With the 2021 Season Coming to a Close, Close Battles Rage Far and Wide
By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With the final events of the season looming, it’s the right time to check in on the championship battles in all of the IMSA-sanctioned series. Each boasts its own intrigue and impending drama.
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
Daytona Prototype international (DPi): With just one DPi event remaining, the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Nov. 13, it’s a two-horse race for the driver and team championships. By winning three of the last four races, No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R co-drivers Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr have sliced their deficit to a mere 19 points to leaders Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05.
Essentially, whichever car finishes higher at Michelin Raceway will claim the title. Keep a close eye on the qualifying results as well, since the few extra points gained by one team there could play a significant role in race strategy and the championship outcome.
Cadillac, by the way, will secure the DPi manufacturer title by having one of its cars start the race on Nov. 13.
Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2): Ben Keating and Mikkel Jensen are in position to deliver PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports its third straight LMP2 championship. The drivers of the No. 52 ORECA LMP2 07 hold a 113-point edge on No. 11 WIN Autosport co-drivers Steven Thomas and Tristan Nunez with only the Motul Petit Le Mans remaining. Keating and Jensen likely clinch the title with a race finish of sixth or better.
Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3): Just 50 points separate class leader Gar Robinson of the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 from second-place Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett in the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier with one race to go. The two cars have won all six races in the new class for 2021.
GT Le Mans (GTLM): Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor (No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R) have a 160-point lead and need only qualify and race in the two remaining events – the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR on Oct. 9 and the Motul Petit Le Mans – to secure their second straight GTLM crown together. Their teammates in the No. 4 Corvette, Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy, are keeping them honest by winning the last two races. Chevrolet has also all but wrapped up the GTLM manufacturer title, with a 188-point lead on Porsche.
GT Daytona (GTD): This one is anybody’s guess with two races left to run. Five teams are clustered atop the standings within 207 points of each other. And with the size of the GTD field at all races, each still has a legitimate shot at the championship.
The No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, with drivers Zacharie Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor, lead by 32 points over No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 drivers Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers, by 104 over No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 drivers Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn, by 150 on No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 drivers Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley, and by 207 on No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche driver Patrick Long.
In the GTD manufacturer chase, Porsche is 49 points ahead of Lamborghini, 130 up on Aston Martin and 145 ahead of BMW.
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 Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito in DPi. Cadillac has won four straight Michelin Endurance Cup manufacturer titles but trails Acura by two points heading into the finale.
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. In LMP3, No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier drivers Gar Robinson and Scott Andrews are up eight points on Oliver Askew, who has driven for three LMP3 outfits this season. Corvettes head up the GTLM battle, with No. 3 drivers Garcia and Jordan Taylor two points ahead of No. 4 pilots Milner and Tandy. GTD couldn’t be much tighter, with Long, Jan Heylen and Trent Hindman (No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche) a single point ahead of two trios, Lars Kern, Vanthoor and Robichon (No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche), and Sellers, Snow and Corey Lewis (No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini).
IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup: With just the final sprint race at VIRginia International Raceway looming, De Angelis and Gunn (No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin) are 74 points ahead of Sellers and Snow (No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini). Defending Sprint Cup champions Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth (No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F TG3) have a remote chance of repeating, sitting 169 points back.
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge
Bill Auberlen is trying to double up on championships this year. He’s in the running for the GTD crown in the WeatherTech Championship, and the veteran leads the chase in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class along with co-driver Dillon Machavern in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4.
Their greatest competition currently comes within the Turner Motorsport stable, as No. 96 drivers Foley and Vin Barletta are 40 points behind. Heylen (No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport) is 80 points out of first place.
As they have most of the season, Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis (No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR) continue atop the standings in the Touring Car (TCR) class. They also head up a sweep of the top three spots for BHA entries. Parker Chase and the No. 98 BHA Elantra N TCR are second, 170 points behind the No. 77. Harry Gottsacker, Mark Wilkins and the No. 33 BHA Elantra are third, 200 points from the lead.
Two Michelin Pilot Challenge races remain, at VIR and Michelin Raceway.
IMSA Prototype Challenge
Also with two races remaining, it’s a two-car race for the championship featuring both chassis manufacturers in the LMP3 development series.
Moritz Kranz (No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08) has two wins and a runner-up finish to hold a narrow lead in the LMP3-1 class for current-generation cars. Dakota Dickerson and Josh Sarchet (No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320) collected their first win of the season in the most recent race at Watkins Glen International to pull 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 cars, Danny Kok and George Stairos (No. 61 Conquest Racing Norma M30) have finished second in each race to build a 230-point 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.
Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands
The first-year series has two rounds and five races remaining. Kelly-Moss Road and Race teammates Seb Priaulx and Kay van Berlo have been battling at the top all season and remain there after 11 races. Priaulx (No. 15 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car) has a 42-point lead on van Berlo (No. 3 Porsche) in the Pro class.
Alan Metni, another Kelly-Moss driver, has won seven Pro-Am races to open a 39-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, Matt Halcome enjoys a 60-point advantage on Goldcrest Motorsports teammate Grady Willingham.
Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America
The single-make series using Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVOs is preparing for its season finale, which takes place Oct. 28-31 at the Misano Circuit in Italy. The first two days are reserved for the final doubleheader round to determine champions in the North American series. The final two days will contest the World Final, with North American and European series drivers racing each other.
Heading to Misano, Richard Antinucci (Dream Racing Motorsport, Lamborghini Las Vegas) leads the Pro class standings by 13 points over Stevan McAleer (Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte). In ProAm, Brandon Gdovic and Bryan Ortiz (Precision Performance Motorsports, Lamborghini Palm Beach) have a nearly insurmountable 31-point edge on Victor Gomez (Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte). Series newcomer and 17-year-old Luke Berkeley (Dream Racing Motorsport, Lamborghini Broward) has won three straight races to take a 13-point lead on Alan Metni (Change Racing, Lamborghini Dallas). Finally in LB Cup, Matt Dicken (Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte) has just a one-point lead over Mark Kvamme and Terry Olson (Precision Performance Motorsports, Lamborghini Palm Beach).
Ferrari Challenge North America
The domestic part of the series schedule is complete with only the Finali Mondiali at Mugelo, Italy, in November remaining.
Champions in their respective classes were: Cooper MacNeil (Ferrari Westlake) in Trofeo Pirelli, his fourth straight title; Jason McCarthy (Wide World Ferrari) in Trofeo Pirelli Am 1; Brian Davis (Ferrari of Palm Beach) in Trofeo Pirelli Am 2; Dave Musial Jr. (Ferrari Lake Forest) in Coppa Shell; and John Cervini (Ferrari of Ontario) in Coppa Shell Am.
Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich
A doubleheader round at Michelin Raceway remains, with a three-way fight for the championship. Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) swept the last round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to take a 100-point lead on reigning series champion Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises). Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) is 60 points behind Carter.
The rookie driver standings find Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) 150 points up on Chris Nunes (No. 32 JTR Motorsports Engineering).