The Top Three in GTP Are Separated by Only Five Points Headed to Motul Petit Le Mans
By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – “Like every year in IMSA, it is down to the final race: Petit Le Mans.”
Filipe Albuquerque’s concise assessment of the top prototype class title tussle in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rings true once again in 2023 – perhaps truer than ever. Heading to Motul Petit Le Mans, the season ender on Oct. 14, the top three cars in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) standings are clustered within a miniscule five points and six cars retain mathematical chances of capturing the championship in the first year for the hybrid-powered class.
GTP isn’t the only class going down to the wire, either. The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) championship is just as close, as is the Jim Trueman Bronze Cup competition to decide which Bronze-rated LMP2 driver earns an invite to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Lest we also not forget the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, an endurance racing source of great pride where all five classes are up for grabs.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of what’s at stake at Motul Petit Le Mans:
Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) Championship
The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R (drivers Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims) leads the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 (drivers Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor) by three points and the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 (drivers Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy) by five. Though points earned in qualifying could come into play, in all likelihood, whoever finishes the race best will be the best among those three in the final standings.
The Porsche Penske drivers put themselves in the thick of it by winning Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I said before the weekend we realistically needed to win here to have a decent shot going into Atlanta,” Tandy said, “and it’s given us a chance at the end of the day.”
Don’t overlook the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 (drivers Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly), however. The No. 25 is just 38 points from the lead, meaning a Petit win could earn the title if the Nos. 31, 10 and 6 all finish in third place or worse.
The No. 7 Porsche Penske 963 (drivers Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr) is 73 points out of first, meaning it likely would require a win at Petit and the four cars ahead in points all finishing fifth or lower.
“The pressure is more on the three cars in front and we’ve got less of a chance,” Campbell said. “All we can do when we head to Atlanta is do the best job that we can and see where we end up, because the one thing about Atlanta is always crazy (stuff) happens at the end of the race. And if that can happen for us to the cars in front, it’ll be good. You never know.”
Even the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 (drivers Tom Blomqvist and Colin Braun) has a remote chance for the championship. At 127 points behind, it would require winning Petit and basically seeing the five cars ahead in points finish at the bottom of the GTP class in reverse order of their current standings.
In the past three seasons, the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class that preceded GTP came down to the wire at Petit Le Mans. In fact, in 2021 and ’22, the No. 10 Acura entered the race with the lead but saw it slip away following late-race dramatics. No. 10 driver Taylor looked for the positive Sunday after his team fell out of the points lead by finishing fifth at Indy.
“We don’t have to go to Road Atlanta defending,” Taylor said. “We just have to go to Road Atlanta shooting for a win and being aggressive, which is what we like to do.”
Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) Championship
With their class win Sunday, Mikkel Jensen, Steven Thomas and the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07 eked into a 20-point lead over Ben Keating, Paul-Loup Chatin and the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA. Eighty points farther back are Ben Hanley, George Kurtz and the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR ORECA.
With up to 10 LMP2 entries expected at Michelin Raceway, the possibilities for determining the champion are endless. Even the No. 8 Tower Motorsports ORECA, which has used multiple driver lineups this season, could potentially recover from a 133-point deficit to repeat as the team champion.
Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3), GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) and GT Daytona (GTD) Championships
The GTD class championship has already been determined, with No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 drivers Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers clinching at Indianapolis. The LMP3 and GTD PRO champs will officially be settled when the leading car in each class rolls off the starting grid on Oct. 14 because each leader will have a points margin that cannot be overtaken.
Gar Robinson and the No. 74 Riley Ligier JS P320 are set to take the LMP3 title, with Ben Barnicoat, Jack Hawksworth and the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 doing the same in GTD PRO.
Jim Trueman and Bob Akin Bronze Cups
These two awards recognize the top-performing Bronze drivers in LMP2 and GTD over the course of the season, rewarding them with a chance to race at Le Mans the following year.
The competition for Trueman honors in LMP2 couldn’t be closer, as Thomas, Keating and Kurtz are locked into a three-way tie. This means that the highest finisher at Motul Petit Le Mans will take home the Trueman Bronze Cup.
The Akin standings in GTD show a wider gap at the top, but with the potential of 15 or more Bronze drivers entered at the finale, nothing is certain. Brendan Iribe (No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 702 GT3) leads Alan Brynjolfsson (No. 77 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R) by 160 points. A top-12 finish among Bronze GTD drivers secures the award for Iribe.
IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup
Using a separate scoring system comprising the four endurance races, the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup is a very important championship within the championship. And heading to the finale, all five class titles are there for the taking.
Points are awarded at designated junctures in each of the endurance races, with five going to the class leader, four for second place, three for third and two points to all others in the class. With Michelin Endurance Cup points awarded for Motul Petit Le Mans at the four- and eight-hour marks and the conclusion, a maximum of 15 points and minimum of six are available.
Here are the current standings by class:
- GTP: The No. 31 Cadillac is seven points ahead of the No. 10 Acura and eight up on the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac.
- LMP2: The No. 04 Crowdstrike ORECA leads the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA by two points, though six cars are still in the running.
- LMP3: The No. 74 Riley Ligier leads both the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 and the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier by two points. Two other LMP3s have an outside chance at the endurance crown.
- GTD PRO: The No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 is three points ahead of the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R GTD, five up on the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus and eight ahead of the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
- GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin is a single point ahead of the No. 32 Korthoff Preston Motorsports Mercedes. Nine cars are officially still eligible, including the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW that could sweep the GTD season, IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup and Michelin Endurance Cup championships if it can recover from a four-point deficit in this category.