The Meyer Shank Racing Co-Driver Woke up with a ‘Feeling’ His Team Would Win the Motul Petit Le Mans
By Jeff Olson
BRASELTON, Ga. – Tom Blomqvist woke up Saturday with a feeling he couldn’t shake, a premonition about how the rest of his day would play out.
“I just had this sort of feeling that we were going to win the thing,” he said. “I don’t really know why.”
Good instincts. Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves combined to win the 25th annual Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta to claim the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class championship in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale.
Not a bad outcome for a team that didn’t rejoin the WeatherTech Championship’s top class until last year, and at times in 2021 struggled to sort out its Acura ARX-05 and make it perform more consistently.
This year, consistency was the hallmark of Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian. Its No. 60 car finished outside the podium just three times in 10 races. During one stretch, Blomqvist and Jarvis finished second five consecutive times. Frustrating, no doubt, but those five runner-up finishes set the foundation for a championship.
Fitting, then, that MSR’s performance in the 10-hour season finale was a masterful yet consistent work of art.
“We were faultless, flawless,” Blomqvist said. “The guys in the pits and the engineers with the strategy – all year long we’ve been pretty consistent. It’s just fantastic.”
They weren’t the only ones who impressed. So did the other team battling for the championship. The all-Acura duel between MSR and Wayne Taylor Racing came down to the final minutes and a close battle between the No. 60 and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 driven by Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley.
The drama reached its zenith when Albuquerque tried to pass Blomqvist heading into Turn 1 with 14 minutes remaining. As the chase moved up the hill into Turn 2, the No. 10 made contact with a lapped GT car. Resulting rear suspension damage ended the pursuit.
“I’m simply devastated with the ending,” Albuquerque said. … “It was a bit inglorious to finish like that. So competitive and tight fun today, but it is what it is.”
Albuquerque also apologized publicly – and his teammate praised him – on Twitter:
You drive like a hero. 👊🏻
— Ricky Taylor (@RickyTaylorRace) October 2, 2022
Taylor wasn’t the only one commending the effort by the No. 10 group. Jarvis took a moment during the postrace press conference to acknowledge WTR’s effort before praising the decisions of his own crew, including strategist Ryan McCarthy and performance director Vincent Forges.
“These are stressful situations,” Jarvis said. “You’ve got myself and Tom and Helio and about 20 other people having an opinion. They managed to take that all in and really soak it up and stay extremely calm when some of us weren’t.”
The MSR group wasn’t alone in celebrating into the early hours Sunday. Four other championships were decided at Petit, some of them by narrow margins:
Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2): Tower Motorsport won its third consecutive Petit Le Mans as its No. 8 ORECA LMP2 07 co-driven by John Farano, Louis Deletraz and Rui Pinto de Andrade won the team championship while Farano clinched the driver’s title.
Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3): The No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier JS P320 co-driven by Colin Braun, Jon Bennett and George Kurtz recovered from a spin to finish fifth and claim the driver championship for Braun and Bennett and team championship for CORE.
Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO): Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell clinched the driver and team championships for the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with the start of Saturday’s race, where it finished the race third in class with Jaminet, Campbell and Felipe Nasr co-driving.
Grand Touring Daytona (GTD): Roman De Angelis finished seventh in class in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to clinch the driver and team championships by just 21 points over the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and co-drivers Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen.
And, after a full season of back-and-forth between the two Acura-powered DPi teams, the win-or-lose part of it came down to the final minutes of a 10-hour race that at times was tense for all.
“Just watching Tom’s on-board (camera) at the end, I think my heart rate was probably as high as his in the car,” Jarvis said. “To win this race in the manner he did, you have to take chances. You have to take risks.
“If people at home could watch as much of the on-board as we do, you’d realize what it takes to be quick around here and win the race. It’s a calculated risk, but you also put a lot of faith in your competitor. It’s an amazing place. Everybody wants to win Petit Le Mans.”