to the pit lane fracas.
The No. 93 Viper ended sixth, with fluid leaking from the rear of the car in the fifth hour effectively the damaging blow to Bomarito’s title hopes. He shared the car with Dominik Farnbacher and Rob Bell. BMW Team RLL ended seventh and 10th. The No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE lost time with a suspension issue and the sister No. 55 had an apparent clutch issue, then an unspecified mechanical failure that caused the fifth yellow flag of the race.
GTD nearly saw the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup-only Spirit of Race No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 driven by Matt Griffin, Michele Rugolo and Pasin Lathouras pull an upset victory, but the plans were shelved following Rugolo’s late-race splash for fuel with just over 20 minutes to go. That dropped them to an eventual sixth place finish. It handed the win over to Paul Miller Racing, the team’s first in the TUDOR Championship and additionally the first for the Audi R8 LMS this season, after an up-and-down battle with several other cars. Bryce Miller, Christopher Haase and English driver Matt Bell shared the No. 48 car, which took its fourth podium finish of the year but first since finishing second at Indianapolis in July.
While the PMR Audi took the win, it wasn’t without a bit of last lap drama. Haase was battling with Alex Riberas for the win, but the two made contact on the backstraight and it sent Riberas spinning out of control. Riberas’ No. 23 Team Seattle-AJR Porsche 911 GT America, which he shared with Ian James and Mario Farnbacher, had recovered to second anyway following two unscheduled pit stops. The second unscheduled stop, which occurred in the ninth hour, dropped the car 51 seconds back. But the team rebounded to be side-by-side on the final lap before ending a hard-luck fifth.
The No. 58 Snow Racing/Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America was promoted to second, 3.121 seconds back of the Audi, following a solid drive from Jan Heylen and Madison Snow. The No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche ended third, driven by Andy Lally, John Potter and Marco Seefried. Lally had two near misses, including one when Rusty Mitchell’s wayward No. 08 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 restarted exiting Turn 5 and nearly collected him. Those two podium finishes were enough to deliver Porsche the GTD Manufacturer’s Championship, as well.
Cameron, who shared the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3 with Markus Palttala and Christoffer Nygaard, came home fourth. There was a first hour drive-through penalty issued and a later instance of contact with the No. 01 Riley-Ford in the eighth hour, but the car survived in both cases. Turner’s title rivals, the No. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 (Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Conrad Grunewald) and No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America (Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil, Craig Stanton) ended seventh and eighth, respectively. They each had sniffs of the lead, but were unable to pose a consistent threat over the course of the 10-hour race.
You can also find the complete race here from start to finish.