By David Phillips
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to at least a semblance of normalcy with this weekend’s Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Historically, late October has been prime time for racing on the Monterey Peninsula for Can-Am, IndyCar, IMSA and even Moto GP events although, sadly, this will be another non-spectator weekend. While the number of people who can watch in person is limited, there’s an abundance of opportunities to follow the action remotely be it on NBCSN, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, IMSA Radio or IMSA.com.
Derani-Taylor Act II
No matter the platform, attention in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class will inevitably focus on Act II of the Pipo Derani/Ricky Taylor drama. The two came together in the closing minutes of Motul Petit Le Mans in an incident that, ultimately, denied the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac and No. 7 Acura Team Penske teams a chance at victory. It also led to heated post-race exchanges between the principals and some of their teammates.
That was two weeks ago, of course. Tempers have surely cooled, there is a race to be won and championships are very much up for grabs. So it is highly unlikely we’ll witness any score-settling, let alone a revenge match. That said, don’t expect the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac and/or either of the two Penske Acuras to show one another any undue courtesy, no matter who is at the wheel.
GTD Dogfight Round 9
Picking a favorite in GT Daytona (GTD) at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is a fool’s errand – as usual. The smart money would have been on the No. 48 Paul Miller Lamborghini Huracán GT3 that won last year, but it isn’t entered this weekend.
The No. 44 Lamborghini of John Potter and Andy Lally finished P3 a year ago, but that was then, and this is now. No Lamborghini driver has stood atop a podium since the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.
Instead, the battle for GTD honors has generally been a dogfight between one of the AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3s, the Meyer Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 and the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R. Then again, the best Acura could do last year at WeatherTech Raceway was sixth place – three spots to the good of the best-placed Lexus, while Porsche finished just one place off the podium. And don’t overlook the fact that Scuderia Corsa’s Cooper MacNeil and Alessandro Balzan are coming off a win at Motul Petit Le Mans in the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 after finishing second at WeatherTech Raceway in 2019.
Do you pick a favorite based on last year’s results or this year’s form? Or do you throw a wild card in the mix from the likes of Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, McLaren or Mercedes-AMG? Be our guest.
A Winning Note
It happens every year at this time: As the end of the season approaches, the sands of time run out on the current cast of characters. This year, with some teams and manufacturers winding down IMSA programs, others downsizing, still more switching alliances and a host of drivers facing the annual game of musical chairs, there’s a little extra incentive to put a "W" or two on the results sheet before the checkered flag comes down on the season at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Nov. 14.
After a three-race winning streak was interrupted at the Motul Petit Le Mans, Acura Team Penske will surely want to close its WeatherTech Championship run on a winning note – or notes.
While a successful defense of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class title is out of reach, the Porsche GT Team will want to build on its Motul Petit Le Mans victory to wind up its program atop the final two podiums of the season, even as drivers Earl Bamber, Fred Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Laurens Vanthoor look to secure work in 2021. Similarly, with Mazda paring its DPi program to a single entry next season, Jonathan Bomarito, Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Harry Tincknell are looking to make a strong statement as to their "employability."
On the other hand, Konica Minolta Racing is bringing the curtain down on its historically successful partnership with General Motors in preparation for next year’s move to Acura. Certainly, the Wayne Taylor Racing group will want to end its association with Cadillac on a high note. And how better for Meyer Shank Racing to set the stage for its return in DPi with Acura than by finishing off the current campaign with a couple of GTD wins and/or a title?