Nick Tandy said Friday that the only real way for him and Mathieu Jaminet to be in contention for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTP title when the season concludes at Petit Le Mans next month is to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mission accomplished as the two Penske Motorsport Porsches took a one-two finish at Roger Penske’s playground.
“Second win of the season, back in the fight for the championship, so it’s a great day for Porsche, for the whole team,” Jaminet said. “And the first one-two for Porsche Operation Penske, so I think it’s a day for the history books. Really satisfied.”
The two PPM 963s dominated throughout the weekend, leading all the free practice sessions and taking the front row in qualifying. In particular, it was Matt Campbell in the number 7 who was the fastest. But a block at the start – a deja vu for Campbell after a similar incident from pole at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – and another at a critical moment for Campbell’s co-driver Felipe Nasr meant their teammates took the second victory of the season in car no. 6 963. It also turned the championship into a four-way battle late on, thanks in part to Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly finishing third in the No. 6 BMW.
Polesitter Campbell stalled entering Turn 1 early on and ran wide, sending Jaminet into the lead.
“It was a tough game for us,” Campbell said after underlining the importance of the double for the team. “It kind of started to go a little bit badly in Turn 1. Unfortunately I couldn’t stop the car on a dirty line and ran a little wide.”
Campbell’s bobble may have contributed to a mess behind him, where Philipp Eng in the #2 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8. 24 tagged the Cadillac Racing Cadillac no. 01 by Sebastien Bourdais, making it spin. Tom Blomqvist was unable to stop the #1 Meyer Shank Acura ARX-06 in time. 60 and the Acura and Cadillac had nose-to-nose contact. Bourdais had to take the Cadillac to emergency service during the subsequent full-course caution (two GTD cars also had contact at the start, giving further reason for a caution) for a new nose and tire. Blomqvist was left with a poorly performing car until the nose was replaced during the first pit stop, which occurred during a caution over the entire course. Neither car would play a major role later.
That left Jaminet in the lead, Campbell in hot pursuit, with the pair of BMWs in third (No. 24) and fourth (No. 25). Things quickly went wrong for Eng and the number 24, as he first had to pit for a new tyre, then a new nose and then a long stop for a power loss issue that left him with 10 laps delay.
While the two PPM 963s finished one-two on the Cape circuit, where they had naturally carried out extensive testing, halfway through the race things were far from certain. Through a series of rather bizarre circumstances, starting with the second of two cautions on the entire race course – which came somewhat ideally for most competitors with just under two hours left in the race, Pipo Derani in the Cadillac V Action Express n. -Series.R was in the lead. Indeed, one of the most memorable images of IMSA’s return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway may have been of Derani battling with Tandy for position behind the safety car.
All of the GTP leaders stepped in for tyres, fuel and new drivers, with the exception of AXR, who kept Derani in the car during tire changes and refueling. Derani actually exited the pits between the two Porsches, but was unable to merge and had to fall behind before exiting the pits. When the class split started, the Porsches didn’t go, but Derani did. Officials determined that Nasr and Tandy had not followed the correct procedure for the class split and had to give the lead to Derani. For a few confusing moments, they appeared to be jostling for position as they circulated behind the safety car.
“I was a little late getting the call, but I was already in line to start the class split and I gave it a shot,” Tandy explained. “But at the same time, the 31s had obviously already started to be hilarious and passed us before we could split up in class. So I maintained my position that hopefully we had done the procedure correctly, obviously they felt they had done the procedure correctly and it was obviously established by race control that they should be in front. It compromised a bit, I think, our tire warm-up, being side by side for two laps.”
Derani was in front and was determined to stay there. Nasr overtook Tandy and continued to attack whenever the opportunity arose, but Derani remained in control for a while, even gaining some nice advantages in traffic. With just over an hour to go, Derani was blocked by a pair of LMP3 cars racing each other through the Turns 12-13 complex. This gave Nasr a good run down the long front straight, and as Derani approached the corner, moving to the inside of another P3 car, he stalled and ran wide just as Campbell had done at the start. Both Porsches passed, Nasr ahead of Tandy.
For 20 minutes they fought, almost touching at one point, until the final round of pit stops. Nasr took the No. 7 first, but with cold tires on the out lap, he stalled and skidded on the grass while Tandy took tires and fuel. This was the difference in the race and the number 6 cruised to victory without further harassment.
“It feels good,” Jaminet said. “I was very disappointed with my time at Watkins Glen. We just had, basically, bad races. And looking at it, it still hurts. So we finally get a win and that puts us back in the championship hunt. And I’m just hungry for more, to be honest. I just want to go to Atlanta now and race.
The number 31 was still chasing the podium, which would have put the team in a much better position heading into the finale, but De Phillippi took third place after Derani handed the Cadillac to Alexander Sims, who brought the number 31 fourth house. Former championship leaders Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor finished fifth in the No. 1 Wayne Taylor Racing car. 10 with Andretti Autosport Acura.
The fact that the top four finishers in the championship finished in the reverse order of points scored means that we reach the Petit Le Mans final for the first championship of the new GTP era. Sims and Derani now lead with 2460 points. Albuquerque and Taylor are just three points back, and Jaminet and Tandy are five points out of the lead. But De Phillippi and Yelloly still have a good chance for the title, being just 38 points – which could be two places in the race – from the lead. Even Nasr and Campbell, however unlikely, are within reach of the championship.
“I said before the weekend that we just needed to win here to have a good chance of going to Atlanta, and that gave us a chance at the end of the day,” Tandy said. “To give the people on his team a chance to win a championship in Atlanta. Is fantastic. I’m really, really happy to walk through that yard [of bricks]. It was definitely an emotional moment.
Steven Thomas and Mikkel Jensen won LMP2 in the #1 TDS Racing ORECA. 11, putting them in the championship lead of that class.
“When we started the year our goal was to win the championship,” Thomas said. “So that’s always in the back of our minds. But you know, right in front of you is a win in Indianapolis, so it’s a big deal if you’re a driver anywhere in the world. So we were excited to get the win and excited now to be in first place.
It was not an easy victory at all. When Jensen got into the car, he had a big deficit compared to the #1 car. 8 Tower Motorsports of Dan Goldburg and Louis Deletraz, and the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA of Ben Keating and Paul-Loup Chatin, but they had pitted during the second yellow race leaving them with more than an hour and a half to complete two stints and they had to drive conservatively to get to the finish.
“When we had the yellow, the Tower car and the PR1 pitted, but they were probably three laps away from finishing, so they had to save fuel,” Jensen explained. “So when I got in the car, I was 50 seconds from the leader, 40 seconds from P2. And of course they have to save fuel, but you never know how much you have to push. After the first stint I was second and then I just had to pass for the lead. But throughout the race you’re chasing something and I think they even finished running their fuel numbers to try to see if they could put pressure on us. But we just tried to stay consistent, focusing on our race and in the end they had to give up and lost a lot of pace because they had to save a lot of fuel.”
Goldburg and Deletraz finished second, and George Kurtz and Ben Hanley in the Crowdstrike Racing No. 04 APR ORECA finished third. Jensen and Thomas lead Keating and Chatin in the championship with 20 points, 1680 to 1660. There are another 80 points behind Kurtz and Hanley.
The LMP3 championship may be out of reach, but Anthony Mantella and Wayne Boyd had plenty to celebrate after taking their second LMP3 win of the season, the first coming in the non-points Rolex 24 at Daytona. However, Boyd had to overcome his own spin in the No. 1 AWA Duqueine. 17 to get the win.
“I lacked talent in Turn 8 at the start of my stint,” Boyd explained. “I just took too much of the curb and lost it but, luckily, it was basically a 360 and we took off very quickly. It was interesting because… it wasn’t planned, but it actually opened up our strategy a little more because we were a little further back, then it allowed us to extend the stint, which really paid off in our favor.”
Mantella and Boyd are 244 points behind Gar Robinson, who has virtually clinched the championship, and 29 points ahead of Garret Grist heading into the final.
The story originally appeared on Racer