Ally Cadillac drivers Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon, Calif.), Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) and Mike Rockenfeller (Germany) finished third in the 25th Motul Petit Le Mans, as part of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Kobayashi started today’s race from the third row, after turning the sixth fastest qualifying lap of 1:08.984 in Friday’s 15-minute qualifying session. Early in the race, Kobayashi was on a mission. He had the car in the top three just 13 laps into the race and ran as high as second before handing the car over to Johnson on lap 63.
From there, Johnson, Rockenfeller, and Kobayashi all had to deal with some adversity (i.e., penalties and traffic) at different times in the race. These issues caused the car to lose as many as two laps throughout the race, though the team did manage to get one lap back late in the race.
On lap 390, Kobayashi was behind the wheel running sixth with 54 minutes remaining. This is when things started to look up for the Ally Racing team. On lap 391, the No. 01 and No. 02 Cadillac made contact with each other in Turn 1. Both cars ended up in the tire wall and Kobayashi moved from sixth to fourth as a result. At the time, it seemed this is where the team would finish.
However, there’s an old adage that says, “It’s not over until it’s over.” Well, the race was not over and there was still time to gain more spots. With 12 minutes remaining, the No. 10 Acura sustained damage when it and a GTD car made contact. This forced the No. 10 to pit lane and Kobayashi inherited the final podium spot.
“It was a very challenging day,” Johnson said. “But, at the end of the race, we finally got some breaks to come back our way and ended up on the podium. It’s really tough trying to work traffic. I was brave sometimes, but I just needed to be more brave all of the time. I was just trying to be smart and cautious with the car. Ultimately, I left some speed on the table in my stint. But, I got two full stints in the car each time I was in. This has been great, what an awesome opportunity. I’m so thankful to Ally, Action Express, and Hendrick Motorsports. I’ve been able to meet and race with a lot of great people. It’s really been a fun two years.”
“Thank you to Cadillac, Action Express and my teammates, Jimmie and Mike,” Kobayashi said. “We did our best. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the pace in the beginning of the race. But, finally, something came to us and we got this podium in the last race. This is only one podium for this year, but we all worked really hard and it’s good to end the season like this. Thanks to all the guys.”
“We earned the podium in the last race of the season and of the DPis, which is satisfying,” Rockenfeller said. “But it just wasn’t our season for the 48 and not really our race. We didn’t have the pace early, and with the penalties we were always on the back foot. It was a tough day, but nice to get a podium.”
“That’s obvious in endurance racing,” Chad Knauss said regarding it not being over until it’s over. “That’s one lesson I’ve learned since we started in 2021 with the 24 Hours of Daytona. I’m really proud of the guys at Action Express Racing. Thank you to them for allowing me and the other Hendricks Motorsports teammates to be a part of this. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed working with Ian, Gary, Chris, Jimmie, Kamui, and Rocky. They did a great job. We didn’t necessarily have the pace we wanted, but we outlasted them today.”
Today’s third-place finish wraps up a two-year DPi program for the No. 48 Ally Cadillac. In the eight races that car competed, it finished with two podiums (the team’s first race and its last race – Daytona and Road Atlanta) and five Top-5 finishes.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return to the track in January 2023 with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
Source. Kyle Chura Associates/Photo. Brian Cleary
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