Bourdais in the pole-sitting Ganassi Cadillac held off Tom Blomqvist’s Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the start of the race, with Ricky Taylor holding onto third in the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ahead of Alex Lynn in the second Ganassi Caddy.
Behind them, Tristan Vautier thrust past Olivier Pla, Pipo Derani’s new teammate at Action Express Racing, to move the JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac into fifth.
Blomqvist wasn’t letting Bourdais get away up front, running within a second, and Taylor was only one second further back, but by Lap 5 Lynn had already fallen five seconds behind the tail of this trio. Despite this, he wasn’t holding up Vautier and Pla who were battling over last in class.
AXR pulled Pla in on Lap 10, to install Derani.
Finally on Lap 16, Bourdais stretched his lead to 1.5 seconds, with Blomqvist staying one second ahead of Taylor. Lynn was now nine seconds behind Taylor but staying ahead of Vautier. Derani was now 1sec faster than Pla’s best, but wasn’t really gaining on Bourdais.
By Lap 25, the top trio had stretched out, partly due to where they caught the GTD traffic. Bourdais now had a three second lead over Blomqvist, who had a four-second margin over Taylor.
WTR pitted the #10 on Lap 29, and Filipe Albuquerque took over, and emerged some eight seconds behind Derani who set a new lap record on Lap 30, of 1min19.808sec.
Vautier handed over the JDC-Miller car to Richard Westbrook on Lap 31, and dropped to sixth.
With 50mins to go, the halfway point of the 1hr40min race, Bourdais finally pulled in, at a time when Blomqvist had pegged his lead back to 1sec. Ganassi ensured van der Zande in the #01 car remained ahead of the MSR Acura now driven by Oliver Jarvis. The pair of course emerged behind the off-strategy Derani, who pitted on Lap 40 and got back on strategy. He emerged in fifth, right ahead of Westbrook, but 18sec from the #02 Cadillac which Earl Bamber had taken over from Lynn.
Up front, their teammate held a 1.7sec advantage over Jarvis, while WTR’s Albuquerque ran within a second of the similar MSR car. However, Albuquerque suddenly pitted on Lap 45, and tumbled to the back of the class, and the man on the move was Bamber, charging hard to close up to van der Zande and Jarvis.
Lap by lap he was making it work, shaving tenths off the leaders every lap so that with half an hour to go, he was only four seconds behind van der Zande, who had Jarvis’ Acura filling his mirrors. As Bamber charged, so too did Derani, setting an astounding 1min18.877sec on his 51st lap, drawing within 12sec of the lead.
On Lap 53, the top three were covered by one second, and Derani was only another 6sec further back. Just five minutes later, the trio was a quartet, covered by 1.5sec. Bamber had a look around the outside of Jarvis at Turn 11, but locked up and couldn’t make it work.
On Lap 59, Derani went down the inside of Bamber at right-handed Turn 1, and didn’t leave Bamber much room through the left-handed Turn 2, so that the Ganassi driver had to mount the curb in avoidance. Down to Turn 3, the AXR car had the advantage and Derani was into third.
Over the last dozen minutes, the margins between the top four was concertina-ing, and three minutes from home, a failed attempt to pass the MSR Acura through Turns 1 and 2 cost Derani momentum onto the long straight down to Turn 3, and Bamber pulled alongside him on the inside and grabbed third.
There were no more order changes, but a 100-minute race that saw the top four covered by 1.7sec despite no caution periods, meant IMSA signed off its time on Belle Isle with a classic.
UPDATE: The Action Express Cadillac of Derani and Pla was found to be underweight in post-race inspection, and was dropped to the rear of the six-car DPi field.
That promoted the WTR Acura of Albuquerque and Taylor to fourth ahead of Vautier and Westbrook in the JDC-Miller Caddy.
Roman De Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage on the outside of the front row burst away from polesitter Kyle Kirkwood driving the Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F.
In third was Madison Snow in the Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 and Frankie Montecalvo in the second Lexus. Stevan McAleer had moved the Team Korthoff Mercedes-AMG GT3 into fifth ahead of Aidan Read’s Rick Ware Racing Acura NSX.
On Lap 18, Russell Ward lost the front of his Winward Racing Mercedes exiting Turn 10 and hit the wall, but he got the car down the Turn 11 runoff so there was no caution flag needed.
The 35min mark meant the GTD amateur drivers were able to hit pitlane and hand off to their pro teammates. De Angelis was one of the last to come in, to hand over to Ross Gunn, but not the last. That was Kirkwood, who went one lap longer than the Aston Martin before pitting and handing off to Ben Barnicoat. His in-lap was strong, and sure enough, Barnicoat emerged in front by three seconds.
Behind, PMR had kept the #1 BMW M4 in third and now had Bryan Sellers at the wheel, 4.5sec ahead of Aaron Telitz who’d taken over the second Lexus from Montecalvo. Mike Skeen was now steering the Korthoff Mercedes in fifth, while Jeff Westphal moved the Carbahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracan around Ryan Eversley's RWR Acura.
With 35mins to go, Gunn and Sellers were inching closer to the lead Lexus, and Gunn was within two seconds. With 27mins to go, Barnicoat, Gunn and Sellers came up behind the off-the-pace Wright Porsche of Heylen, who eventually moved aside for them.
After that moment, Barnicoat started pulling away from the HoR Aston, and the pair of them were pulling away from Sellers’ BMW. Barnicoat came home 2.26sec clear of Gunn, with Sellers 3.6sec further back.
Telitz/Montecalvo were best of the rest in the #12 Lexus ahead of Korthoff and Carbahn/Peregrine, while Heylen’s strangely slow Porsche claimed seventh when Eversley’s Acura died at Turn 9, five laps from home.
Renger van der Zande |
Oliver Jarvis |
Earl Bamber |
Olivier Pla |
Ricky Taylor |
Tristan Vautier |
Ben Barnicoat |
|Lexus RC F GT3||67||6 Laps|
Roman De Angelis |
|Aston Martin Vantage GT3||67||6 Laps|
Bryan Sellers |
|BMW M4 GT3||67||6 Laps|
Frankie Montecalvo |
|Lexus RC F GT3||67||6 Laps|
Mike Skeen |
|Mercedes AMG GT3||67||6 Laps|
Robert Megennis |
|Lamborghini Huracan GT3||67||6 Laps|
Ryan Hardwick |
|Porsche 911 GT3 R||66||7 Laps|
Robby Foley |
|BMW M4 GT3||65||8 Laps|
Ryan Eversley |
|Acura NSX GT3||62||11 Laps|
Russell Ward |
|Mercedes AMG GT3||17||56 Laps|
|View full results|