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IMSA Petit Le Mans: Acura duel for race, title at three-quarter point

Prototype

Pipo Derani’s Action Express Racing Cadillac led the race soon after the halfway mark clicked past, due to the High Class Racing LMP2 car spinning on pitlane entry and rejoining right in front of the former leader Filipe Albuquerque in the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05. Albuquerque seemed content not to go flat out to regain the lead since its championship rival, the Meyer Shank Racing Acura had fallen off the pace, Tom Blomqvist running fourth, 20sec back.

Instead Albuquerque was having to keep an eye on his mirrors for Earl Bamber in the #02 Cadillac. That had become Ganassi’s principal hope for the moment, since for the second time, the #01 Caddy had been ordered to serve a drive-through penalty for incorrect tire pressures and with 4hr30min to go was some 50sec off the lead. With 4hr22m to go, Bamber demoted Albuquerque to third and started trying to close the 13sec lead to Derani.

With 3hr55min to go, things were getting exciting at the front with Bamber closing down on Derani for the lead, getting as close as half a second away. Seventeen seconds back was Ricky Taylor now in the WTR Acura, who seemed easily able to keep his margin over the MSR Acura at around 20sec.

With 3hr37m to go, Derani pitted and handed over to Olivier Pla, and Bamber pitted two laps later to give up the #02 Cadillac to Alex Lynn. It wasn’t until 15mins later that Blomqvist stopped for Helio Castroneves to leap in.

That left Lynn up front by 26sec, with Taylor second, leaving Pla behind and running 13sec ahead of the MSR Acura. Nineteen seconds further back ran Dixon in the #01 Caddy.

With 3hr10m to go, the picture was starting to shift. Lynn’s lead was down to 18sec, and Taylor now had a 13sec margin on Pla and more significantly, a 26sec gap on Castroneves, who now only had 10sec on Dixon.

Then after 2hr30min of green flag racing, out came the full course yellow for Rob Ferriol shunting the Porsche 911 of Hardpoint Racing at Turn 6, and with 2hr54min to go, the top five pitted. The only driver change was for the #01 Cadillac, as Dixon gave up the wheel to Sebastien Bourdais, and it was Action Express who got Pla turned around and out in the lead having short-fueled him, ahead of Taylor, Castroneves, Lynn and Bourdais.

Pla pitted with 2hr36m to go, to try and make sure he would be leading at the 8-hour mark to gain Michelin Endurance Cup points. That left Taylor four seconds ahead of Castroneves, who had only 1 second over Lynn and another second on Bourdais. Pla had dropped to sixth now, since the sister AXR car was now back on the lead lap, with Jimmie Johnson at the wheel.

GTD Pro

Risi Competizione, like Ganassi’s #01 car, was penalized with a drive-through for incorrect tire pressures, leaving Kyle Kirkwood up front in class with the #14 Lexus RC F 20sec ahead of Mathieu Jaminet in the Pfaff Motorsportsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, Jesse Krohn in the RLL-run BMW M4, Nicky Catsburg in the Corvette C8.R, Alex Riberas’ Heart of Racing Aston Martin. Then came Daniel Serra’s Risi Ferrari 488 ahead of Maxi Buhk in the WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG GT3.

The next round of stops saw Jack Hawksworth take over from the impressive Kirkwood and run second ahead of Catsburg, Jaminet and Riberas, but behind the BMW of Krohn who was on an alternate strategy.

Krohn pitted with 3hr36 to go, handing over the M4 to John Edwards. Serra was the next to stop, and the Risi 488 was taken over by James Calado. Catsburg stopped the Corvette too but remained onboard.

With seven hours down, Edwards was leading Ben Barnicoat in the Lexus by 10sec, with Catsburg a similar distance back, feeling pressure from Matt Campbell’s Pfaff Porsche, and Calado 18sec further back.

This became largely irrelevant when Ferriol shunted, and it was Barnicoat, Campbell, Garcia, Edwards, Calado, Tom Gamble in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin, and Mikael Grenier in the WeatherTech Mercedes.

GTD

Sebastian Priaulx in the Inception Racing McLaren 720S passed Bill Auberlen in the Turner Motorsports BMW M4, with Bryan Sellers running third for Paul Miller Racing BMW, Dirk Muller’s Team Korthoff Mercedes, Mario Farnbacher’s Gradient Racing Acura NSX, Luis Perez Companc’s AF Corse Ferrari.

Muller’s Mercedes had a couple of offs, promoting Farnbacher to fourth, while Philip Ellis moved the Winward Mercedes ahead of AF Corse’s 488. Muller continued to struggle with the recalcitrant Mercedes, dropping behind the Zach Robichon-driven Wright Motorsports Porsche. Muller limped to the pits to give the Benz over to Stevan McAleer.

With three hours to go, Pepper’s McLaren had pulled 23sec on Auberlen who was being pressured by Madison Snow in the Paul Miller BMW. Kyffin Simpson was half a minute further back in the Gradient Acura with Marvin Dienst 3.5sec further back in the Winward Racing Mercedes.

After the restart with 2hr40 to go, Priaulx retained Inception’s lead ahead of Foley’s Turner car, chased by Snow, Simpson, Dienst, Robichon, Toni Vilander’s AF Corse Ferrari and Marco Holzer in the NTE/SSR Lamborghini Huracan.

 

In LMP2, Juan Pablo Montoya leads for DragonSpeed, ahead of Rui Pinto De Andrade in the Tower Motorsport car, with Josh Pierson of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports half a minute down.

In LMP3, the fight between Andretti Autosport and JrIII Racing continues, Gabby Chaves vs Garett Grist. A minute further back is Joao Barbosa in the Sean Creech Motorsport machine, and Kay van Berlo runs fourth for Riley Motorsports after an earlier puncture put the car a lap down.

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