3 Things That Will Make or Break IMSA WeatherTech Petit Le Mans

Photo credit: IMSA
Photo credit: IMSA

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season wraps up on Saturday with the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans.

Here's three things to watch:

Wild Cards in DPi Swan Song

Photo credit: IMSA
Photo credit: IMSA


In the last appearance of the DPi cars, keep an eye out for three possible game changers in the showdown between the Acura teams of Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing for the WeatherTech Championship of IMSA’s premier class.

The fraught conditions of the ten-hour race call for a third driver, which could become a critical factor in a contest where the relative position of the title contenders determines the outcome. In this case, the “guest drivers” are none too shabby.

The Taylor team brought in New Zealander Brendon Hartley, who became a three-time Le Mans winner in June, to co-drive with Ricky Taylor and Felipe Albuquerque. Meyer Shank will again call on Helio Castroneves, who became a four-time Indy 500 winner driving for the team in 2021, to partner Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist. Ironically, Castroneves won the 2019 DPi title co-driving with Taylor in an Acura ARX-05. Familiarity with the car and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta could give Castroneves an edge in a race where any slight advantage can be monumental.

DPi Driver Standings

  1. Felipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor, No. 10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Acura DPi 3,066

  2. Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis, No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura DPi, 3,047

  3. Sebastian Bourdais, Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi, 2,914

  4. Earl Bamber-Alex Linn, No. 02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi, 2,899

While traffic is typically bad in the city of Atlanta, it will be rush-hour crazy during a Petit Le Mans with an expected 43 starters. Because they’re faster, it’s a lock that sooner or later a DPi driver gets hit or hits one of the cars in the other four categories.

The turbocharged Acura team and drivers who can handle the traffic best are more likely to come out ahead in in the title chase. It bears recalling that the Meyer Shank team lost its points lead in traffic near the end of the race at Road America.

Spoiler Alert—the Risi Ferrari Factor

Photo credit: IMSA
Photo credit: IMSA

It’s tough to win any class when cherry picking only the major endurance events and sitting out the rest of the schedule. This will be just the fourth race for the Risi Competizione team in 2022. But the team’s Ferraris have long been contenders and winners at Road Atlanta.

Team owner Giuseppe Risi was part of the winning combination at the first Petit 25 years ago when the Doyle-Risi Ferrari 333 SP won the inaugural event. The Risi Competizione team born shortly afterward has won four times in the GTLM category at the Petit, including in its last appearance at Road Atlanta with a 488 GTE in 2019. That was at the height of the highly competitive GTLM class that included the vaunted Ford GT, which ran second to the Risi Ferrari that year.

The Italian influence on the team cannot be underestimated. The Ferrari 488 recently clinched a 500th victory in races worldwide, continuing its saga as the Prancing Horse’s winningest car. The team would like nothing better than to add another win with the current 488 GT3. All the teams in the GTD Pro class, a scant seven entries, are racing under the GT3 rules at the circuit or the first time, which helps level the playing field.

GTD Class Leaders Will Emerge from Early Mayhem

Photo credit: IMSA
Photo credit: IMSA

When it comes to GTD and its massive entry of GT3 cars, put away the scoresheet for lap leaders and just keep an eye on the lap chart occasionally during the first eight hours or so. Due to the sheer number of entries and 15 cars expected to take the green, the tide is likely to ebb and flow before the winners of the race for GTD race honors emerge and the winners of the class’s WeatherTech Championship.

The rules call for at least one amateur-rated driver to compete in the category, so these are the unsung heroes. There’s a definite Walter Mitty element. It’s possible to sit back and imagine yourself taking one of these hot numbers barely removed from street legal for a spin. Well, let’s say for a hot lap or two.

GTD Drivers Standings

  1. Roman De Angelis, No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 2,630

  2. Steven McAleer, No. 32 Team Korthoff Mercedes AMG GT3, 2,585

  3. Jan Helen, Ryan Hardwick, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, 2573

If only because they carry full bodies and bigger numbers, there’s the sheer fun factor of watching the cars in the GTD class do their thing amidst the high-speed traffic. But bear in mind it’s all relative. During practice, they averaged 115 mph while seemingly surrounded by DPi prototypes averaging more than 130 mph.

As far as the GTP standings Roman de Angelis, who will be co-driving the Aston Martin of Heart of Racing, leads Stevan McAleer, co-piloting the Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes AMG, by 45 points in the championship. The latter has to be the sentimental favorite. From Glasgow Scotland, the 37-year-old has done yeoman’s work to sustain his professional driving career. That includes instructing other drivers and racing whatever he can get his hands on in the panoply of IMSA’s series and elsewhere.

“It’s been a crazy season,” said McAleer. “We started off really strong, and some thought we were a little on the lucky side, but here we are going into the final race still really involved in the points.”