The Return to Motown Provided Plenty to Discuss
By David Phillips
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Chevrolet Sports Car Classic took an hour or so longer than anticipated due to the track repairs necessitated by Felix Rosenqvist’s crash in Saturday’s IndyCar race, but the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship celebrated a memorable return to Motown last weekend. The three-class card – Daytona Prototype international (DPi), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – was just the ticket for the 100-minute event: just about the right number of cars and the right spread of performance to make racing on Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile street circuit an entertaining challenge.
Oh, and the fact that there were just three classes makes it easy to assign one of the specified three takeaways per class and not leave anybody out!
Attack of the Cadillac: As befitting the home of the muscle car, Belle Isle proved to be a happy hunting ground for the normally aspirated 5-liter V-8 Cadillacs, witness the fact that the winning No. 01 Cadillac DPi of Chip Ganassi Racing and runner-up No. 31 Cadillac DPi of Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing dominated the race. Right from the start, CGR’s Kevin Magnussen and Renger van der Zande and AXR’s Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani showed a clean pair of heels to the competition.
Even with a late full-course caution, the two Cadillacs crossed the finish line comfortably ahead of Wayne Taylor Racing’s turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05. The victory was a welcome fillip for a CGR squad that woulda, coulda, shoulda notched a win or two already this season, even as WTR limited its losses with a third-place finish that keeps the No. 10 and drivers Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque out front in the team and driver points races. Cadillac has slipped ahead, however, in the manufacturer battle.
GTD Running Full on Parity: What was that I said about making it easy to assign one takeaway per class? I was all set after the checkered flag waved Saturday to celebrate that the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3’s win meant that all eight marques competing regularly in the GTD class had earned a podium finish in 2021. Alas.
A post-race fuel delivery system penalty dropped the No. 39 to P12 and vaulted Ross Gunn, Roman De Angelis and the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to their first win of the season.
With four races into the 2021 season completed, four different GTD marques have taken a win, seven have earned top-three finishes – and an eighth (Audi) looks plenty capable of mounting the top step of the podium sooner than later.
Happy Homecoming for Corvette: Thanks to the 24 Hours of Le Mans being rescheduled to August, Corvette Racing finally got to compete on home ground for the first time since 2008. And while there were no points on the line, that didn’t stop the Nos. 3 and 4 Corvette C8.Rs from enjoying a spirited battle for intramural honors, not to mention affording the team the opportunity to knock the rust off after a 12-week break following the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts way back in March.
What’s more, the race enabled Corvette Racing to gather valuable data on the C8.R’s performance on a street circuit, with an eye on September’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Belle Isle was the first time the mid-engined ‘Vettes have hit the streets, given the fact that both WeatherTech Championship street-circuit events were canceled last season. Drivers Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor proved the old adage that it only takes two cars to make a race, as just 0.226 seconds separated the two Corvettes at the finish, with Milner also getting a feather in his cap for the fastest GTLM lap of the race (1:27.180) – a whopping 0.012 seconds quicker than Garcia’s best effort.