Cadillac V-Performance racing team Konica Minolta is poised to win the team and driver’s championship and Cadillac the manufacturer title at this weekend’s running of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Motul Petit Le Mans to run at Road Atlanta, October 4-7.
Konica Minolta Cadillac drivers Ricky and Jordan Taylor along with Ryan Hunter-Reay head into the final race of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship season simply having to take the green flag and one driver has to complete the minimum 45-minute drive time to win the team and driver’s championship as well as the manufacturer title for Cadillac. The team is also in contention to win the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC) with a strong finish.
Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque are coming into the weekend leading the TPNAEC points with 38. Along with wanting a second win in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac Dpi-V.R they are looking to walk across the banquet stage on Monday as TPNAEC champions.
The Whelen Engineering and Mustang Sampling teams are also racing for honors this weekend. Eric Curran, Dane Cameron and Michael Conway in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Dpi-V.R are hungry for another win. Just missing out on their second victory of the season two weeks ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, they are ready for this weekend.
With championships on the line, every team wants to win the prestigious Petit Le Mans. The race, celebrating its 20th running (inaugurated in 1997) has become one of the Big Four in endurance racing alongside the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona, Sebring 12 Hours and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The undulating 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit located 45-minutes northeast of Atlanta is an equalizer for many teams and cars.
In the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac Dpi-V.R, brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor will be joined by IndyCar Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay have a plan to secure the titles and then go for the Petit Le Mans win. The team won the first five IMSA WeatherTech Championship DPi races.
“I would like to get the first 45-minutes out of the way cleanly, then we can race with nothing to lose for the final 9 hours and 15 minutes,” Ricky Taylor said. “It is a unique position because we can truly take risks and enjoy the race instead of being on eggshells for the championship. Petit Le Mans is a classic event and one of the biggest races on our calendar. Although we won the first five races of the season, winning at Petit Le Mans would be the cherry on the cake. Also, we are looking to fight for the TPNAEC points throughout the race as well. This will be a tough event, with the big teams bringing in the LMP2 spec cars, we will have our work cut out for us as we have been nailed back a few times since we saw them in Sebring. I think our Cadillac will perform well though and we will need to again prove its strength in these longer events.
“The number one goal heading into the race is getting to the 45-minute mark to clinch both championships,” Jordan Taylor said. “Once that is done, we can switch to treating the race like we treated the races early in the year, being aggressive and taking risks we need to, to win the race. It’s one of our biggest races of the year, plus it’s an important race for the TPNAEC, so we’ll be fighting hard. Endurance races suit our team well. The added pit stops and potential for different strategies in the race suit our team’s strengths. I think Road Atlanta will be a great track for the Cadillac. Compared to last year, we have a big increase in overall downforce, and going to a place that is so high speed like Road Atlanta, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
For Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque in No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac Dpi-V.R they also have a win on the season at Watkins Glen in June and can win the TPNAEC trophy this weekend.
“I am excited that we have the chance to get another championship,” said Fittipaldi. “I have always enjoyed racing at Road Atlanta, it is a cool track. We are going for the win in the race, and hopefully it works out to take the championship as well. If you think about how this (TPNAEC) championship is all about the long races, it shows how strong the team is at preparing the cars to not only be able to finish the races, but to be fast through them as well. Cadillac has done a great job this year and we owe a lot to the effort they put into this car.”
“It is very important to have your car working well and to be capable of fast laps, because you have to capitalize on the times that there isn’t traffic – which is not often!” smiled Barbosa. “The traffic is a very important factor at Road Atlanta. There are a lot of cars, and every class of course has different speeds. It gets pretty crowded and there aren’t many overtaking spots. We’ve had some very good races there. We are leading the TPNAEC so that is our goal on Saturday and the best way to achieve that is to have a clean and good race and finish first. It would be great to finish the year on a high to get ready for 2018.”
“We were in a good position last year but we had a puncture with three hours to go and that lost us a lap,” said Albuquerque, who will race the Mustang Sampling entry full time in 2018. “We will have to stay away from problems, and Road Atlanta is a narrow track so that can be a challenge! I am really enjoying racing the Cadillac Dpi-V.R, it is a very sophisticated car with good grip and power so it is a very good car to drive and hopefully it will help us navigate the traffic and stay out of trouble this weekend.”
The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Dpi-V.R team of Eric Curran, Dane Cameron and Michael Conway are looking to add to their lone win in 2017 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“Being the last race of the season, Road Atlanta is always a special event and it is where I’ve won my last three titles (2007 Pro Mazda, 2014 IMSA GTD, 2016 IMSA Prototype),” said Cameron. “Ever since the beginning of my career in Formula Ford, I’ve loved this track. It requires so much commitment, and it is really rewarding when you get it right. It is also one of my favorites in the dark, it is so cool flying around there at night. It is a great event but the race is hard with the traffic and with the car count making it pretty tricky to make up time while also being smart. I’ve not got a Petit win, so that is a very big box that I’d like to check off this weekend!”
Source. Kyle Chura/Cadillac Racing