All of the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s Prototype-class cars are being retired after this year in favor of the new DPi spec, so why not go out with a bang? Besides, well, the total heartbreak of losing an almost certain podium for the unluckiest team on the grid.
IMSA Radio commentator John Hindhaugh called this the Mazda’s “viking funeral.” Sadly, it was caused by an engine letting go with less than 14 minutes to go. The engine had been backfiring heavily in the last hour, unleashing huge fireballs until the entire rear of the car ultimately caught on fire.
Driver Joel Miller smartly pulled the car next to a fire truck to put out the car-b-que quickly, but it cued a brief yellow flag that bunched up the field for a restart with only 8 minutes to go.
Sadly, the No. 55 Mazda Prototype had to retire earlier in the race with electrical issues, leaving the No. 70 as Mazda’s only hope. It’s hard not to feel devastated for the Mazda team, which shows such promise every race yet rarely gets a good result.
After the restart, beloved madman Pipo Derani in the No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsport car was right on Olivier Pla’s rear bumper. Pla was stuck playing the world’s most nerve-wracking game of vehicular keep-away from Derani on the restart, but continued his dominant drive in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing through to the end.
Tonight was Michael Shank Racing teammate John Pew’s 250th race start and final race in the series, so Pla bringing home the win was extra special. Pew, Pla and teammate Ozz Negri shared all of the hugs after the race. No. 31 Corvette Daytona Prototype drivers’ Dane Cameron and Eric Curran also won the Prototype-class drivers’ championship.
Prototype Challenge was largely decided by a last-minute fuel stop. The No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car went largely unchallenged when the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports car was forced to stop for fuel with six minutes to go. Starworks drivers Alex Popow and Renger Van Der Zande took home the PC drivers’ championship for the year despite retiring from this race.
GTLM was all about Ford versus Ferrari as it was at Big Le Mans, but this time, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE beat the No. 66 Ford GT for the win. It was the No. 67 Ford that was the championship contender, however, contact with the No. 25 BMW Team RLL M6 sent that car behind the wall for a lengthy repair in the third hour of the race. The No. 4 Corvette team of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner then took the GTLM Championship.
GTD, however, was where all the drama was tonight—provided you could see the race ending at all, given Fox Sports Go’s glitch-o-rama feed. The yellow flag put No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 driver Andy Lally right behind Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Dodge Viper. Lally took the lead after badgering Bleekemolen’s back bumper with only 1:18 left in the race.
However, Magnus Racing didn’t win. The No. 33 Viper did. IMSA ultimately disqualified Magnus team over John Potter not doing his minimum drive time in the car.
The GTD championship had long been decided—the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 had this in the bag—but the class win for tonight’s race will be the subject of fierce debate for weeks to come, that’s for sure.
UPDATE: According to an initial look at the No. 70 Mazda, the team believes it may have been a faulty fuel injector:
UPDATE #2: Magnus wasn’t the only team who was moved to the bottom of the GTD class standings due to a drive time violation. Silver-rated driver Patrick Lindsey also didn’t meet his three-hour minimum drive time in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, sending that third-place-finishing car behind Magnus in the standings, per Sportscar365. IMSA determined that Lindsey had only completed two hours and thirty minutes of drive time in a post-race audit.