GTD delivers once more with wide-open championship chase
As soon as once more, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has delivered a dramatic multi-car Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) title battle that doubtless received’t be determined till the checkered flag of the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Highway Atlanta.
Via 10 hours of racing — within the daytime warmth after which moonlit Georgia sky — the championship trophy will doubtless be settled amongst a half-dozen drivers representing 4 groups. All wish to change into first-time champions in one of many WeatherTech Championship’s premier lessons.
Two Individuals, a Canadian, a Scot, a Belgian and a German will resolve the always-competitive GTD championship Oct. 1. The drivers concerned insist that, with the way in which this season has performed out — and with the unknowns of an endurance race to resolve all of it – nobody is taken into account a flat-out front-runner.
Going into Motul Petit Le Mans, Roman De Angelis — Canadian co-driver of the No. 27 Coronary heart of Racing Workforce Aston Martin Vantage GT3 — holds a 45-point benefit over Scottish driver Stevan McAleer within the No. 32 Workforce Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.
American Ryan Hardwick and teammate and Belgian Jan Heylen – who co-drive the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R — are third within the standings, 57 factors off De Angelis.
American Russell Ward and German Philip Ellis — who share the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 — arrive at Michelin Raceway 140 factors behind the championship chief, nonetheless mathematically eligible for the large trophy and driving big-time momentum, coming off back-to-back victories (at Highway America and Virginia Worldwide Raceway) within the races main into this championship finale.
“When it comes all the way down to being this shut on the finish, something is feasible,’’ Hardwick stated. “Our group has been on this place the final couple years, truly.
“In 2020, Patrick Lengthy and I have been all the way down to the ultimate race (at Sebring) … and we would have liked one (extra) automobile to be in between us and (the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing) Acura that yr. We didn’t get that one automobile, however we went on to win the race.”
“Jan (Heylen) and I final yr have been in an analogous scenario in Michelin Pilot Problem. It got here all the way down to the final race at Highway Atlanta and that one did go our manner. “
These front-runners have actually confirmed their would possibly within the longer endurance races. De Angelis received the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen with co-drivers Maxime Martin and Ian James. The identical trio will drive the No. 27 Aston Martin once more at Michelin Raceway, the place De Angelis, James and Ross Gunn received final yr’s finale.
Heylen, Hardwick, Zacharie Robichon and Richard Lietz teamed to win the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona within the No. 16 Porsche. The primary three of that quartet will reunite for Motul Petit Le Mans.
Whereas McAleer and the No. 32 Mercedes haven’t received a race in 2022, they did end third within the Rolex 24 and second on the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Offered by Advance Auto Components. Mike Skeen and Dirk Mueller will probably be McAleer’s co-drivers at Michelin Raceway.
Factors chief De Angelis is cautiously optimistic.
“We’ve at all times form of been a powerful automobile at Highway Atlanta. (It) simply actually appears to go well with the Aston (Martin), the kind of high-speed flowing observe, just like Watkins Glen or Mosport,’’ De Angelis stated. “So positively a bonus there, particularly this being a fairly significant race, clearly the championship decider.
“However it’s an endurance race — clearly lengthy — so in contrast to a dash race, qualifying doesn’t actually appear to matter or assist as a lot. Plenty of issues can occur over that very long time interval. On the finish of the day, you may solely actually do your job and the group should execute, however lots of the opposite components are out of your management. We hope we are able to get as fortunate as we did final yr, however you by no means know what’s going to occur.”
That’s actually been the case this yr within the heralded GTD class. Heylen and Hardwick began robust with the win at Daytona after which two races later at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. However it’s been six races since their final victory.
De Angelis and his group had a extra gradual ascent, stringing collectively three second-place finishes to go along with the Watkins Glen win. And naturally, Ward and Ellis have been crimson sizzling.
“We have now large momentum proper now,’’ Ellis stated. “We have now had nice races within the final month or two and, to be trustworthy, we now have been quick all the yr however didn’t have the outcomes come our manner or the luck to complete the races we must always have completed.
“At Petit, we’ll do what we now have the previous few races: do the perfect we are able to on our aspect. We have now nice guys on the group to try to win a 3rd consecutive race.
Added Ward, “I simply need to try to maintain ourselves in the perfect place we are able to. It’s not over but, however we’re going to want some luck to clinch it on the finish.”
There’ll undoubtedly be factors monitoring because the race goes on. Not one of the drivers appeared overly involved about maintaining with the championship standings … not less than till sundown.
“You must make it by way of the primary eight hours to be in place to even take into consideration the championship,’’ De Angelis stated. “And that’s lots of racing.
“The site visitors scenario is loopy, at all times tremendous busy, very chaotic. There’s not a lot room to present and take there. The previous couple of pit stops in the previous few hours, I feel if you happen to can place your self forward of someone or be the place you want to be to have that time hole to win the championship, then you definitely’ll accomplish that. However you must make it to that time.
“Earlier than then, we’ll simply maintain our heads down and survive and ensure we’re in a combating place for the ultimate few hours, after which actually begin specializing in what we have to do to make the championship occur.”
Stay protection of the twenty fifth annual Motul Petit Le Mans opens with a three-hour block on NBC community at midday ET Saturday, Oct. 1. Persevering with protection by way of the end of the 10-hour race airs on Peacock and USA Community, together with full IMSA Radio protection on IMSA.com and SiriusXM Radio.