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Crowns Ready To Be Distributed At Petit Le Mans

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 5 2017

The Taylor brothers and No. 10 Cadillac of Wayne Taylor Racing is on the verge of winning the 2017 championship. (File photo)

There will be only petit suspense at this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship season-ending Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Ga. as all four of the class championships are all but decided.

But great racing on a wonderful, historic road circuit? There should be beaucoup amounts of that at Road Atlanta on Sunday.


In the Daytona Prototype class:

Thanks to a history-making start to the 2017 season which saw it win the first five races on the schedule, the Daytona Prototype class will be won on Saturday by Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R car.

Full-time drivers/brothers Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor head into Saturday’s 10-hour endurance race with a 29-point lead over 2016 champions Dane Cameron and Eric Curran in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, meaning. That means the Taylors and co-driver Ryan Hunter-Reay will clinch the title even if they finished last in the 10-car Prototype field.

“Once we take the green, we’ve won the championship,” Jordan Taylor said. “After that, it opens us up to where we can take risks to win (the race). Obviously, it’s a big race, being Petit Le Mans, so it’s one everyone wants to win.

“We also have the (Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup) to fight for, so we can take risks at those hour marks where we need to find points [awarded at the four- and eight-hour marks as well as at the finish]. We’ll definitely be fighting for that one a lot harder this weekend.”

The Taylors opened the season with a victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway and then followed that with a victory in the Twelve Hours of Sebring event. Three more wins followed and WTR down shifted into defensive mode as they drove more to protect their points lead than win races.

“This year has been the best year of my entire career,” Ricky Taylor said. “It’s been unbelievable, from driving with Jordan – which is always great – but to win together at Daytona, Sebring, and the first five races. Hopefully, it’s going to end up with a championship. It’s just been an incredible year.

“When it’s all over, I think it’s going to be pretty emotional at the end of the season. I’m just really enjoying every second. These kinds of seasons don’t happen ever, it seems like, for a driver’s career. I know it might never happen again, and I’m just enjoying every second of it.”


In GT Le Mans:

Likewise, Corvette Racing co-drivers Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen need only to score a point in their No. 3 C7.R to be crowned 2017 champions.

Magnussen and Garcia bagged victories at Sebring, Circuit of The Americas and VIRginia International Raceway and a total of nine top-five finishes from the ten races to this point and they lead No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe by 19 points, 302-283.

“Jan and I are in great shape for the Driver’s Championship in GTLM,” Garcia said. “We only need to score minimum points to win it. Once we achieve that, our total focus will be winning the Manufacturer’s Championship again. This is our main goal as a program. I personally have yet to win Petit Le Mans, so doing that would be the best possible way to cap our championship season. It will be great to have Rocky back with us to end the season. Hopefully this will be a race- and championship-winning weekend for everyone at Corvette Racing and Chevy.”

Joining Garcia and Magnussen in the cockpit this weekend will be Mike Rockenfeller.

“It’s still a little hard to believe that we are this close to securing the driver’s championship,” Magnussen said. “It has been an incredible season, but there is still a lot of work to do, especially for the manufacturer’s title (which Chevrolet currently leads by four points, 316-312, over Ford).

“No one at Corvette Racing is taking anything for granted. Petit Le Mans requires maximum attention and focus to have a chance at the win, so that is what we will do. We have a very strong lineup again with myself, Antonio and Rocky. All year long, we have performed at the highest possible level without making mistakes. Another race like that should be enough to deliver a sweep of the GTLM championships.”


In GT Daytona:

Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen of the  Scuderia Corsa will start the race with a 26-point lead in the season championship. Once Nielsen meets the minimum drive time requirement of two hours and forty five minutes, she and Balzan will secure the GT-D championship for the second straight season in the no. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 – in the same year that Ferrari celebrates its 70th anniversary.

A Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 captured the 2015 GT-D championship, while Balzan and Nielsen captured the 2016 title in a Ferrari 488 GT3. Ferrari also leads the GT-D manufacturer championship entering Petit Le Mans.

Balzan and Nielsen will be joined by Matteo Cressoni, who co-drove to second place finishes at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Six Hours of the Glen. The trio also lead the GT-D standings of the North American Endurance Cup.

Nielsen and Balzan lead No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver Jeroen Bleekemolen by 26 points, 318-292, peaking at precisely the right time by winning their first race of the season last time out in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

“Road Atlanta is my favorite track,” said Nielsen, a native of Denmark. “It’s a high-speed, fluid road course and is quite technical as it requires precision from the driver. And, it’s the first American track I ever raced at. We had a podium finish here last year, so hopefully, we can repeat that. It would be nice to finish off with a victory, but anything can happen in a 10-hour race.”


In Prototype Challenge:

The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports program in the Prototype Challenge class has long since locked up the championship.

Season-long co-drivers James French and Patricio O’Ward, who have won all seven of the year’s PC races, clinched the title in the class’ most recent race at Road America in August.

They’ll look to close out the final season of PC action in the WeatherTech Championship by preserving their perfect record, with their endurance racing teammate, Kyle Masson, with whom they’ve also clinched the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup title.


By the numbers:

Twenty statistics about drivers, teams and manufacturers that have competed in the famous 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta:

0.172: The closest Motul Petit Le Mans margin of victory (2011- Ken Dobson, Ryan Lewis and Henri Richard won for PR1/Mathiasen in the LMPC class in an ORECA FLM09).

2: Drivers who started the 1998 Motul Petit Le Mans who will be starting this year. Scott Pruett and Bill Auberlen are the drivers who started in 1998 and who will be on the grid this Saturday.

2.709: The average starting position for Motul Petit Le Mans racewinners.

3: Drivers who have won both the Motul Petit Le Mans and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Road Atlanta (however, none of which came on the same weekend).

3: Drivers in WeatherTech Championship history that have won the Motul Petit Le Mans and class championship in the same year (Patrick Pilet- 2015 GTLM, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi- 2015 Prototype).

3: The amount of pole awards Jeroen Bleekemolen, David Brabham, Jaime Melo and James Weaver have won in Motul Petit Le Mans history. This weekend Dane Cameron, Olivier Pla and Richard Westbrook have the chance to join this leading group.

4: Doyle-Risi Racing, now Risi Competizione, won the first Motul Petit Le Mans in the LM P1 class with a Ferrari 333 SP, as well as the most recent Motul Petit Le Mans in the GTLM class with a Ferrari 488 GTE. Risi has two additional victories at the event from 2008 and 2009 in the GT2 class.

5: The most Motul Petit Le Mans wins by a driver. Oliver Gavin, Jorg Bergmeister, Rinaldo Capello and Sascha Maassen are at the top of the all-time wins list. Jan Magnussen is the only active driver with four wins.

5: Jorg Bergmeister’s five Motul Petit Le Mans wins came consecutively, in the GT class from 2003-04 and in the GT3 class from 2005-07.

6: Of the 13 chassis marques and 14 engine marques that have competed in the Motul Petit Le Mans, six of each will be competing in 2017.

8: The most number of wins by an entrant (Chevrolet Corvette Racing). Alex Job Racing and Risi Competizione are the next closest active entrants with four wins each.

8: Drivers on this year’s Motul Petit Le Mans entry list who won last year’s race.

9: The most lead-lap finishers for any class at the Motul Petit Le Mans (2015- Overall, GTLM).

16: Drivers on the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans entry list who have won a pole at the event.

19: The highest number of wins by an engine manufacturer (Porsche). In second place are Audi and Chevrolet with 10.

24: Drivers on the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans entry list who have posted the fastest laps in class at the event.

35: Drivers on the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans entry list who have won the race in the past.

141: Drivers who have won the Motul Petit Le Mans.

400: Bill Auberlen will be making his 400th career start with BMW this weekend at the Motul Petit Le Mans. He also won the GT3 class pole at the first Motul Petit Le Mans in a BMW M3.

1046.48: The farthest distance (miles) driven in a Motul Petit Le Mans race (2016 Prototype).

On Saturday, Oct. 7, the 20th Motul Petit Le Mans broadcast kicks off on FS1 at 10:30 a.m. ET with Rolex 24 at Daytona champion and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon joining the booth as guest commentator.



| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 5 2017
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