The Tudor United SportsCar Championship heads to the beautiful forested hills of Braselton, Georgia for the final round of the 2015 season at Road Atlanta. Petit Le Mans, the classic 10 hour event, will decide who’s crowned champion of the second year of competition for the newly merged series, which still echoes of Grand Am’s high torque Daytona Prototypes and the highly efficient LMP2 machines from the American Le Mans Series.
This year’s event boasts a field of 39 entries, many of which are also vying for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup alongside the driver’s and manufacturer’s championships. Being the final race of the year as well as the final leg of the Patron Endurance Cup, the field is bursting with even more talent than typically seen throughout the season. Stars from other racing series have come to join the fun, including the Verizon INDYCAR Series’ Scott Dixon for Chip Ganassi Racing, Sebastien Bourdais for Action Express Racing, Ryan Briscoe for Corvette Racing, and Jack Hawksworth for RSR Racing.
In the Prototype category, the driver’s championship is only separated by 6 points between the Michael Valiente/Richard Westbrook duo of VisitFlorida.com Racing and the second and third place entries of Dane Cameron/Eric Curran and Joao Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi; all three entries Corvette DP’s, the latter two being fielded by Action Express. The Patron Endurance Cup is not as close with Barbosa/Fittipaldi leading by eight points, but a total of 15 points is available for the taking.
Last year’s winners, Jordan and Ricky Taylor, while not in the championship running, are looking for a repeat with their No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. Look for them up near the front, charging for a win, championship or no championship. We’ll expect to see the Action Express teams charge hard to overcome the 6 point deficit, leaving VisitFlorida.com Racing a crucial choice: drive conservatively in hopes of surviving the 10 hours or aggressively driving for the win. Delta Wing Racing with Andy Meyrick, Katherine Legge and Gabby Chaves had a strong finish of fourth place. With plans to compete with a GT version of the car, the team is sure to be vying for a good finish to complete the work of the current prototype.
As far as manufacturers are concerned, Chevrolet leads Ford 309 to 286 for the season, 42 to 38 for the Patron Endurance Cup. Honda currently has 272 points while Mazda is brings up the rear with 252 points. We’ll see if Ford has what it takes to bridge the gap for the Patron Endurance Cup.
The LMPC class has featured some of the tightest racing all season long. CORE Autosport’s Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead the driver’s championship with 289 points over second place team, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Mike Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith (277). Just two points back in third is the RSR Racing duo of Bruno Junqueira and Chris Cumming. Interestingly enough, the first place finishes at Daytona and Sebring have allowed Guasch/Kimber-Smith to lead Bennett/Braun in the Patron Endurance Cup, 36 to 33. Andrew Palmer was also in the No. 52 entry with Guasch and Kimber-Smith for the longer races as well.
Though the spec class has no manufacturer’s championship, there’s still plenty left to aim for in the final round. Last year, Starworks Motorsport’s Mirco Schultis, Renger van der Zande, and Alex Popow won the event with CORE Autosport’s No. 54 entry just 10 seconds back. A late race incident left 8Star Motorsports out of the race, after leading.
Though full season entries have been less in number, the GTLM field is looking to put on another great show at Road Atlanta. Patrick Pilet and his No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR lead the championship with 279 points, just three points over the second place BMW Team RLL entry of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner. The No. 3 Corvette Racing entry of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen are third in points, but not within striking distance. They do, however, lead the Patron Endurance Cup with 33 points, six points over Falken Racing’s Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler.
Porsche is leading the manufacturer’s championship with 290 points, just three points ahead of BMW. Chevrolet sits in third, tied with Ferrari. With Porsche being so strong late in the season this year as well as last year, they’re looking to repeat with another championship.
Last year’s race went to Sellers and Henzler with help from Marco Holzer. With four cars on the lead lap, the race was close even in the final hours. With two cars on the podium, Porsche has shown strong results here in the past. Look for the Porsche North America team to be at the sharp end of the field.
With 13 entries, the GTD category will host the largest field of the event. Only four points separate the top three positions with five drivers. Christina Nielsen leads the charge in her TRG-AMR No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Paul Miller teammates Dion von Moltke and Christopher Haase follow Nielsen by only one point. They’re No. 48 Audi R8 has been looking good all season long. A mere three points back from them sits Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia. After a penalty last week for contact with Joao Barbosa’s prototype, the team is looking for a strong rebound, a great end to the season, and the revered driver’s championship. Riley Motorsports’ Patron Endurance Cup-only team of Al Carter and Cameron Lawrence are leading the Endurance Cup with 37 points, 9 points over teammate Marc Goosens.
Last year’s event went to Paul Miller Racing with Bryce Miller, Matt Bell, and Christopher Haase. With the team’s current line up, they’re expected to be strong. Porsche filled out the podium with Snow Racing and Magnus Racing’s Porsche 911 GT Americas. With Riley Motorsports’ second team being so spot on for the endurance races this year, it would not be a surprise to see the No. 93 Viper snaking it’s way up front.
The manufacturer’s championship is very close with only six points separating the top three marques. Audi leads with 276 points, leading Ferrari by a single point. BMW sits in third currently with 270 points. Ferrari currently sits on top of the Patron Endurance Cup with 40 points, quite a distance to Audi’s 29 points. Dodge would be leading the charge, but they’re not eligible for the manufacturer’s championship.
Interesting to note, Flying Lizard Motorsports comes back to compete at the IMSA sanctioned event for the first time since Laguna Seca. They’re star-studded lineup of Guy Cosmo, Robert Thorne, and Colin Thompson brings more excitement to the mix. The familiar reptilian-liveried machines are a fan favorite and sure to be in the mix near the front of the field.
Compared to last year, we are 17 entries short. This is expected to help with last year’s egregious amount of yellow flags, a record total of 13. The 2.54-mile road course is one of the shortest on the calendar for the season. With all four classes on hand, the amount of passing and side-by-side racing will be some of the most we’ve seen all year. The great elevation changes along with the sweeping curves of the track have played host to the historic event since 1998.
First practice for the Tudor Championship starts October 1 at 11:10 AM with qualifying occurring at 3:35 PM on October 2nd. The 18th running of the Petit Le Mans will air live on Fox Sports 2 and IMSA.com. A telecast of the event will be on Fox Sports 1 at 1:30 PM on October 4. Keep your browser tuned to the Slipstream Network for more coverage of the event, including audio interviews, recaps, and live updates.