Tandy’s historic Petit Le Mans victory


The weather at Road Atlanta for this year’s Petit Le Mans, the United SportsCar season finale, was abysmal. Days of persistent rain left the track and run-off areas totally waterlogged. Numerous rivers ran across the track and inevitably there were many incidents, accidents and long full-course yellows. In the end, the 10-hour race was red-flagged after 7hr 51min.

And there in the winners’ circle was Nick Tandy who drove another superb race aboard one of Porsche North America’s pair of 911 RSRs to beat all the prototype cars. Driving superbly in the atrocious conditions, Tandy passed Eric Curran’s Corvette Daytona Prototype to take the lead on lap 187, just before yet another yellow turned into a red flag after 199 laps.

Tandy thus scored a historic first overall victory for a GT car at Petit Le Mans, while his team-mate Patrick Pilet won this year’s USC GTLM drivers’ title and their car took the manufacturers’ and team championship.

“It was unbelievable,” Tandy grinned. “I was sure happy to see that chequered flag. We’ve got such a great car and such great tyres and it was a perfect race. This is one of the biggest races in the year and to win it is just incredible. It’s what dreams are made of.”

One of Team Rahal’s pair of GTLM BMW Z4s driven by John Edwards/Jens Klingmann/Lucas Luhr finished second. Meanwhile, João Barbosa/Sébastien Bourdais/Christian Fittipaldi took their second USC championship in a row for the Action Express team by finishing third overall.

“This was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done,” Barbosa said. “Conditions were brutal and it was very, very tough. The track conditions were so bad it was impossible to race. They made the right call to red flag the race.”

An ill-timed pitstop just before the final yellow for a driver change by Action Express’s second car driven by Dane Cameron/Eric Curran/Max Papis allowed Barbosa to pass them for third and earn enough points to wrap up the championship. “It was going to be a stroke of luck at the end of the race,” Fittipaldi remarked. “But that’s racing. We were a little bit lucky today, and it worked in our favour.”

Fittipaldi reflected on a difficult year wherein he and Barbosa beat Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante to the championship by just three points. “There were a couple of times this year where I thought we had lost the championship. One of them was Mosport where we had a great opportunity to shift the tables in our favour but unfortunately we picked up a puncture with about 10 minutes to go. Austin last month was a bad race for us and we arrived here at Petit Le Mans six points behind.

Action Express is based in North Carolina in the heart of stock car country and the team is run by NASCAR veteran Gary Nelson. The team’s chief engineer is Scot Iain Watt who worked in CART and NASCAR before joining Action Express. The team builds its own Coyote Daytona prototypes.

“Championships don’t come just on the track,” Fittipaldi commented. “It comes from the preparation and hard work of the team. This car has finished all but one lap over the past two years – every lap apart from one of every single race – and that says everything about the preparation and work the team put in.

“We have a fantastic group of people and we just need to keep working hard and keep up the pace because the competition is going to be working very hard over the winter.”

Next year’s IMSA/USC series kicks off with the Daytona 24 Hours at the end of January, followed by the Sebring 12 Hours six weeks later.

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