DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – This weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale will see the final appearance of the current-generation Daytona Prototype sports car, with a trio of Corvette Daytona Prototypes battling for the Prototype class title in Saturday’s 10-hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Action Express Racing has a pair of Corvette DPs separated by only one point, 285-284 entering the Petit Le Mans with Wayne Taylor Racing seven points behind the leader with 278 points.
Dane Cameron and Eric Curran took over the championship lead with a second-place finish at the most recent race at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas in Action Express Racing’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering Corvette DP. They lead teammates and defending two-time Prototype champions Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, drivers of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP. Recently crowned IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud will co-drive the No. 31 Corvette DP at the finale, while Filipe Albuquerque will join the No. 5 team.
“I have no words to describe it, because it’s one thing to win three championships – or even four – but it’s something different when you manage to win three in a row,” Fittipaldi said. “We want to win it badly, and we’re going to do our very best. It’s very close, only one-point difference – it’s wide open. We’re racing our teammates, but at the end of the year, they’re our competitors also. I want to win it, but if the No. 5 is not on the top step, for sure I want the No. 31 to win.”
Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor won the most recent race at Circuit of The Americas in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP. They will be joined at the finale by Max Angelelli. A fourth Corvette DP is the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing entry, with Marc Goossens, Ryan Dalziel and past IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.
With new Prototype race cars set to debut with the 2017 season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Petit Le Mans also marks the final race for the Panoz DeltaWing Racing Coupe and the current Mazda Prototype cars. The 2017 Prototype class will include new Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race cars powered by a variety of different engine manufacturers, as well as new global LM P2 race cars powered by spec Gibson V8 engines.
Fittipaldi competed in the first DP race – the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona – and won that event overall in both 2004 and 2014.
“We’re moving on to different technology and a different type of car,” Fittipaldi said. “We’re grateful for the DPs’ longevity in the sport. I first ran a DP in 2003, and fundamentally, it’s still the same car, the same chassis. It definitely did a lot of work out there and it generated great racing for the drivers and fans. But it’s time for a change, and I think the new cars are going to be awesome for the sport.”
Racing the No. 0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing Coupe for the final time will be Katherine Legge, Sean Rayhall and Andy Meyrick.
Mazda Motorsports, meanwhile, has shown considerable speed throughout the 2016 season and gets one more chance at a victory with its current-generation Prototype from either the No. 55 Castrol/ModSpace entry for Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez, or the No. 70 of Tom Long and Joel Miller. Spencer Pigot is entered to drive in both Mazdas.
Tequila Patrón ESM, which opened the season with victories in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, returns with Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Pipo Derani in the No. 2 Tequila Patrón Honda Ligier JS P2. The team enters the event trailing Fittipaldi and Barbosa by two points in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, 35-33, a competition encompassing the four longest races on the WeatherTech Championship schedule.
A similar entry to the No. 2 machine is the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Curb Records/AERO Honda Ligier JS P2 of Ozz Negri, John Pew and Olivier Pla. Both the No. 2 and No. 60 prototypes are eligible to compete next season at 2016 performance levels, but both teams already have announced other plans for 2017.
Tequila Patrón ESM announced last week it will field a pair of Nissan-powered Ligier DPi cars for the full WeatherTech Championship season, while Michael Shank Racing will field a pair of brand-new Acura NSX GT3 race cars in the GT Daytona class.
CREDIT: IMSA Communications