Porsche Penske 1-2 Sweep at Indy Sets Up Epic Battle for GTP Title

18 Sep. 2023 • 8:53
© Courtesy of IMSA

It was somewhat expected that Porsche Penske Motorsport would dominate Sunday’s Battle on the Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after topping the charts in Friday practice and Saturday’s qualifying session.


What emerged, though, was somewhat unexpected – an unusually close battle among at least three teams for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) title next month.


Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet propelled the team’s No. 6 Porsche 963 to victory in the 2-hour, 40-minute race, with Tandy finishing ahead of Felipe Nasr in the team’s No. 7 sister car with co-driver Matt Campbell.


The result created a championship battle in which just five points separate the top three cars in the GTP class heading into the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans on Oct. 14 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. One of those three cars was Sunday’s winner.


“I said before the weekend that we really needed to win here to have a decent shot going into Atlanta,” Tandy said. “It’s given us a chance at the end of the day. The teamwork that’s gone into giving the people that work in this team a chance to win in Atlanta is amazing.”


The GTP points shake out like this: Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims will go into Petit with the lead in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R after finishing fourth Sunday.


The No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 and its co-drivers, Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque, are three points behind after finishing fifth, while Sunday’s victory pulled Jaminet and Tandy to within five points of Derani and Sims.


“It’s mega,” Jaminet said. “That was the target this morning. We had a great qualifying. We had a great weekend. I have no words. It’s really a mega day for Porsche Penske Motorsport as well. It’s been great with Roger (Penske) here. It feels like a home race. I’m really happy to bring this one home. This puts us right back in the championship, so It’s going to be a fight back in Atlanta.”


As for the Penske sweep, it didn’t happen as easily as sweeps usually do. Tandy and Nasr overcame a ruling by race control for not following instructions in a timely manner while the prototype classes were splitting from the GT cars under caution an hour into the race.


The ruling allowed Derani to retain first place after he passed Tandy and Nasr when race control called to commence the class split. Nasr eventually regained the lead from Derani, only to be passed later by Tandy.


“The 31 already started accelerating and did pass us before we made the class split,” Tandy explained. “I maintain my position that we’d done the procedure correctly. They obviously thought they had done the procedure correctly. It was ruled by race control that they were to be up front.”


After the restart, Derani held the lead for 33 minutes before his brakes locked heading into Turn 1 and Nasr – and then Tandy – got past.


"The finish wasn't as important as the points, said Derani."We fought hard to bring home a solid finish for the championship," he said. "We moved up the grid from P8 to P4 and back in the championship lead. Obviously, (it's) not the race result we were looking for when we arrived here. We always want to win, but if you can’t win, you always try to get your best finish."


Nasr and Tandy then battled intensely until Tandy wrested control of the lead on an exchange of pit stops. The victory was the second of the season for Tandy and Jaminet, while Nasr and Campbell, who won the Motul Pole Award on Saturday, recorded their third podium finish of the season and remain in the championship battle in fifth place, 73 points behind.


Connor De Phillippi finished third in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 he shares with Nick Yelloly. They are currently fourth in the GTP championship standings, just 38 points behind the leaders and also very much in the mix heading to the season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.


Nearly overlooked in the renewed championship possibilities was the historic nature of a Penske team winning at a track owned by team owner Roger Penske.


“This is Indianapolis,” Tandy said. “It’s a world-renowned, historic venue. The IMSA series is a world-renowned, historic race series. To come here to a venue like this, especially for Porsche Penske Motorsport and all the ties the Penske Corporation has with this place, is massive. It means a huge amount. The fact that it’s a team 1-2 makes it even sweeter.”


Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta will begin Oct. 14 at 11:40 a.m. ET. Peacock will provide flag-to-flag streaming coverage in the U.S., and USA Network will join the live coverage at 6:30 p.m.


Jensen Powers TDS Racing to LMP2 Win and Date with the Bricks


Steven Thomas took a moment before answering a question Sunday to praise his co-driver, Mikkel Jensen.


“Mikkel is being very humble,” Thomas said. “He was the fastest car on track by two seconds. He drove from 50 seconds down all the way to the lead and we won by (19.909) seconds. I think he’s the best prototype driver on the planet.”


Jensen anchored their winning run on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class, a victory that gave the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07 the championship lead going into the season finale next month.


Thomas, Jensen and TDS now have a 20-point lead over the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA co-driven by Ben Keating and Paul-Loup Chatin, who finished fourth Sunday.


Ben Hanley and George Kurtz, who finished third in the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR ORECA, remain in the championship hunt, 100 points off the pace.


Jensen outlasted Louis Deletraz in a back-and-forth duel over the final 48 minutes of Sunday's race. Deletraz’s No. 8 Tower Motorsports ORECA regained the lead with 42 minutes left before Jensen took control again with 26 minutes remaining.


“At every race, we’ve been the fastest but we didn’t stay out of trouble,” Jensen said. “That’s been the difference. … We just have to keep working, developing the car and win it in Atlanta.”


The victory was the second of the season for TDS, which won in May at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.


“It’s very exciting to win one here at the Brickyard,” Thomas said before the team completed the postrace winning tradition of kissing the bricks at the start-finish line. “We’re really looking forward to going out there and kissing the bricks. I don’t think Mikkel knows what I’m talking about.”


Thomas was right. Jensen, a 28-year-old from Aarhus, Denmark, didn’t know about the tradition until earlier in the weekend.


“I learned on Friday that you have to kiss the bricks,” he said. “I’m not into the American history, so I didn’t know. It’s very cool.”


Mantella, Boyd, AWA Complete Iconic LMP3 Double with Indy Win


Daytona. Indianapolis. Racetracks with great histories and legacies. Anthony Mantella and Wayne Boyd have now written history of their own at the legendary circuits.


The co-drivers of the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 won the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) portion of the Battle on the Bricks, following their LMP3 triumph in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. Talk about your tremendous bookend wins.


“It’s a dream come true,” Mantella said after starting the race before turning the No. 17 over to Boyd on the first pit stop. “I’ve been following auto racing all of my life and you dream of doing something like this. It is surreal.


“When I think back to Daytona, it is one of the greatest moments of my life – especially to be driving with such professionals. And Indy is on that bucket list. To kiss the bricks after a win is every kid’s dream. Everybody that did it – (team owner) Andrew Wojteczko, Wayne and myself – we all did it with tears in our eyes because it means that much.”


The tears almost were for another reason after Boyd spun early into his stint, losing valuable time. But he completed a Danny Sullivan-like 360-degree and kept going unscathed. It was then that the AWA team made the call for Boyd to run longer than the rest of the LMP3 field on that stint before making a final pit stop.


The Brit did just that, pitting from first place with just less than 45 minutes remaining and re-entering the track still in the LMP3 lead by a narrow 1.5 seconds. He pulled away from there, crossing the finish line 12.755 seconds ahead of Josh Burdon in the No. 74 Riley Ligier JS P320 that he shared with Gar Robinson.


“I just took too much curb and it didn’t agree,” Boyd said of the spin. “But when we got going again, the pace in the car was unbelievable. Then all credit to the team. The car was unbelievable and the strategy got us the win.”


AWA’s victory ended the four-race winning streak of the No. 74 Riley Ligier. Still, by finishing second, Robinson and the No. 74 hold a comfortable 244-point lead over Mantella, Boyd and the No. 17 Duqueine with only the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans on Oct. 14 remaining on the schedule.


Yet regardless of whether they can win the LMP3 title, Boyd knows he and Mantella have accomplished something exclusive with 2023 wins at a pair of illustrious tracks.


“It’s awesome,” Boyd said. “To get the opportunity to even race in IMSA is fantastic, but as Anthony says, it’s a dream to win in such events with the prestige that they have of Daytona and then to win at Indy. It’s very special.”


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