The battle for the season-long Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class title in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship played a supporting role at Road America’s IMSA SportsCar Weekend.
The two incoming points leaders in the GTP standings, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R and No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8, encountered trouble before the green flag even flew for Sunday’s 2-hour, 40-minute race. That was of little concern to Felipe Nasr and Matt Campbell, who drove Porsche Penske Motorsport’s No. 7 Porsche 963 to a commanding victory in front of the largest IMSA crowd at Road America since the sanctioning body’s debut race at the venue in 1979.
Campbell built a 10-second lead during his opening stint in the winning car, and Nasr managed the gap during his double-stint to cross the line 4.635 seconds ahead of the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 shared by Colin Braun and Tom Blomqvist.
The path to the first win of the season for the No. 7 Porsche, the 11th in IMSA competition for Campbell and the ninth for Nasr, was made easier when the Motul Pole Award-winning No. 31 Cadillac was forced to start from the back of the GTP field due to Alexander Sims’ crash in the morning warm-up, less than two hours before the race. Sims and Pipo Derani finished sixth Sunday, dropping to second in the standings.
“Obviously, we got a little bit lucky with the No. 31 having an incident in the warm-up,” said Campbell, who claimed his third career victory at Road America – the first in a prototype. “I had such an incredible lack of traffic at the beginning and that’s why the gap got as big as it was at times.
“We’ve been fast on quite a few occasions, but luck has never been on our side. Today we just executed perfectly and it’s nice to get a win on the board after a tough year.”
Blomqvist threw all he had into catching the No. 7 Porsche in the closing stages, getting within 1.7 seconds of the leader with eight minutes remaining. But Nasr had a smoother run through traffic in the final laps.
“It was difficult to pass, but the car was working really well, and I was happy that the gap came down,” Blomqvist said. “I chipped away, but obviously they had that gap and were kind of controlling things. Traffic always ebbs and flows, and I guess he got through a little better at the end. But it’s one thing getting close and passing is a completely different matter.”
Acura claimed two positions on the podium, as Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor drove the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 to third place and took over the GTP championship lead by 14 points over Derani and Sims.
There have been six different winners in the seven GTP races so far in 2023. The No. 60 Acura is the only two-time winner.
“We did the fastest lap of the race, which shows we had speed in the car,” Albuquerque said. “We were managing the situation with the championship, but we are happy with P3, though obviously we wanted more.
“Leading the championship is nice; but it means nothing,” he added. “There are still a lot of points to come, and we have seen how quickly things can change in one weekend.”
After a season marked by struggles, the Heart of Racing Team has found its stride in the GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class.
Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas combined for their second consecutive class victory with an impressive victory from the pole position Sunday in the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America.
It came two weeks after the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 won at Lime Rock Park, ending a run of six races without finishing better than fourth.
“We seem to have found something that’s working very well for us,” Gunn said. “But to be honest, throughout the whole season we’ve had a package that has been quick enough and competitive enough to be at the front, but it just hasn’t clicked. Now things are starting to work.”
Victory happened in part because of another team’s mistake. Gunn took the lead with 24 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute race when Antonio Garcia’s No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD had to serve a drive-through penalty for exceeding the minimum refueling time on its final pit stop.
“We obviously benefited from the Corvette getting that penalty,” Riberas said. “Today it was definitely very hard to beat them on track. You’ve got to be there to capitalize on these opportunities.”
Prior to Lime Rock, the No. 23 Aston Martin had struggled with its best finish of fourth coming at Long Beach in April. But in recent weeks the program has come to life, with Motul Pole Awards and race wins in two events.
Riberas started from the No. 1 spot but surrendered the lead to Jordan Taylor in the No. 3 Corvette with the Aston’s first pit stop 38 minutes into the race. Gunn regained the lead from Daniel Juncadella and the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with 1 hour 10 minutes left.
Gunn and Garcia battled closely from there, with Garcia regaining the lead shortly before the penalty was issued. When Garcia pitted, Gunn had the No. 23 back in the lead.
The back and forth between Gunn and Garcia proved intense.
“We had a big fight for a few laps, which was very enjoyable,” Gunn said. “Lots of respect. Hopefully that’s not the last battle we have with those guys this year.”
A runner-up finish by Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat helped the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 maintain its lead in the class championship standings. Garcia and Taylor are second in points, while Juncadella and Jules Gounon are third in the No. 79 WeatherTech Mercedes.
The new pavement at Road America created challenges for some teams Sunday. Paul Miller Racing wasn’t among them.
Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers improved their lead in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) standings with their fourth victory of the season in the No. 1 BMW M4 GT3.
“We came out of the gate strong,” said Snow, who won the Motul Pole Award on Saturday and started Sunday’s race just as strong. “This repave was difficult for a lot of people. Fortunately, it seemed like it really suited the BMW well. It was strong out of the gate.”
Snow and Sellers weathered a stout challenge from the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO co-driven by Frederik Schandorff and Brendan Iribe, but Sellers was able to cross the line 2.261 seconds ahead of Schandorff for the 18th victory of Sellers’ career and 13th of Snow’s.
“The biggest challenge was certainly the racetrack,” Sellers said. “The evolution from practice to qualifying and the race was that everybody gained quite a bit of respect for the track and what needed to be done.”
Mikael Grenier co-drove the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 to a third-place finish with Mike Skeen.
Snow and Sellers, who won earlier this year at Sebring, Long Beach and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, lead the No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 co-driven by Marco Sorensen and Roman De Angelis in the GTD championship standings.
The key to the dominating performance by Snow and Sellers may have been taking it easy. By not trying to do too much on the track’s new surface, they were able to let the race come to them.
“After qualifying, we felt like we would probably be our own worst enemy should we ask too much or try too hard,” Sellers said. “I have to say in my career, it was one of the races I had to manage the most in terms of pace and comfort and being on-line.”
The WeatherTech Championship resumes August 25-27 at VIRginia International Raceway with the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR featuring the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) and GTD classes. Prototypes rejoin the fray for the TireRack.com Battle On The Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sept 15-17.