IMSA GTP field primed for a four-way title fight at Petit Le Mans

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is no stranger to close championship battles. For the last three years it has come down to one team finishing in front of another in the final race for the championship. Last year it was Wayne Taylor Racing vs. Meyer Shank Racing. In 2022 it was WTR vs. Action Express Racing. In 2021 it was Acura Team Penske vs. WTR.

For 2023, you can add another ‘versus’ – or two. AXR vs. WTR vs. Porsche Penske Motorsport vs BMW M Team RLL.

As the WeatherTech Championship heads toward Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Oct. 14 – always a wild one, even if championships aren’t on the line – there is a dead heat between three teams representing three manufacturers, separated by a total of five points. Whichever team finishes on top, wins the championship, Cast the net a little wider, and there’s a fourth team representing the fourth manufacturer that has a shot under the right circumstances.


“Never in my wildest dreams in the first year of GTP did I think we could have it that tight – not just going into the finale, but all season,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “And to have all manufacturers stand on the top step of the podium. All of those who’ve invested in it have a tremendous amount to be proud of. I think in a lot of ways IMSA and our technical team have a lot to be proud of. I hope sincerely that the fans have appreciated and enjoyed what they’ve seen so far, and I think everyone should strap in for Motul Petit Le Mans because it’s going to be one heck of a show.”

Here’s how it breaks down: Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims lead the championship for Cadillac Racing with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-Series.R with 2460 points; WTRAndretti’s Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor are three points behind, representing Acura with the No. 10 ARX-06; two more points in arrears are Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy, who scored their second win of the season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963. Whoever finishes higher among these three teams at Petit Le Mans takes the championship. Unless… should Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly finish two or three positions ahead of all of them in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8, depending on what happens in qualifying, they win.

The No. 7 PPM team of Felipe Nasr and Matt Campbell are also, mathematically, within reach of the championship, but it would take a rather bizarre set of circumstances for the title to go their way.

How in the world did this happen? Pre-season expectations were that one or two of the manufacturers would have nailed the reliability on their new GTP machinery and that would lead to a runaway for one of them. Acura certainly seems to have been the most reliable right out of the box, followed by Cadillac. But the two Acura teams have seemed to find ways to shoot themselves in the foot this season.

As it is, every one of the contenders has had good races and bad races, and it’s all evened out spectacularly. With the exception of WTRAndretti, each of the contenders has a victory – among them, only Jaminet and Tandy have two, the first coming at Long Beach. AXR, WTRAndretti and the No. 25 BMW squad have arrived here largely on consistency vs. feast-or-famine for Tandy and Jaminet.

There’s going to be a lot of pressure on these drivers at Petit Le Mans, plus the third drivers that join them for the 10-hour race. However, most of them have been here before. Taylor is looking at his fourth year in a row in this situation, the first with Acura Team Penske (against WTR) and the last two with Albuquerque and WTR – spare a thought for the WTR guys, having three runner-up championship finishes in a row. Derani and Nasr were on the other end of that fight in 2021 when they took the title for AXR. And Jaminet recalls a similar situation in ADAC GT Masters in Europe.

“In 2018 I won the  ADAC GT Masters, I won it by just one point in the last race, so kind of a similar situation,” explained Jaminet. “I think back then also two cars, or two or three cars going to the last race. So yeah, it will be a stressful situation. But that’s the same for everyone. So it will be about who performs at his best at the key moment.”

However it turns out, the championship is almost surely going to come down to the final minutes of the season, just as it has the last three years. There are just more players this time, and that makes it all the better and more surprising.

Story originally appeared on Racer