Michael Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans; No. 31 claims Prototype title
Michael Shank Racing has claimed a monumental victory in the 19th annual Petit Le Mans, in the team’s final Prototype start, leading a Ligier JS P2 Honda 1-2 finish in the final race for DP machinery.
A fourth place overall finish, however, for the No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP gave Dane Cameron and Eric Curran the Prototype championship.
Olivier Pla took the No. 60 MSR entry to a 3.524-second victory over a hard-charging Pipo Derani in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM car, following an eight-minute dash to the checkered flag.
It came after a late-race yellow for the No. 70 Mazda Prototype of Joel Miller, which exploded in flames after running third overall, and poised to help deliver the first-ever P2 sweep of the overall podium in series history.
However, Miller’s Mazda ground to a halt, on fire, with 15 minutes remaining after an impressive run, highlighted by a race-leading triple-stint by Spencer Pigot.
The Mazda’s retirement handed third overall to the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Jordan Taylor, who shared driving duties with brother Ricky and Max Angelelli.
Newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud teamed with Cameron and Curran in the No. 31 Action Express entry.
The trio benefited from a left-rear puncture for the sister, title-contending No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP of Filipe Albuquerque with three hours and 45 minutes remaining, which dropped them nearly two laps behind.
Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, who entered the weekend one point behind teammates Curran and Cameron, rebounded to finish fifth overall.
Up front, Pla shared the overall win with Ozz Negri and John Pew, in Pew’s final start with the Ohio-based team, which celebrated its 250th Prototype start in Saturday’s ten-hour season finale.
The win for the Shank crew came after an up-and-down race for the pole-sitting entry, including a left-rear wheel hub issue for Pla in the opening pit stop and also a late-race spin for the Frenchman, prior to the fifth and final yellow.
Derani, Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek, meanwhile, came up one position short of completing a sweep of wins at Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans in the same year.
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports claimed top honors in Prototype Challenge in a dominant run, although losing the championship in a tie to Starworks Motorsport’s Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow.
Tom Kimber-Smith took the No. 52 Oreca FLM09 to a one-lap victory over the No. 38 Performance Tech entry of James French in second.
Kimber-Smith shared the class win with Robert Alon and Jose Gutierrez.
With van der Zande, Popow and David Heinemeier Hanssson finishing sixth in class, after brake and suspension issues, they and the PR1/Mathiasen duo both ended up on 355 points.
However, van der Zande and Popow’s four class wins on the season, compared to Kimber-Smith and Alon’s three, gave the title to the Peter Baron-led Starworks squad.
The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry completed the class podium in third, finishing 13th overall.
Risi Competizione won the GT Le Mans class, while Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner were crowned class champions with a third-place finish.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and James Calado took the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE to a long overdo and dominant class win, the team’s first victory in more than two years.
The move for the win took place with 30 minutes to go, as the No. 66 Ford GT pitted from the class lead, unable to do an extended stint to finish the race.
The Risi car was in the lead for much of the ten hours, and rarely dropped out of the top-three.
A third-place finish was more than enough to secure the championship for Gavin and Milner, who were joined by Marcel Fassler for the endurance races this season.
The No. 4 Corvette C7.R won four times during the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, including the team’s historic 100th victory at the Lime Rock Park round in July.
Gavin and Milner have an 18-point lead over the Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, who lost out on its title hopes following a broken waste gate pipe in the third hour, followed by multiple stops to fix a loose door.
As a result, Westbrook, Briscoe and Scott Dixon finished eighth in class, while the No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller was fourth, rebounding from a throttle issue that sent them behind the wall early.
Porsche North America and BMW Team RLL both had damage on each of its cars due to various incidents.
Nick Tandy collided with Johnny Mowlem’s Prototype Challenge car to take the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR out of the running, while the No. 912 car picked up damage from contact with Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally.
The No. 100 BMW M6 GTLM collided with the No. 67 Ford early in the race, damaging both cars. An alternator failure was found to be the main problem in the BMW, while the Ford required a floor change.
Meanwhile, a steering rack failure hampered the No. 25 BMW’s chances.
There were frightening scenes in the pit lane with a fuel fire for the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, but the flames were extinguished quickly and the car went straight back out on track.
Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan secured the GT Daytona title after only three hours in when Nielsen completing her minimum drive-time, but the Scuderia Corsa crew, joined by Jeff Segal for the endurance races, was unable to take the win.
Riley Motorsports took top honors in GTD, with Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Marc Miller in the No. 33 Dodge Viper GT3-R on its final series appearance.
Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally passed Bleekemolen for the lead on the second-to-final lap, but the car’s result was disallowed, as John Potter didn’t complete his minimum drive time.
With the Magnus Audi R8 LMS moved to the back of the GTD field, Park Place Motorsports finished second, with the championship-winning Scuderia Corsa car third.