Wayne Taylor Racing snatches victory as Petit Le Mans ends with crash and tempers flaring
Renger van der Zande took first after Pipo Derani and Ricky Taylor collided while racing for the lead late in the Motul Petit Le Mans, delivering a victory Saturday to Wayne Taylor Racing as tempers flared at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Driving with Ryan Briscoe and five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, van der Zande extended the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship points lead in DPi for the No. 10 Cadillac, which opened the season by winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona with the same driver lineup.
With just more than 10 minutes remaining in the 10-hour event, Derani’s No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express was leading while under heavy pressure from the No. 7 Acura Team Penske being driven by Taylor. Entering the sixth turn, Taylor dove to the inside and got beside Derani, and the ensuing contact caused both drivers to spin off course.
Van der Zande inherited first and remained there until another full-course caution flew a few minutes later, freezing the field as the race ended under yellow.
“I didn’t know they were fighting at all, really,” van der Zande told NBCSN. “I just saw the gap growing closer and closer, and I just kept asking them and I was just chipping it down. The car was flying at the end.”
Taylor hung on to finish second and was confronted afterward by Derani, who had a heated exchange with Helio Castroneves, Taylor’s Penske teammate. Taylor and Castroneves were trying to win their fourth consecutive race in IMSA’s top class.
“I told (Taylor) I always had a lot of respect for him, but I was out in the lead, I was in front, and he pushed me out, and that’s it,” Derani, whose Whelen Engineering entry finished fifth, told NBCSN. “There’s nothing much to say. Unfortunately, we lost the race, we did everything we could. We were 10 laps to go, leading the race, and he just pushed me out on a desperate move to try and go to the lead.
“I think it was a mistake on his side. I hope he sleeps on it and thinks a little bit because at the moment, he thinks it’s my fault, but I don’t know what I could have done different. I was out in front.
“We’ll take the positives out of this race. We did a fantastic race. Acura was much quicker than us, but we were there at the end leading the race. I put two fantastic passes on him after losing the lead on a pit stop. I just want to take home those feelings. We did everything we could. I lost a little bit of respect for him and his teammates trying to accuse me of doing something wrong. But it is what it is. I’m not at the racetrack to make friends. I want to win the next one.”
Derani also had postrace words late Saturday night with Ricky’s brother, Jordan, who made a sardonic Twitter video after they collided during practice last month at Mid-Ohio.
Said Ricky Taylor in a Team Penske release: “We showed all weekend that we were going to be tough to beat and it played out that way in the race. I hate the way that it ended and in no way did I mean to take out (Derani). It’s Petit Le Mans. Everyone wants to win this race, and I saw an opportunity to do that for my team. To come home second is a solid points day, but we were the car to beat at the end, and I’m bummed that we didn’t end on top of the podium.”
After its second victory this season, WTR’s No. 10 of Briscoe and van der Zande took an eight-point lead over the No. 7 Penske of Castroneves and Taylor with two races remaining. Derani is ranked third in the standings, 12 points behind.
“It’s just massive,” Briscoe told NBCSN. “What a finish. It just goes to show never give up, just hang in there. Renger was doing a hell of a stint at the end, pushing and pushing saying, ‘I’m never going to give up.’ And fortune fell our way.”
It was the first Petit Le Mans victory for Dixon, who will be shooting for his sixth IndyCar championship in the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.
“It’s so much fun to drive with this team,” Dixon told NBCSN. “All we needed was a caution. Renger definitely had the speed and closed the gap by over 10 seconds that last stint. So happy for everybody. So good to be on this team. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck.”
In the other classes:
--GTLM: Porsche Motorsport scored its first victory of the season in IMSA as the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19 snapped the two-race winning streak of Corvette Racing’s No. 3 C8.R.
Fred Makowiecki, co-driving with Nick Tandy and Matt Campbell, held off Antonio Garcia, who was paired with Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg. The victory meant Porsche won’t go winless in the automaker’s last season before exiting GTLM, which was announced four months ago.
“We’ve had such a poor season, so many things have gone wrong,” Tandy said. “The middle of the race seemed we wouldn’t be that competitive. To come out with a win, my fourth at Petit, it’s amazing. This makes up for all the bad times in the season so far. Mega.”
--GTD: The No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Jeff Westphal, Alessandro Balzan and Cooper MacNeil took the victory in a points standings shake-up.
The No. 86 Acura of Meyer Shank Racing finished 28th overall and fell from first to fourth in the championship, moving Aaron Telitz into the lead, two points ahead of AIM Vasser Sullivan teammate Jack Hawksworth (who finished second in class Saturday with Telitz).
--LMP2: The No. 8 ORECA LMP2 07 of Tower Motorsport by Starworks took the checkered flag, beating the No. 38 of Performance Tech Motorsports. John Farano, Mikkel Jensen and Job van Uitert were the winning drivers.