Coming out of Sunday’s IMSA Road Race Showcase at Road America, the race for the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is taking shape in all four classes with three-quarters of the 12-race season now in the rearview mirror.
Winning streaks were extended in all four classes, with Mazda Team Joest taking its third straight in Daytona Prototype international (DPi), the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA team picking up its fourth straight in LMP2, the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT squad going back-to-back in GT Le Mans (GTLM) and the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R team taking its second straight GT Daytona (GTD) class win.
As that was happening, other championship contenders kept their eyes firmly on the season-ending prize, as we find out in this week’s five takeaways.
No. 6 Acura Team Penske Duo Cameron, Montoya Extend Points Lead with Sixth Straight Podium
Dane Cameron very nearly picked up his fourth Road America victory Sunday, coming up just 0.227 seconds short behind race winner Harry Tincknell in the No. 55 Mazda Team Joest RT24-P. In fact, Cameron could have made a desperate move to take the win, but he settled for second with the big picture clear in his mind.
"There were a few little licks here and there, but it’s really difficult to pass here, especially at the end of the race, because it stayed green the whole time," Cameron said while waiting to step onto the podium for the sixth consecutive race alongside co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi.
"There were a lot of marbles and things off line, so it kind of restricted where you could go in a few places and the prototype cars are pretty aero-sensitive. In some places where I thought I was better, you’d get up close and you just wouldn’t be able to time the run with aero wash and you weren’t able quite to get there.
"It’s a bit disappointing, but obviously we’re racing for a championship and they’re not, so we have to kind of look after ourselves. I maybe could have nudged and leaned a bit harder if we just wanted to get a race win, but yeah, we’ve got a big picture to play for."
Cameron and Montoya now lead No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R co-drivers Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani – who finished fourth on Sunday – by seven points, 239-232, heading into the next DPi race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 15.
Sixth GTLM Podium of Season, Third Straight Helps Vanthoor, Bamber and No. 912 Porsche Team
No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR co-drivers Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber finished a fairly quiet third in Sunday’s IMSA Road Race Showcase. But while the Porsche GT Team duo wasn’t part of the battle for the race victory, their third-place result was important in their quest for the 2019 WeatherTech Championship GTLM title.
It was their sixth podium out of eight races this season and their third consecutive, allowing them to extend their lead to 14 points, 248-234, over their No. 911 Porsche teammates, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, with three races left on the season.
"I think this was a very important weekend because Road America is probably our weakest track on the calendar," Vanthoor said. "To come away with a podium spot and extending our championship lead was a perfect thing. There were three cars on the same strategy, the others opted for something more risky but the yellow never came, so it worked out for us. It’s on the difficult weekends where you make a difference in the championship."
No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW Duo Earns Fourth Straight Podium, Gains in GTD Championship
Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley have become familiar faces around the WeatherTech Championship podium this summer. At the end of Sunday’s race, the co-drivers of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 picked up their fourth straight trophy, this time for a third-place showing in the IMSA Road Race Showcase.
Since their second-place run in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at the end of June, Foley and Auberlen won last month’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Acura at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and finished third in the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.
And while they didn’t gain a lot of ground on WeatherTech Championship points leaders Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman – who finished fifth at Road America in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 – they did trim their deficit from 30 points coming into the weekend to 26 after the race.
"Four (podiums) in a row for us, and we closed on the Acura a little bit in the points, so for us, that’s huge," Foley said. "We didn’t expect, maybe, to be on the podium. We just wanted to basically execute our best race. We didn’t necessarily think we had the speed all weekend, but the car was quite good in the race. Bill did a great job to get around the Lexus for the podium, and yeah, we put two spots on the Acura so that’s big for points and we’ll take that to the next race."
Nunez, Jarvis Keep Mazda Team Joest’s Double Podium Streak Alive with Third-Place Result
There’s no hotter team in the WeatherTech Championship DPi class at the moment than Mazda Team Joest, and that goes for both of the team’s cars. In addition to Sunday’s victory for Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell in the No. 55 Mazda DPi, Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis combined to finish third in the team’s No. 77 entry.
That makes it three double podiums in a row for the team. At the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Bomarito and Tincknell co-drove with Olivier Pla to win the race in the No. 55 with Jarvis, Nunez and Timo Bernhard following right in their teammates’ tire tracks to finish second. Roles were reversed at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where Jarvis and Nunez took their first win of the season
in the No. 77 with the No. 55 second.
"I just really think that all the pieces came together," Nunez said. "To operate a race team like this, there’s a lot of things that have to go right in order to find success, and I feel like we finally have got all those pieces together working in sync with each other. That’s what it comes down to. Sometimes, it comes down to little things and we finally have those little things fine-tuned.
"The results show. It does take some time, but once you get it right, you’re destined for success. It’s a really, really great day for Mazda here at (Mazda Motorsports Director) John Doonan’s home track, so to get a win for him here is really, really special."
No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Team Picks Up Season-Best Result
It’s been a tough season for the defending WeatherTech Championship GTD champions from Paul Miller Racing, but Sunday’s race at Road America provided a bright spot. Bryan Sellers and Corey Lewis co-drove the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 to second place for the team’s best result of the season.
"It was great," said Lewis, who was confirmed prior to the race weekend as Sellers’ co-driver for the remainder of the season in place of Ryan Hardwick, who was injured in a crash during practice last month at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. "I think Sellers and I, we gel very, very well and we like the same race car, which makes things so much easier when you’re setting everything up.
"Everybody in the Paul Miller Racing organization has done a great job of giving us a car that can run towards the top and that’s exactly what we did today. Everything ran, basically, to plan. We had a little bit of luck with the (No.) 33 having a little bit of an issue there and then we were able to kind of control the pace and save a little bit of fuel as we could. I was able to hand off the car to Bryan and he did whatever he could to stay up to the front, but I think the Porsche just had a little bit extra on us. We’ve got a couple more races together, so I’m looking forward to that."