Michelin GT Le Mans class factory teams fought through traffic, pit strategies, contact and each other to deliver an action-filled race Sunday at Road America. The track’s "America’s National Park of Speed" nickname lived up to the hype in a thrilling two-hour, 40-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race.
The official factory teams from Porsche, Ford, and BMW all led at various stages, but Ford Chip Ganassi Racing's Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook ultimately prevailed to take their third victory of the 2018 WeatherTech Championship GTLM season. The win was the fourth consecutive victory and fifth of the season for the Ford CGR Team.
"The last laps were mental," said Westbrook. "We didn’t have anything left. After the first stint, we thought we’d be good on tires on the end of the stint, but the others were, too. Maybe they chose a different compound, as we know there are lots available from Michelin."
Corvette Racing’s 2016 champions Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin finished in second place. Meanwhile their Corvette teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, the defending class champions, rallied after an unscheduled pit stop to finish third. "We were very pleased to see all of our technical partner teams running so well at a very big, fast, and challenging track," said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America.
After struggles in qualifying, the BMW M8 GTE of Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi was a major player in the race, with Sims moving into the top five for the first stint. De Phillippi then moved up to third and emerged with the lead after a round of pit stops with 64 minutes remaining.
However, after leading for an hour, his valiant drive for a potential first IMSA win both for himself and BMW’s new M8 race car came up short as he ran out of fuel with less than three minutes remaining.
Championship battle changes again
Ford CGR’s Briscoe and Westbrook have now retaken the GTLM championship lead over Corvette’s Garcia and Magnussen by four points (241-237). Their Ford teamates Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller entered the race leading the championship by a single point over Garcia and Magnussen, and two points ahead of Briscoe and Westbrook.
Mueller became the eighth different GTLM class pole winner in the first eight races of the season. But a broken suspension piece cost them several laps as they finished seventh. They now trail their Ford teammates by nine points (232). With just three races remaining in the 2018 WeatherTech GTLM season, Westbrook said, "It’s getting to be 'go time' in the championship."
The next stop on the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule is at VIRginia International Raceway for the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR. The race airs live Sunday, August 19 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1.