By David Phillips
Everybody can agree it’s been a stressful summer. What better way to decompress than a weekend at Road America, either while scarfing down brats trackside or watching the live NBC network telecast from the comfort of your living room?
No matter how and where you watch it, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at America’s National Park of Speed is just what the doctor ordered.
Here are three things to watch for:
The DPi manufacturers, teams and drivers will have their work cut out if they intend to match the ferocity and excitement of last year’s Road America show. In particular, the Mazda and Acura teams engaged in a frantic scrap for much of the race before Harry Tincknell rebuffed Dane Cameron’s bid for the lead on the final lap to bring his Mazda home a scant .227s clear of the Acura.
Although the closest Cadillac was over a minute behind the winners at the checkered flag, that was then and this is now. Anyone who witnessed Cadillac’s potent display at the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring would be hard pressed to bet against them at Road America – particularly the No. 31 Action Express and No. 10 Konica Minolta entries. But one would do well to keep an eye on the giant killers in Camp Cadillac, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller MotorSports squad and its one-two punch of Sebastien Bourdais and Joao Barbosa. With three top threes in as many starts this year, they just might steal a win at Road America.
No Lame Ducks
You may have heard that Acura and Team Penske have announced that they will not renew their partnership in DPi at the conclusion of the season, bringing the curtain down on a relationship that has – so far – produced four race wins and 2019’s trifecta of team, drivers and manufacturers championships.
Although Acura is committed to finding a new DPi partner for next season and beyond, Team Penske’s IMSA plans are uncertain. This makes the second, high-profile program to reveal it will not be carrying forward into the 2021 WeatherTech Championship. Earlier this year, Porsche announced that, owing to the worldwide recession caused by COVID-19, it will stand down from the GTLM category at the end of 2020. While neither of those developments is good news, rest assured proud organizations like Penske and Porsche have every intention of going out on a winning note. And where better to do that than at Road America?
New Winner for Sure
One thing is for certain: the GTLM category will not see a repeat of the past three years when the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs took home the laurels at Road America. With the Ford GT put out to pasture, the Corvette C8.Rs, Porsche 911 RSRs and BMW M8 GTEs will have this weekend’s race to themselves.
It promises to be a whale of an affair, given that Corvette will be gunning for a third consecutive GTLM win on the season while Porsche seeks reaffirmation following a disappointing Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring that saw both cars eliminated from contention following a pit lane altercation after taking it to the Corvettes in the early going.
And don’t discount the BMW Team RLL M8s. Starting from the back of the GTLM grid after failing post-qualifying technical inspection, John Edwards led last year’s race at mid-distance before experiencing a mechanical issue. Since opening 2020 with a win in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the RLL BMWs have been absent from the podium in the restarted season. They will be out to redress that situation this weekend.