DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Consistency is defined as the application of something necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy or fairness.
As it applies to the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class this season, consistency is defined as something nearly impossible to attain.
Instead, the opposite abounds. Inconsistency has been the hallmark of the GTP season, and one of the principal reasons the championship is so close.
As the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship prepares for its season finale next month with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, three teams are separated by just five points atop the GTP standings. All told, six teams remain mathematically alive for the GTP championship.
Finding consistency has been the primary goal during the first season of the new hybrid-based GTP car. For teams and drivers, mastering new equipment has been challenging and frustrating. And, at times, rewarding.
“We are lucky to be where we are,” said Pipo Derani, who leads the standings by three points with co-driver Alexander Sims in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R. “We’ve won a race we shouldn’t have won, and we gave away probably two or three races that we should’ve won but didn’t. The car is new and there are new things that everyone is going through. Perhaps that’s costing everyone good results at times.”
If any team can claim it found consistency, it’s Porsche Penske Motorsport. The No. 6 car co-driven by Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy charged into the top three in points by winning the TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 17.
That ended a string of inconsistency. Three poor finishes, which included a postrace penalty that negated a win at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International in June, cost the No. 6 car. Before that, Jaminet and Tandy had posted three consecutive podium finishes, including a win at Long Beach in April.
“It’s just difficult with this new car because it performs better on some tracks than others,” Jaminet said. “It’s always a surprise when you show up. But we also see from weekend to weekend and from race to race that we’re usually in the top five or on the podium. That should be the aim, but everybody has had issues and mistakes, which makes it all quite inconsistent.”
Derani, Sims and No. 31 endurance driver Jack Aitken began the championship bid by winning the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March. What ensued was a series of hits and misses for the Cadillac, including a fourth-place finish at Indianapolis that pushed Derani and Sims into the championship lead that had slipped away the round before at Road America.
“We could have arrived with a much more comfortable lead in the championship,” Derani said. “But that’s part of the sport. You have ups and downs. You’ve got to look forward. Hopefully we can minimize the mistakes compared to everyone else and come out ahead.”
As the GTP class prepares for Michelin Raceway, the math leaves little room for error. Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and their No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 are three points behind the No. 31 Cadillac, with Jaminet and Tandy five points off the lead in the No. 6 Porsche 963.
Three other cars – the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 co-driven by Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly, the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 co-driven by Felipe Nasr and Matt Campbell and the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 shared by Tom Blomqvist and Colin Braun – also are eligible for the GTP championship. De Phillippi and Yelloly are 38 points behind the leaders, Nasr and Campbell are 73 points behind, while Blomqvist and Braun are a distant 127 points back.
The ongoing search for consistency, then, comes down to one 10-hour race.
“It’s a cliché, but the fastest car doesn’t always win,” Taylor said. “We’ve proven that through mistakes and some inconsistency with things we’ve done on track. … Everybody has had their misfortune this year. The championship now has been basically reset.”