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Championship Countdown: Another DPi Clash Down to the Wire

The Last in a Series Highlighting the Title Battles in All WeatherTech Championship Classes Heading to the Season Finale

 

By Jeff Olson

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It all comes down to this: two fast Acuras, six talented drivers, 10 hours of racing and immeasurable pressure.

 

The championship of the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class will for all intents be decided by the best finish of the two contenders as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season concludes Saturday with the 25th annual Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

 

One of those four drivers, Ricky Taylor, has been involved in the last two championships under similar circumstances. In 2020, he won the title with Helio Castroneves for Acura Team Penske. Last year, Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 lost the championship to Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr and the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R on the final turn.

 

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“I wish it would be more boring,” Taylor said. “It’s been super tough. It’s never been easy. It’s nice to have the experience of having been there before. Obviously, it’s really difficult to go into the last round of the championship fighting for the title, let alone being a 10-hour endurance race that already on its own is one of the most difficult races in the world. All that compounded together makes for quite the drama and quite the stress for teams and drivers.”

 

This time, Taylor and Albuquerque lead the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 by just 19 points heading into the finale. Experience and preparation are essential, and both teams have plenty of both.

 

“I know what it takes,” said Jarvis, who won Petit Le Mans last year with Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito for Mazda while the championship duel played out behind them. “A 10-hour race to finish the season is a tough one. Anything can happen. You’ve really just got to stay on track and stay out of trouble, and that’s not easy to do in these types of events.

 

“As long as we’ve prepared the best we can and put ourselves in the best opportunity we can, (and) hopefully with good qualifying and staying out of trouble, I believe we’ll have the pace for the win and, more importantly, be able to fight for the championship.”

 

With the margin so close, Friday’s qualifying carries more weight than usual. The No. 10 car has won thee Motul Pole Awards this season while the No. 60 has won two poles.

 

The qualifying pressure at Petit lies a bit heavier with the No. 60 car, which needs to qualify ahead of the No. 10 to keep from falling 20 or more points behind. If the margin is less than 20, the No. 60 needs to finish the race fourth or better and have the No. 10 finish behind, or if the No. 60 finishes fifth in class, the No. 10 must finish seventh. Obviously, if the No. 10 finishes ahead of the No. 60 in the race, it’s game over.

 

“The pressure is a little bit more to the (No.) 60 car to be sure that they narrow down that opportunity to be able to just finish (one position) ahead of us,” Albuquerque said. “At the moment, we’re not thinking about the Cadillacs or thinking about winning the race. We are thinking about being the best (of the two Acuras). We need to attack.”

 

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As intense as this race is for the championship contenders, their approach remains the same.

 

“There’s a bit more on the line, but it really doesn’t change too much, to be honest,” said Blomqvist, who helped the team win the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and add five second-place finishes. “At the end of the day, we just have to do the best job we can and beat the other guys. The whole year we’ve been trying to do that. From that perspective, it doesn’t really change much.”

 

The farewell to the DPi class, which will be replaced in January with the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, has added to the attention heading into the finale. It’s an ode to Acura, but also an ode to two strong teams and four strong drivers.

 

“We’re fighting for a championship,” Blomqvist said. “If we go into that event thinking we have to do better at it than we have at every other event, then we haven’t been doing a good enough job all year. … It’s going to be cool. It’s going to be fun.”

 

WeatherTech Championship action at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta begins Thursday with three practice sessions. Qualifying is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. ET Friday with a livestream on Peacock and IMSA.com/TVLive.

 

NBC’s live coverage of the race starts at noon Saturday, with Peacock offering flag-to-flag coverage and USA Network joining at 7 p.m. through the conclusion.