DETROIT – Knowing that winning the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic was vital to sparking their comeback into IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship points contention, Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande essentially led Saturday’s 100-minute sprint race from start to finish.
But it was far from easy. Bourdais, who claimed the Motul Pole Award with a track record lap of the Belle Isle Raceway 2.3-mile, 14-turn temporary street course on Friday, led the first half of Saturday’s race before bringing the No. 01 Cadillac V-Performance Academy DPi-V.R in to hand off to van der Zande.
While saving fuel to make the single-stop strategy work, the Dutchman withstood intense pressure from Oliver Jarvis in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 DPi throughout his 50-minute closing stint.
Meanwhile, Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi was catching them at a rapid rate while trying to execute a two-stop gameplan. Derani caught the lead duo and Earl Bamber in the third-place No. 02 Cadillac Racing DPi-V.R with about 25 minutes remaining.
From there, it was a nail-biter to the finish, with van der Zande in control at the front and a frenetic battle for the remaining two podium positions. Derani briefly moved into third place, but ultimately crossed the finish line fourth after a fierce scrap with the No. 02 Cadillac. However, the No. 31 Cadillac was found underweight in postrace technical inspection and moved to the rear of the class.
Bourdais and van der Zande completed 73 laps, a record distance for the Detroit race that ran without a full-course caution for the first time. They won by 0.398 seconds over Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Acura, followed by Bamber and co-driver Alex Lynn in the No. 02 Cadillac.
“What a day!” Bourdais exclaimed after his ninth career IMSA victory. “It was definitely not the easiest race we ever won, but I’m super proud of that whole (No.) 01 Cadillac team. We had to save a ton of fuel. Renger brought it home, and it was very hard. It was hard-fought, but it’s that much sweeter when you win it.”
The triumph was a long time in the making for the No. 01 team, which has endured a rollercoaster 2022 season that left it sixth in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) standings heading into the weekend. The points for the Detroit pole position and race win vaulted Bourdais, van der Zande and the No. 01 into fourth position, unofficially 143 points behind Jarvis, Blomqvist and the No. 60 Acura with four races still remaining.
“It seems like it’s been feast or famine for the (No.) 01,” said team owner Chip Ganassi, whose organization prepares the Nos. 01 and 02 Cadillacs and collected the team’s 63rd IMSA win. “They either win or something stupid happens.”
Bourdais has earned pole position for four of the last five WeatherTech Championship races, but prior to Detroit, he and van der Zande won just once this season on the streets of Long Beach, California, and failed to finish on three occasions.
“It’s a good points day,” declared van der Zande, who now owns 17 career IMSA race wins and made it back-to-back Detroit victories following last year with Kevin Magnussen in the No. 01. “The championship is not over until it’s over, so all we have to do is keep winning races and see where we end up. We had some trouble this year, so I’m very happy to get it behind us. Win this one, and hopefully some more.
“Today was a bit of a gamble for everyone,” he added. “We have great strategy on the pit wall, and we have a guy (Bourdais) who can save a lot of fuel. I think we saved a bunch, and then it was just the tactics on the track. It was kind of a fun game. When there was a gap, I was lifting massively, and then when there was traffic, I could give it a bit more. But we got it done.”