Meyer Shank Racing’s Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun and Helio Castroneves won the race at Road Atlanta, in the team’s final event with Acura, as Action Express Racing’s Cadillac V-Series.R of Derani and Alexander Sims scooped the GTP championship, aided by Jack Aitken.
Ten hours earlier, Acura’s Louis Deletraz led the 54-car field to the green around the undulating 2.54-mile road course in Georgia, but Sebastien Bourdais took little time in taking the lead, sweeping his Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac around the outside of the Wayne Taylor Racing ARX-06 at Turn 1.
After a series of yellow flags, the first coming in just the third minute, a hugely significant moment occurred in Hour 2, when a multi-car crash on the approach to the downhill Turn 10 chicane saw Porsche’s title contender Nick Tandy taken out following a clash between the #20 High Class Racing LMP2 car of Dennis Andersen and the #023 Triarsi Ferrari GTD of Charles Scardina, a shunt that also involved the #70 Inception McLaren GTD entry of Brendan Iribe.
The #6 car returned to the race many laps down, but Laurens Vanthoor suffered another crash at the Esses in hour seven, which damaged the car even more.
That narrowed the field of title contenders, and the pendulum swung towards Acura when Albuquerque passed Aitken with two hours remaining to snatch the points lead, only for Aitken to grab it back just 15 minutes later when Albuquerque tripped over an LMP2 car.
The truly controversial moment came with just over an hour to go, as Albuquerque got a run on Derani towards Turn 1 and made his move around the outside, but he found Derani in no mood to give him any space, and Albuquerque got shoved onto the exit kerb and plunged head-on at high speed into the tirewall.
Albuquerque was in audible pain via the onboard camera and he had to be helped to the AMR Safety Team’s vehicle to be taken to the medical center and then on to hospital. The crash caused the race’s 11th caution, and Race Control reviewed the collision but took no action despite Albuquerque clearly having his nose in front from Derani’s onboard.
#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-LMDh Cadillac V- LMDh: Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims, Jack Aitken
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images
The other Acura, of Meyer Shank Racing, was delayed at the start of the third hour, when Blomqvist was right on Deletraz’s tail in the lead battle but was sent into the pits for suspension repairs after being hit by the #1 BMW GTD car at the exit of the chicane.
Van der Zande had stayed out during the yellow for the Albuquerque crash with 40mins to go, and although he dropped back by 3s to save fuel, he closed right up before the final sequence of yellows that effectively ended the race prematurely.
The 10-hour race came down to a 5m30s restart, with Braun leading van der Zande, Harry Tincknell (Proton Porsche) and Matt Campbell in the works Penske-run 963, but Jan Heylen’s GTD class Porsche erupted in flames after a multi-car collision before the green flag to effectively end the race and season.
Derani finished sixth to claim the title but only after a light touch late on with the other title contender, the #25 BMW of Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly and Sheldon van der Linde. They had previous clashed hours earlier when van der Linde hit Sims as they both ran a red light at the end of the pitlane.
Jenson Button finished fifth on his IMSA debut with JDC Miller MotorSport’s Porsche 963, along with Mike Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm.
#04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR Oreca LMP2 07: George Kurtz, Ben Hanley, Nolan Siegel
Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images
Alex Quinn took over the #52 PR1 car from Keating and the car held the lead for the majority of the race. But Quinn suffered a spin at Turn 10 after a clash over the lead with the #18 Era Motorsport machine of Christian Rasmussen inside the final two hours, and only just managed to extricate himself from the gravel.
Rasmussen and Ben Hanley (Crowdstrike by APR) fought out the class win between them, with Hanley crucially getting ahead after the penultimate yellow. Rasmussen crashed out in the Esses with just 13 minutes remaining, handing second to the TDS car of Giedo van der Garde, John Falb and Josh Pierson.
Hanley won by less than a second, partnered by George Kurtz and Nolan Siegel.
The #11 TDS car lost its title hopes when Mikkel Jensen shunted the car into the tires at the bottom of the Esses just before sunset.
In the minnow LMP3 prototype class, Glenn van Barlo led for Andretti Autosport from the start but Cameron Shields soon took up the running for Performance Tech Motorsports.
There was even action before the green flag in this class, when Indy NXT racer Rasmus Lindh crashed the frontrunning #85 Duqueine LMP3 car seconds after leaving the dummy grid, substantially damaging its rear end.
The #74 Riley crew of Gar Robinson and Felipe Fraga were confirmed as champions in the closing stages, but Fraga had lost top spot to Garett Grist in the #30 Jr III car when he was assaulted by Matt Bell’s AWA car at Turn 10, sending him into the pits.
Grist, and team-mates Bijoy Garg and Dakota Dickerson, won the class by 1.4s from Bell.
#79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Daniel Juncadella, Jules Gounon, Maro Engel
Photo by: Art Fleischmann
Ian James led the charge in GTD initially in his Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage but quickly came under attack from Jack Hawksworth in the Lexus, which was crowned as class champion as it took the start.
Just before half distance, however, the Lexus was taken out when Ben Barnicoat went off and smashed the nose of the car across the damp infield in the Esses. Bizarrely, both GTD champions wouldn’t see the finish, as the pro-am #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW also retired.
GTD Pro came down to a shootout between Dani Juncadella (WeatherTech Mercedes) and Kevin Estre (Pfaff Motorsports Porsche), with Juncadella hanging on through the disrupted finish.
Among the pro-am GTD runners, the #78 Forte Racing Lamborghini Huracan of Misha Goikhberg, Loris Spinelli and Patrick Liddy took victory over the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW.
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