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SPORT NEWS – GTD delivers once more with wide-open championship chase

GTD delivers once more with wide-open championship chase


As soon as once more, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has delivered a dramatic multi-car Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) title battle that doubtless received’t be determined till the checkered flag of the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Highway Atlanta.

Via 10 hours of racing — within the daytime warmth after which moonlit Georgia sky — the championship trophy will doubtless be settled amongst a half-dozen drivers representing 4 groups. All want to develop into first-time champions in one of many WeatherTech Championship’s premier courses.

Two People, a Canadian, a Scot, a Belgian and a German will determine the always-competitive GTD championship Oct. 1. The drivers concerned insist that, with the best way this season has performed out — and with the unknowns of an endurance race to determine all of it – nobody is taken into account a flat-out front-runner.

Going into Motul Petit Le Mans, Roman De Angelis — Canadian co-driver of the No. 27 Coronary heart of Racing Crew Aston Martin Vantage GT3 — holds a 45-point benefit over Scottish driver Stevan McAleer within the No. 32 Crew Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.

American Ryan Hardwick and teammate and Belgian Jan Heylen – who co-drive the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R — are third within the standings, 57 factors off De Angelis.

American Russell Ward and German Philip Ellis — who share the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 — arrive at Michelin Raceway 140 factors behind the championship chief, nonetheless mathematically eligible for the massive trophy and using big-time momentum, coming off back-to-back victories (at Highway America and Virginia Worldwide Raceway) within the races main into this championship finale.

“When it comes all the way down to being this shut on the finish, something is feasible,’’ Hardwick stated. “Our staff has been on this place the final couple years, truly.

“In 2020, Patrick Lengthy and I had been all the way down to the ultimate race (at Sebring) … and we would have liked one (extra) automotive to be in between us and (the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing) Acura that yr. We didn’t get that one automotive, however we went on to win the race.”

“Jan (Heylen) and I final yr had been in an analogous state of affairs in Michelin Pilot Problem. It got here all the way down to the final race at Highway Atlanta and that one did go our means. “

These front-runners have actually confirmed their may within the longer endurance races. De Angelis received the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen with co-drivers Maxime Martin and Ian James. The identical trio will drive the No. 27 Aston Martin once more at Michelin Raceway, the place De Angelis, James and Ross Gunn received final yr’s finale.

Heylen, Hardwick, Zacharie Robichon and Richard Lietz teamed to win the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona within the No. 16 Porsche. The primary three of that quartet will reunite for Motul Petit Le Mans.

Whereas McAleer and the No. 32 Mercedes haven’t received a race in 2022, they did end third within the Rolex 24 and second on the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Introduced by Advance Auto Components. Mike Skeen and Dirk Mueller can be McAleer’s co-drivers at Michelin Raceway.

Factors chief De Angelis is cautiously optimistic.

“We’ve all the time form of been a robust automotive at Highway Atlanta. (It) simply actually appears to swimsuit the Aston (Martin), the type of high-speed flowing observe, just like Watkins Glen or Mosport,’’ De Angelis stated. “So positively a bonus there, particularly this being a fairly significant race, clearly the championship decider.

“But it surely’s an endurance race — clearly lengthy — so in contrast to a dash race, qualifying doesn’t actually appear to matter or assist as a lot. Lots of issues can occur over that very long time interval. On the finish of the day, you’ll be able to solely actually do your job and the staff should execute, however plenty of the opposite components are out of your management. We hope we will get as fortunate as we did final yr, however you by no means know what’s going to occur.”

That’s actually been the case this yr within the heralded GTD class. Heylen and Hardwick began robust with the win at Daytona after which two races later at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. But it surely’s been six races since their final victory.

De Angelis and his staff had a extra gradual ascent, stringing collectively three second-place finishes to go along with the Watkins Glen win. And naturally, Ward and Ellis have been pink sizzling.

“We now have big momentum proper now,’’ Ellis stated. “We now have had nice races within the final month or two and, to be trustworthy, we’ve got been quick the whole yr however didn’t have the outcomes come our means or the luck to complete the races we should always have completed.

“At Petit, we’ll do what we’ve got the previous couple of races: do the very best we will on our facet. We now have nice guys on the staff to try to win a 3rd consecutive race.

Added Ward, “I simply wish to try to hold ourselves in the very best place we will. It’s not over but, however we’re going to wish some luck to clinch it on the finish.”

There’ll undoubtedly be factors monitoring because the race goes on. Not one of the drivers appeared overly involved about maintaining with the championship standings … at the very least till sundown.

“It’s a must to make it via the primary eight hours to be in place to even take into consideration the championship,’’ De Angelis stated. “And that’s plenty of racing.

“The site visitors state of affairs is loopy, all the time tremendous busy, very chaotic. There’s not a lot room to provide and take there. The previous few pit stops in the previous couple of hours, I believe should you can place your self forward of anyone or be the place it is advisable to be to have that time hole to win the championship, then you definately’ll achieve this. However you need to make it to that time.

“Earlier than then, we’ll simply hold our heads down and survive and ensure we’re in a preventing place for the ultimate few hours, after which actually begin specializing in what we have to do to make the championship occur.”

Reside protection of the twenty fifth annual Motul Petit Le Mans opens with a three-hour block on NBC community at midday ET Saturday, Oct. 1. Persevering with protection via the end of the 10-hour race airs on Peacock and USA Community, together with full IMSA Radio protection on IMSA.com and SiriusXM Radio.

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SPORT NEWS – GTD delivers once more with wide-open championship chase
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