Road America Boasts History, Speed, Great Viewing and Food … and Drama
By David Phillips
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Every event in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has plenty going for it, be it rich histories dating back half a century or more, dramatic settings in the countryside, on the streets of major cities or at some of the sport’s most magnificent coliseums, or a unique but hard to define atmosphere indelibly stamping the race weekend as “special.”
The IMSA Fastlane SportsCar Weekend at Road America has all of the above … and more. Road America is unquestionably one of the world’s iconic racetracks, one whose facilities are continually being updated but whose four miles of macadam are essentially unchanged from the day it debuted in 1955.
A racetrack where a virtual who’s who of international and homegrown stars and legendary teams have raced and won, it’s also a place where it’s not unusual for fans to find themselves standing in line with IMSA champions past, present and future waiting to order bratwursts, corn on the cob, soft-serve ice cream, soft drinks and (in the case of the fans) beer at concession stands operated by the likes of the Plymouth Optimists Club and Elkhart Lake Lions Club, not to mention carnitas tacos, quesadillas and, yes, margaritas at the Los Amigos Locos stand near Turn 1.
Oh yes, and Road America also offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to extraordinary spectating spots along the 14-turn course laid out by founder Clif Tufte, which boasts not one, not two, but three sections where the fastest cars top 180 mph.
Speaking of spectating, what to watch for this weekend? With all five WeatherTech Championship classes in action, along with the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America and Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands series on the docket, the answer is: plenty.
As is usually (but not always) the case with IMSA, the super-fast Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class headlines the event and will vie for the overall win on Sunday. If recent history is any guide, the identity of that overall winner will be in doubt until the checkered flag falls.
For although last year saw Action Express Racing’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac win by a “comfortable” margin of 1.5 seconds, the margin of victory in 2020 and 2019 was 0.610 seconds. Combined. Needless to say, Cadillac is itching to repeat last year’s success this weekend with any one of four entries from Cadillac Racing, JDC-Miller MotorSports and Action Express. And having experienced a disappointing campaign to date and with a second straight DPi championship a longshot, watch for Action Express and drivers Pipo Derani and Olivier Pla to pull out all the stops in search of their first win of the season.
Then again, with the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and No. 10 Konica Minolta Acuras in a tight scrap for the DPi championship lead, don’t count out either of the Acura ARX-05s.
Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) competitors return to action this weekend after a lengthy summer vacation dating to June’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Defending LMP2 champs PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports will be looking to follow a win at The Glen with another victory at Road America in the No. 52 ORECA LMP2 07 in order to widen the points lead over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA. Although Tower Motorsport edged PR1 Mathiasen in the battle for second place at Road America last year, PR1 Mathiasen is no strangers to the top step of the podium there, having secured the LMP2 win in 2019.
Nor should the No. 18 Era Motorsport entry piloted by Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel be overlooked given last year’s win at Road America. Likewise, anyone who discounts the potential impact of the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA entry in the hands of Juan Pablo Montoya and Henrik Hedman does so at their own risk.
As ever, the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) and GTD PRO classes are toss-ups. However, given their commanding lead in the current GTD PRO standings – not to mention GTD wins in their last two visits to Road America (2019 and ’21) – the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R must be the GTD PRO favorite this weekend. Then again, against formidable opposition from the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 of Vasser Sullivan Racing, Heart of Racing Team’s No. 23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, BMW M Team RLL’s No. 25 BMW M4 GT3 and Corvette Racing’s No. 3 C8.R GTD, the outcome is anything but a foregone conclusion.
Similarly, any of the 11 GTD entries could take the win at Road America. After all, nine races into the 2022 campaign, all nine marques competing in GTD have won or finished on the podium. Curiously, however, the class-leading No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 is still looking for its first win of the 2022 campaign and would like nothing better than to break into the “W” column at Road America.
Will the No. 32 break the duck this weekend? Be sure to catch all the action from Road America on USA Network, Peacock, IMSA TV and IMSA Radio to see.