Michael Shank Racing and Risi Competizione were the big winners in a classic 10 hour battle at Road Atlanta today in the 19th running of Petit Le Mans.
After dominating every session of the weekend, the Shank trio of Olivier Pla, Ozz Negri and John Pew scored the victory in the prototype class. It was a Ligier Honda 1-2 finish with the Patrón ESM squad of Pippo Derani, Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek finishing second.
The Shank victory came in the team’s 250th prototype race start and their final before they debut next year running the factory Acura NSX program in the GTD class.
Dane Cameron and Eric Curran teamed with IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud to finish fourth and claim the first prototype championship win for the No.31 combo of Cameron and Curran.
Risi Competizione scored the GTLM class victory with Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and James Calado – the fourth Petit Le Mans victory for the Risi squad and their first victory in the series since VIRginia International Raceway in 2014.
“I would say performance-wise the shift was when we shipped the car to Le Mans,” Vilander said.
“Then when we came back, it was fast. But we ran into a lot of issues, usually contact and we never gave up. If there was a way to make the car better at the next race we would do it.
“At COTA it was really tough to have an electrical issue in the last few minutes while we were winning. But I told them, we can’t give up, our moment will come. We drive the coolest car in the world, we will eventually get that win we deserve.
“We have a really strong partner with Michelin. The temperatures change a lot in this race, so you need the right tires to keep up with it. Had a lot of fights with the guys who won the championship today, so hopefully next year we’ll be fighting it right where we left off.
“This year, we came really close. In and out of the race track. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves when we had bad luck. We felt bad for the team. The guys sacrifice the personal life, and work hours around the clock to prepare the race car. We have such a great group of people so the credit goes to them. hopefully we are back even stronger.”
Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais finished second for Ford while Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner clinched the GTLM class championship with a third place finish alongside Marcel Fasser for Corvette Racing.
The championship-challenging Ford of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe led early from pole but issues put them 26 laps adrift back in seventh place. The Scuderia Corsa Ferrari also looked strong before a scary pit fire also took them out of contention.
The No.70 Mazda also had a fiery demise late in the race after it looked like the Prototype podium was going to be an all Le Mans-style LM P2-based affair.
Other class winners included Tom Kimber-Smith, Robert Alon and Jose Gutierrez in PC. Despite a disappointing result in the final race of the year, Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow took the class championship.
Controversy reigned in the GTD class when the eventual race winners Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Marc Miller were passed by the Magnus Racing Audi with a lap to go. Magnus’ John Potter was alleged to have not completed the required amount of time in the car in the race as a silver-rated driver and the team was put to the back of the GTD results.
History was made with Christina Nielsen taking the GTD championship with Alessandro Balzan for Scuderia Corsa. Nielsen led going into the final round last season but lost out here at Road Atlanta but today she clinched the title completing the first three hours of the race to score points.
— Honda Racing / HPD (@HondaRacing_HPD) October 2, 2016
— Michelin Alley (@MichelinAlley) October 2, 2016
— Corvette Racing (@CorvetteRacing) October 2, 2016