From John Oreovicz at IMSA.com
The outcome of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class competition at the 24th annual Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta wasn’t determined until the final 10 minutes of the 10-hour endurance classic.
Mathieu Jaminet, in the No. 79 WeatherTech Porsche 911 RSR-19 he shared with Cooper MacNeil and Matt Campbell, edged the team’s No. 97 entry (with drivers Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Fred Makowiecki) by 0.318 seconds at the checkered flag after ceding the lead on the final lap of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale.
WeatherTech Racing orchestrated the 1-2 finish when the No. 4 Corvette Racing C8.R came into contact with the overall race-leading No. 55 Mazda Motorsports DPi with just under 15 minutes remaining. The Corvette sustained damage when it speared off course, requiring driver Nick Tandy to retire the car.
Estre in the No. 97 had stretched his lead to more than 10 seconds over Tandy when the Corvette encountered trouble, with Jaminet in the No. 79 running a close third at the time. The WeatherTech cars swapped positions in the late stages to maximize championship points for the No. 79, which is a full-season WeatherTech Championship entry.
It marked the third race win of the season for MacNeil and Jaminet, who were joined by Campbell for their victory earlier this year at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Jaminet and MacNeil also triumphed at Road America.
“To finish off the season and win the last GTLM race ever with a 1-2 finish for the WeatherTech Porsches is amazing,” said MacNeil. “There couldn’t be a better way to end the season. There was a lot of hard work involved, so big thanks to the team for everything this season that led up to this.”
The race was slowed by 10 full-course cautions until the last two hours and 10 minutes ran clean.
“Just staying out of trouble was the key,” MacNeil observed. “With as many cautions as we saw today, it was just a matter of time until you were caught up in one yourself. There’s not a scratch on our Porsche.”
Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia clinched the 2021 GTLM championship for Corvette Racing by starting Saturday’s race. While they won the championship by simply taking the green flag, the No. 3 Corvette C8.R wasn’t around to see the checkered flag.
Taylor was at the wheel when he was swept into an accordian-style eight-car accident on a restart at the start of the fifth hour. After cresting the hump that precedes the downhill braking zone for Turn 10, Taylor found the track blocked by a group of slower cars and slammed into the back of a GT Daytona entry.
Garcia, who was watching on television at the time, was not surprised there was a crash.
“I could anticipate something happening after three or four restarts because traffic was crazy today,” he said. “There was a lot of tension between the classes.”
Taylor said it was the biggest accident of his career and estimated the impact speed at 110 mph.
“Definitely a scary moment when you come over the crest in fifth gear and everyone is stopped,” he remarked. “The stack-up effect is always there in (Turns) 10A and 10B; it was just way more extreme today.
“At first I thought I broke my back – that’s how hard the impact was,” he added. “My lower back is a little sore with some muscle spasms, but I’ll be fine in a couple days. Thankfully, Corvette and Pratt & Miller built a race car that kept me safe.”
Taylor’s fourth IMSA championship was almost forgotten in the aftermath of the accident drama. Garcia’s title was his fifth in IMSA competition. The Corvette duo repeated their championship-winning performance from 2020.
“Amazing to get another championship for Antonio and I,” Taylor said. “Two in a row, and it was great to finish off the GTLM era with two championships like that.”
This was the final WeatherTech Championship race for the GTLM category, which is being replaced by the GTD PRO class in 2022.
See the full recap by John Oreovicz:
Provisional Race Results:
Unofficial Championship Points: