Midway through the 2021 Season, Close Battles Rage Far and Wide
By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – At what is essentially the halfway point of the 2021 season, it’s a fair time to check in on the points races in all of the IMSA-sanctioned series. As close as the battles are in the majority of categories, it bodes well for many exciting battles to the very end at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in November.
Here’s a look at each series:
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
Daytona Prototype international (DPi): With two wins and four straight podium finishes, No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 co-drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor have led the standings throughout 2021, starting with their victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona season opener. The No. 55 Mazda Motorsports duo of Oliver Jarvis and Harry Tincknell have hung nearby, though, boosted by their win June 27 in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Albuquerque and Taylor have an 81-point lead, essentially not much more than the difference between a first- and fourth-place finish under the new point system in place this year.
On the strength of Friday’s win in the IMSA WeatherTech 240 at The Glen, Cadillac leads the manufacturer standings by 35 points over Acura.
Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2): Ben Keating and Mikkel Jensen have won two of the three points-paying races, including last Friday night at Watkins Glen, to take the class lead in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07. They are 35 points ahead of No. 11 WIN Autosport ORECA co-drivers Steven Thomas and Tristan Nunez, winners of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3): Gar Robinson has been a winner in the new class for 2021, no matter who he’s driven with this season. He won the Rolex 24 in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 with co-drivers Scott Andrews, Oliver Askew and Spencer Pigot. He’s won at Mid-Ohio and the Watkins Glen sprint race with Felipe Fraga. In between those two, he teamed with Andrews and Fraga to win the Sahlen’s Six Hours.
The net result is a 96-point advantage on Colin Braun and Jon Bennett of the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier – winners at Sebring this season.
GT Le Mans (GTLM): Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor have won every points-paying race and pole but one in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. As such, and with the class limited to three full-time entries, the No. 3 drivers enjoy a 156-point lead on their teammates, Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy in the No. 4 Corvette.
Cooper MacNeil has ridden in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 in each race, sharing the car with various Porsche factory co-drivers. MacNeil, winner of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts with Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet, is third in the season standings, 39 points behind Milner and Tandy.
Chevrolet owns a 116-point edge on Porsche in the GTLM manufacturer standings.
GT Daytona (GTD): Four races have been conducted in this class for the season-long WeatherTech Championship and two counting solely for the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup. No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 drivers Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley lead both championships.
The duo have won the last two races counting for the season crown – the Acura Sports Car Challenge Presented by the TLX Type S at Mid-Ohio in May and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on June 27. Still, they are but 61 points ahead of No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 co-drivers Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn.
In the GTD manufacturer chase, BMW is 58 points ahead of Lamborghini, 60 up on Aston Martin and 70 ahead of Porsche.
IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup: Three of the four endurance events are in the books, with only the Motul Petit Le Mans remaining to close the year. The No. 10 Acura trio of Albuquerque, Taylor and Alexander Rossi have a three-point lead over No. 55 Mazda drivers Jarvis, Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito in DPi. Keating, Jensen and Scott Huffaker of the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA lead in LMP2 by a single point over Gabriel Aubry and John Farano in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport entry. No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier drivers Gar Robinson and Scott Andrews are up eight points on Oliver Askew in LMP3. Corvettes head up the GTLM battle, with No. 3 drivers Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor two points ahead of No. 4 pilots Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy. GTD couldn’t be much tighter, with Jan Heylen, Patrick Long and Trent Hindman (No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche) a single point ahead of two trios, Lars Kern, Laurens Vanthoor and Zacharie Robichon (No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche) and Bryan Sellers, Corey Lewis and Madison Snow (No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini).
IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup: As mentioned above, Auberlen and Foley have two wins in this championship within a championship for the GTD class, consisting of the eight non-endurance events. The last two sprint races, at Detroit on June 12 and at Watkins Glen on Friday, award points only toward the Sprint Cup.
As in the season-long GTD battle, Auberlen and Foley lead De Angelis and Gunn in Sprint Cup. This time it’s the slimmest of margins, a single point, with five sprint races to go.
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge
It’s starting to sound like a broken record: Bill Auberlen is the points leader. As in the GTD class of the WeatherTech Championship, the all-time IMSA leader in top-series wins is also sitting atop the Grand Sport (GS) points in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. His partner in success here is Dillon Machavern in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4.
The Turner drivers are 110 points ahead of Spencer Pigot and Sheena Monk, who are winless but have been steady in the No. 3 Motorsports In Action McLaren 570S GT4. Just 20 behind Pigot and Monk is the second Turner Motorsport BMW, the No. 96 shared by Foley and Vin Barletta. Ten more points back is Kuno Wittmer, who’s won two races this season in the No. 13 AWA McLaren.
Consistency has been the name of the game in the Touring Car (TCR) class. Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis have finished fourth, third or second in all five races to date, putting them first in the standings in the No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR.
Second place in TCR, 130 points behind the leaders, is Ryan Eversley in the No. 94 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic FK7 TCR. And 20 points back of Eversley is Parker Chase in the No. 98 BHA Hyundai Elantra N TCR.
IMSA Prototype Challenge
Two-thirds of the way through the season, it’s shaping up to be a two-car race for the championship featuring both chassis manufacturers in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) development series.
Moritz Kranz has had a co-driver in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08 in two races and gone solo in the last two. He has two wins and a runner-up finish to hold a narrow points lead in the LMP3-1 class for current-generation cars. Dakota Dickerson and Josh Sarchet collected their first win of the season last week at Watkins Glen to pull the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320 drivers within 10 points of Kranz.
The Bronze Cup competition for entries using only Bronze-rated drivers finds brothers David and Keith Grant (No. 40 JDC MotorSports Duqueine) in front, 640 points ahead of Kranz. In LMP3-2 for the last year’s generation cars, Danny Kok and George Stairos (No. 61 Conquest Racing Norma M30) have finished second in each race to build a sizable lead, even though Francesco Melandri (No. 24 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P3) has won the last three races – each with a different co-driver.
Ferrari Challenge North America
After four of six domestic rounds, a familiar face sits atop the top class, Trofeo Pirelli. WeatherTech Championship driver Cooper MacNeil (Ferrari Westlake) is chasing his fourth straight Trofeo Pirelli championship and is running unopposed.
In Trofeo Pirelli Am1, Martin Burrowes (Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale) holds a 10-point lead on Barry Zekelman (Ferrari of Ontario) and Dave Musial (Ferrari Lake Forest). In Trofeo Pirelli AM2, Jason McCarthy (Wide World Ferrari) is 11 points up on Brian Davis (Ferrari of Palm Beach).
The leader in Coppa Shell is Todd Coleman (Ferrari of Denver), who is 10 points ahead of Dave Musial Jr. (Ferrari Lake Forest). Brandon Kruse (Ferrari of Central Florida) is the Coppa Shell Am leader, with a seven-point edge on Lance Cawley (Ferrari of Atlanta).
The series has a pair of remaining doubleheader rounds, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Road America, before heading to Mugello, Italy, for the world finals in November.
Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America
Halfway through its season, competition remains tight in all four classes. Every competitor races with a Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO. The leaders in each class have posted four wins in the first six races.
Richard Antinucci (Dream Racing Motorsport, Lamborghini Las Vegas) heads the Pro class standings with a 14-point lead on Stevan McAleer (Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte). In ProAm, Brandon Gdovic and Bryan Ortiz (Precision Performance Motorsports, Lamborghini Palm Beach) are seven points up on Victor Gomez (Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte). Series newcomer Giano Taurino (Taurino Racing, Lamborghini Palm Beach) also has a seven-point lead, his over Alan Metni (Change Racing, Lamborghini Dallas). Finally in LB Cup, Mark Kvamme and Terry Olson (Precision Performance Motorsports, Lamborghini Palm Beach) have built a 15-point gap over Matt Dicken (Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte).
Change Racing has taken a six-point lead over Dream Racing Motorsport in the team standings. Lamborghini Palm Beach has opened a 25-point advantage over Lamborghini Charlotte in the dealer championship.
Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich
The highly competitive series is on an extended summer break, with nearly three months separating the last round at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May and the next doubleheader weekend at Road America in August. Through four rounds and eight races, the points battles are as close as the on-track racing.
Reigning series champion Michael Carter (Carter Racing Enterprises) is the overall leader, but he’s a mere 40 points up on Gresham Wagner (Spark Performance). The rookie driver standings are a dead heat right now, with Sam Paley (McCumbee McAleer Racing) and Chris Nunes (JTR Motorsports Engineering) tied and Luca Mars (Copeland Motorsports) just 80 points behind.
Mazda MX-5 Cup has three remaining rounds: Road America, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands
In its North American debut season, the single-make series using the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car has provided plenty of wheel-to-wheel action throughout its first three rounds and six races. Kay van Berlo has been on a tear of late, winning three straight and four of the last five to take over the Pro class lead from Kelly-Moss Road and Race teammate Seb Priaulx.
Both members of the Porsche Junior Driver program, van Berlo leads Priaulx by 10 points with 10 races remaining on the slate. Stops to come include Road America, VIRginia International Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Alan Metni, another Kelly-Moss driver, has won five of the six Pro-Am races to open a 33-point lead on Efrin Castro from Team Hardpoint EBM. The Pro and Pro-Am classes compete with the latest-generation type 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. In the Pro-Am 991 division for drivers running the previous-generation type 991.2 configuration, Jeffrey Majkrzak swept the most recent round at Watkins Glen International to close within 13 points of Goldcrest Motorsports teammate Matt Halcome.