DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta has unusual title implications for the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class.
In the driver championship John Farano, who drives the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07, tops the standings with 1,640 points. Hot on Farano’s heels are Ryan Dalziel and Dwight Merriman, teammates on the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA, only 33 points behind.
Sitting alone in third place is Steven Thomas, 93 points behind Farano. Thomas drives the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA. In an odd twist this season, the sister No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen entry leads the team standings by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower LMP2. But because the No. 52 has employed different driver lineups for the endurance and sprint races, none of its drivers are in contention for the driver crown.
Farano scored his only victory of the season in May with co-driver Louis Deletraz at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Second-place finishes in the most recent races at Watkins Glen (with Rui Pinto de Andrade as the third driver) and Road America have allowed Farano to build his slim point advantage heading to the finale at Michelin Raceway, where he and the No. 8 are defending winners (teamed then with Gabriel Aubry and James French).
Dalziel says that he and Merriman are prepared for the challenge following a productive, two-day test session earlier this month at the winding, hilly Georgia road course.
“Tower has done a good job and they are one of our main competitors each weekend,” Dalziel said. “Looking at the points, it’s one of those deals that whoever finishes in front is pretty much going to snatch the driver title.”
Look for the No. 18 Era Motorsport car to ease into the brutal, 10-hour race. Last year, some early gusto was met with damning consequence.
“We got taken out by a DPi about 20 minutes into the race and that was game over for us,” Dalziel said. “We will probably be pretty conservative the first half of the race. Typically, the field thins out as the hours tick down.”
Meanwhile, Bobby Oergel, team principal at PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, looks like a genius with his game plan of swapping out driver lineups for the endurance and sprint races. In addition to leading the season team standings, No. 52 drivers Mikkel Jensen, Scott Huffaker and Ben Keating top the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup team and driver battles on the strength of wins at Sebring and Watkins Glen. Patrick Kelly, the 2020 LMP2 champion for PR1 Mathiasen, and 16-year-old Josh Pierson have started in the No. 52 for the three sprint races this season.
“When they are running that car with Keating, Jensen and Huffaker, they are pretty much the class of the field,” Dalziel said. “It’s a great team with three of the best drivers for this category. When they are around, they are definitely the benchmark team.”
It’s familiar territory for Oergel. Keating, Jensen and the No. 52 won the LMP2 driver and team championships last year. And along with Huffaker, they also brought home Michelin Endurance Cup driver and team honors.
“Ben was only able to do the endurance events this season, so we decided to take a run at the team championship with that program,” Oergel said. “This has worked good. They are all in-house guys. Pat Kelly won the championship with us in 2020. He’s been with us for four years. Josh drives our No. 11 car in endurance races, so this gave him a full season.”
Oergel will be on the pit stand at Michelin Raceway, but he won’t be constantly recalculating points as the race progresses.
“I don’t even know what we have to do win the team title,” he said. “I don’t play the numbers. I go to races to win them and if not win them, achieve the best possible results. The points work themselves out. I have never played the points game.”