Monday
Oct062014

IMSA and TUDOR United Sports Car Racing Begin a New Chapter at Petit Le Mans.

VIEW FULL GALLERY HERE!Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth, Clap along if you know what happiness is to you. Because I’m happy…

In the spirit of consistency, my Rolex 24 review is HERE! Feel free to review it for what I thought then… and what I think 10 months later.

The weather was a cool version of spectacular and, much to the credit of tradition, the fans were out in record numbers. Whether they understood what they were watching… or even cared for that matter, remains an unanswered question. Personally, I look at the grid and even I’m confused. In fact, I’m not sure I could explain it in a way a new comer would understand.

The race, now changed to run a full 10 hours, logged a record 13 cautions. Yeah… I know.

Ricky and Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli (No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Corvette DP) won the Petit Le Mans - the 10-hour TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season finale at Road Atlanta - holding off the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP by 11.062 seconds. The trio completed 400 laps – 1,016 miles – as the brothers became the first American-born drivers to win the event overall. “It’s a great way to end the year,” Jordan Taylor said. “We’ve won the last race the last three seasons, and it’s a great trend we hope to continue. My dad won the first Petit Le Mans, so we’ve always heard about this race. He always talks highly about it, putting it up with Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring, We’ve had the car to beat the last two races, so we’re definitely looking forward to next season.”

The Action Express team also clinched the TUDOR Championship team title with the waving of the green flag, and less than two hours later Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa had driven the required distance to secure the drivers’ crown. (Sebastien Bourdais completed the driver line-up at Road Atlanta.) At the eight-hour mark, the team wrapped up the $100,000 Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup team championship by leading the second segment in the competition rewarding competitors for high finishes in the four endurance races in the TUDOR Championship: the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida and Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.  “This team was unbelievable since the end of last season,” Barbosa said. “We worked all winter for the big challenge of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. It was a big task for a small team, but we had a great year. We were the only team to compete every lap in all of the races. We had eight podiums in 11 races, three great victories, and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Patrón Endurance Cup – what a great year for Action Express.”

Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Scott Dixon (No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Telcel Ford EcoBoost/Riley) finished third overall, one lap down.

Bryan Sellers, Wolf Henzler and Marco Holzer (No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR) won the GTLM class at Petit Le Mans. “Before the restart (near the end of the race), I asked and they said there were a couple of prototypes between us [and second place], so I thought maybe I’d be safe,” said Henzler, who beat Michael Christensen to the stripe by a mere 0.937 seconds. “I had three laps and I was able to keep my pace and keep him behind. He never could really attack me, but he was close.”

Michael Christensen, Patrick Long and Earl Bamber (No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR) finished second in GTLM to win the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup team championship, while Christensen and Long won the Patrón Endurance Cup driver championship. Porsche won the manufacturer championship in the four-race endurance competition, which also included the races at Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen.

Kuno Wittmer, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 91 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R) finished third in GTLM. Wittmer won the driver championship after sharing the No. 93 entry most of the season with jonathan Bomarito. Rob Bell, Bomarito and Dominik Farnbacher (No. 93 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R) churned to a sixth-place finish to win the inaugural TUDOR Championship team title for SRT.

Christopher Haase, Matt Bell and Bryce Miller (No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi LMS) won the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race in the GTD class Saturday in the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda. It was the first win for the team in GTD. The race came down to an intense final few minutes as Haase was forced to fight off Jan Heylen (No. 58 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America) on a restart with seven minutes remaining. Haase beat Heylen to the stripe by 3.121 seconds for the race win.

Four-time winners in 2014, Turner Motorsport won the GT Daytona (GTD) team championship with Dane Cameron taking the driver title (co-drivers were Markus Palttala and Christoffer Nygaard). Palttala played an integral role in Turner Motorsport’s championship, sharing all four victories with Cameron, but missed the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway due to scheduling conflict. “It’s just an amazing feeling to not only get my first sports car championship, but to get it in the inaugural year of the TUDOR Championship and be the first person is even more special,” said Cameron. “The last hour was probably the longest hour of my life. You just hear all kinds of crazy noises. They were counting me down about every 10 minutes. You wouldn’t believe how long 10 minutes could feel.”

Colin Braun (No. 54 CORE autosport Composite Resources/Flex-Box ORECA FLM09) finished second in Prototype Challenge, 10.990 seconds behind winners Renger van der Zande, Mirco Schultis and Alex Popow (No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Martini ORECA FLM09). Braun and Jon Bennett added the PC team title to the drivers’ titles they clinched at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, and also joined James Gue in winning both team and drivers’ championships in the Patrón Endurance Cup. “I don’t think we had the raw pace that we needed today,” Braun said. “But I think we showed our strength by not giving up. We just kept our heads down and kept working, I wanted to be one spot better, but we came here to win the championship and we were able to accomplish that goal.”

It’s hard to write about the 17th running of Petit Le Mans without throwing asterisks and disclaimers all over the page. Was it an “event?” Yes. Did it hold any of the International significance it once did? No. Did the racing leave us with excitement and anticipation for the upcoming second TUDOR season?  Frankly, the mood seems to be one of waiting for the second shoe to drop.

So… congratulations to our 2014 Petit Le Mans and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup winners.  (Oh… to the IMSA lady who referred to the latter as the TPNAEC… really? Did you formerly work for the NAIDAS …. aka, Detroit Auto Show. Did you really think everyone in the media center knew you had invented that acronym? Wow.)

Well, I should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine. No offense to you, don’t waste your time, here’s why… Because I’m happy…


Trust me, there’s much to be said in review of 2014 as a season… but perhaps this is not the time. Maybe a couple of weeks in the Florida sun and a few mornings on the tennis court will cheer me up.

And just two days after the race, we get this:

“Our company has made a business decision to discontinue the SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R racing program,” said Ralph Gilles, Senior Vice President of Product Design, Chrysler Group LLC.

Fiat Chrysler announced it is discontinuing the factory-backed SRT® (Street and Racing Technology) Motorsports racing program in IMSA and the USCC. This means the Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R GTLM team is no longer.

Obviously, we’ll be fair and withhold judgement of 2015 until we see where we are at when we show up for the ROAR Before the 24 in January at Daytona. But as my friend Peter De Lorenzo says…. I think we’re looking at a big bowl of not good.

Clap along if you feel like that’s what you want to do.

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