Petit Le Mans Preview: 20th Anniversary Sees Anti-Climatic title battles, but fierce fights for the win


The dominant Wayne Taylor Racing squad look finish their 2017 Weathertech SportsCar season the way they started it, with victory at the 20th running of the now iconic Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

The final round of the 2017 Weathertech SportsCar Championship will see three championships decided, but two will be decided when the crews take the green flag.

The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi of brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor only just needs to start the race in order to win the overall championship.

After a dominant season, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac will clinch the overall crown when it takes the green flag, but the Taylor brothers are out to win. Credit: Jake Galstad /LAT Images, Courtesy of IMSA

The same is true for GTLM title leaders, the #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garica, leading to both teams securing their first IMSA Weathertech crown.

This means that even if they finish last in class, both cars will have still won the title.

The #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia only needs to start to clinch the GTLM title, but will face a tough fight to secure both the constructors and Endurance Cup trophies. Copyright: Phillip Abbott/LAT Images

While in theory the GTD championship remains open, all that last year’s champions Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen need to do to clinch their second consecutive GTD crown is to achieve the minimum drive time required to score points.

Yet despite the anti-climatic nature of the remaining title fights, the honour to secure the 20th anniversary win of Petit Le Mans will be keenly fought out by all competitors.

In the overall prototype category the usual suspects are joined by two significant entries.

The Rebellion Racing team, last seen at the Sebring 12 Hours, returns with a ORECA 07 for Mathias Beche, Nick Heidfeld and Gustavo Menezes.

The experienced and successful Swiss outfit is hoping to make up for their disappointment in Florida where they were one of the few teams to keep pace with the Cadillacs, but were hobbled by reliability issues.

The other entry is that of Team Penske, who return to top line American Sports Car racing with an all-star line-up of Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

While the team will race as the works Acura squad with ARX-05 DPi prototype for next year’s season, here they will also enter an ORECA 07-Gibson as part of their preparations to familise the team with the championship and their rivals.

Despite this opposition the dominant champions to be, WTR Cadillac, are hot favourites to end their season the way they started it, with a win.

And as Jordan Taylor ommiously declares, “once we take the green, we’ve won the championship, after that, it opens us up to where we can take risks to win (the race).”

The team may also need to take risks as there is still the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup title to decide, which is a straight shootout between the #10 Cadillac and the #5 Mustang Sampling sister car, piloted by Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Felipe Albuquerque.

The #5 is also in the middle of the close fight for second in the championship, a position currently held by their team-mate and 2016 title winners, #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, which are just one point ahead.

Yet five points behind them is the ever impressive #85 JDC Miller Motorsports ORECA of Misha Goikhberg and Stephen Simpson and will hope to clinch the runners-up spot on what has been a magnificent first season in the prototype class.

These four competitors as well as last round winners, the #90 Visit Florida Racing Ligier of Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens, are expected to provide a close and high speed battle to celebrate PLM’s anniversary.

Despite its easy path to the drivers title, the #3 Corvette team will face a much tougher battle to clinch the GTLM constructors championship, in which they hold a slender 4 point lead over Ford.

The #3 team is also part of a five way battle for the Endurance Cup and the current leaders, the #911 Porsche squad of Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner, have 2015 Petit Le Mans overall winner Nick Tandy to partner them.

BMW will also be in the mix as they seek to give the retiring M6 GTLM a winning send-off.

Reigning GTD champions and Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen, look set to repeat their 2016 crown, only needing to secure the minimum amount of drive-time to clinch the title. Copyright: Michael L. Levitt/LAT Images

If you thought GTLM was competitive, GTD features a six way battle for the Endurance Crown, but its current championship leaders Balzan and Nielsen who hold the advantage.

There are no titles to wrap up in the PC Class which hosts its final race before being replaced next year.

The Performance Tech Motorsport squad of Patricio O’Ward, James French and Kyle Masson hope to end the year with their 100% win record intact.