Braselton, Georgia( October 14, 2023)
With the IMSA’s 2023 season drawing to a close at Road Atlanta for the Motul Petit Le Mans, this year’s event was filled with excitement and championships yet to be determined. Clearly though, all eyes would be on the reborn GTP class as there were many stories happening in that group alone. Beyond the fact that the class and drivers championships hadn’t been decided, this would also be the final race for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona champs Meyers Shank Racing.
With just a mere ten hours left in an action packed race season, there would be no let downs or anyone taking things easy. Things had boiled down to three teams competing for the season championships in the GTP class with just eleven points separating them. The No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-Series., and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Racing Acura ARX-06 were all vying for the inaugural title.
At the seventy four minute mark of the race, the No. 6 Porsche Penske car tangled with a pair of GT cars which ended their race as well as the teams championship hopes. The series leading No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-Series coming into the weekend, lost their overall lead to the No. 10 Konica Minolta Racing Acura ARX-06 as the Acura out qualified the Cadillac by grabbing pole position. Drama would rear its head again much later in the race. With an hour to go in the race, the No. 10 Acura attempted a pass the No 31 Cadillac in turn one. With the cars side by side contact was made and the Acura found itself heading off track and making contact with the barrier, ending its championship hopes.
With their two rivals out of the race, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-Series crossed the finish line in sixth place and won the season championships. As for the race itself, No. 60 Acura fielded by Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian battled its way back into the heart of the race after being hit from behind earlier in the race. After battling back from two laps down, with thirty minutes to go they pulled off a pass on the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac and held on to the end of the race with help from a full course caution ending to capture the checkered flag.
The LMP2 class didn’t escape the drama either. The championship leading No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 spun out not once, but twice into gravel traps. Thankfully, this didn’t end the teams race and they were able to recover both times and finished in third place sealing the teams championship. While the PR1 squad was recovering from its spins, the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR ORECA drove off to capture the class win, with the No. 35 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07 taking a well earned third in the class.
For the better part of the duration of the ten hour race, the LMP3 category was a two team show. The No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 and the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier duked it out trading the lead. With twenty minutes to go, the No. 30 car dove to the inside of turn ten to pass the No. 74 car. Contact was made and the 74 car found itself with damage to the rear of the car, which allowed the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier to drive away and win the race. The No. 13 AWA Duqueine took advantage of the stricken Riley Motorsports car and grabbed second place. Rounding out the top three was The No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320. With this being the last season that the LMP3 class is part of the WeatherTech Championship, the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 captured the final championship.
The season championships weren’t on the line this weekend in the GTD and GTD Pro classes. With both these championships already decided, the only glory left to fight for was for the race win. In what would be a trend throughout the packed fifty two car field, the WeatherTech Racing No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was assessed a drive through penalty for failing to adhere to minimum refueling times. But that was the teams only issue on a virtually trouble free drive to capture its fourth IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship GTD PRO win of the season. In what would be the final race for the plaid Porsche of Pfaff Motorsports, as the team is switching manufacturers for the 2024 season, the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) grabbed second place. Coming in third was Risi Competizione in the No. 62 Ferrari 296 GT3.
The two surprises of the race was championship winning No. 14 Vassar Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 getting knocked out of the race in hour five. They hit a curb launching the car into a sign giving the car significant front end damage. This was the first time on over a year the team had finished out of the top five in any race. The other incident involved the No. 3 Corvette C8.R. This race was the last for the team as a factory effort. The car suffered an engine issue in the early hours of the race leaving the team to finish a distant seventh.
In the GTD class the No. 78 Forte Racing Powered by USRT Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 snagged their very first GTD win of the season after overcoming several penalties. With the team out of the top five with just two hours remaining, driver Loris Spinelli put on a flawless display of driving and got the team into fourth place with an hour to go. Just before the final hour the team found itself in the lead. With the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (992)looking like it would grab a solid second in the race it was involved in an incident between two other teams and received heavy damage that left the car in flames. The No. 80 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (992), running in third place followed the Wright Motorsports Porsche off course losing its place on the track. The No. Turner Motorsport 96 BMW M4 GT3 was able to avoid the chaos and claim second place. Coming in third was No. 77 Wright Motorsports Porsche.
This being the eleventh and final race of the season for IMSA, Road Atlanta’s twelve turn 2.5 mile course carved through rolling Georgia terrain again played the perfect host for the twenty sixth time. As it seems to do every year, the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta provided yet another exciting chapter and finish to IMSA’s 2023 season. With the dust settled and the results written in the books, now its time for all the teams to take a well earned breather and get ready for 2024 and the Rolex 24 Hours Of Daytona.