PORTIMÃO, Portugal (October 25, 2018) - It is championship season, time for the top teams to stamp their names in the record books to celebrate their success earned over the course of hundreds of laps in competition.
The 2018 IMSA season is officially in the books, with one AERO Sustainable Paint Technology squad scoring a big victory to close out the year while two others capped the season with hard-fought championship titles.
But there are championships still up for grabs as the European Le Mans and Michelin Le Mans Cup series stage the final races of the season in Portimão, Portugal this weekend.
Road Atlanta IMSA Finale: Winners and Championship Thrillers
The ten-hour WeatherTech Petit Le Mans was preceded by the IMSA Continental Tire season finale, which saw Compass Racing crowned as the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge champions in the first-ever season of IMSA TCR class competition. The team had claimed seven wins and 16 podiums heading into the event and sealed the inaugural IMSA TCR Championship after Britt Casey Jr. and Tom Long finished third in their AERO-painted Audi S3 TCR entry.
Saturday’s ten hour Petit Le Mans WeatherTech finale once again separated the strong from the weak as the event pushed the limits of car and driver for an intense day to night event.
One team that was not phased was Corvette Racing. The team, which combines the beauty of AERO Sustainable Paint with the unmistakable thunder of its monstrous V8 machines, claimed its 12th driver championship and 13th team title over the team’s 20-year career. With an incredible record at the event, the iconic yellow livery sliced through the air as Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia looked to seal their championship advantage. But a miscue from Garcia saw the team forced behind the wall during the night for a record repair that took just over five minutes.
The team’s AERO-equipped sister car also made an impressive drive which moved Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler from fifth to third in the final championship standings.
“It was definitely a tough race,” said Garcia. “From Lap 1, I went in the lead and every time I was in the car I was going for it instead of holding position. It probably went from one of my best races of my career to the most embarrassing moment of my career. But that means Team Chevy and Corvette Racing did all the prep work before this race and allowed us to come back from that. I'm very happy. It will take me a little bit to forget that mistake, but I'm very happy for the whole team.”
Also utilizing AERO’s advantage was BMW RLL who has delivered several highlights throughout the season including wins at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Virginia International Raceway with the first-year BMW M8 platform. The team added to that accomplishment at Road Atlanta when John Edwards, driver of the No. 25 BMW M8, qualified on pole for the 10-hour event to put an exclamation point on the development for the all-new GTLM machine ahead of scoring third to close out the year.
The GTLM factory battleground wasn’t the only huge contest in Atlanta, as the GTD class finale saw the winner decided by all of 0.876-seconds after over 1,000 miles of racing. With margins like that, it is no surprise that it was the winner who carried the AERO advantage all the way to the checkered flag as the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech entry of Cooper MacNeil, Daniel Serra, and Gunner Jeanette capped off the season with a win for Ferrari.
“It was an epic weekend, to finish off the WeatherTech Championship with a victory in the WeatherTech car,” said MacNeil. “A big hat’s off Daniel (Serra) and Gunnar (Jeannette) for driving their butts off for the whole race, the whole weekend for that matter. The Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech guys never put a wheel wrong all weekend, with no penalties, and that’s how you win in a competitive championship like the WeatherTech.”
The sister Scuderia Corsa of Townsend Bell, Marco Cressoni and Frankie Montecalvo finished the race in fifth in the beautiful Rosso Corsa AERO-painted No. 64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 entry.
ELMS Season Finale Preview
One race season may be over, but there are still several championships up for grabs as the European Le Mans Series heads to Portimão for its final four-hour endurance event of the season. The Michelin Le Mans Cup teams will also be vying for championship bragging rights to close out the year this weekend.
Sporting the fully equipped AERO livery across the line up, the dominating United Autosports squad is looking to score its third consecutive ELMS LMP3 championship this weekend. Coming off a big double victory at Spa, United Autosports is hoping to bring that momentum to Portimão.
Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson took victory at Spa in the No. 22 Ligier JS P217 and are aiming for a solid result as they race in Albuquerque’s back yard.
“I am really looking forward to the next round,” said Albuquerque. “Firstly, because it’s my home race and secondly, we come to Portugal off the back of our victory at Spa. I think Portimão suits our Ligier better than Spa so I am curious to see our speed and performance against the competition. Portimão will be very special because the LMP2 championship is already decided and no one is fighting for that, only for the race win. That can make things very interesting for the crowd.”
Also joining the LMP2 ranks for United Autosports is Will Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer, and Wayne Boyd in the No. 32.
The No. 3 Ligier JS P3 of Garrett Grist, Matt Bell and Tony Wells currently sit third in the LMP3 championship standings, just 1-point behind second and 15-points out of the lead and are hoping to nab the victory this weekend. The No. 2 Ligier JS P3 of John Falb and Scott Andrews are hoping to score a second consecutive victory this weekend and end the year on a high note.
Spotters guide, ELMS at Portimão:
The build up to the ELMS finale will include the year-ending race for the Michelin Le Mans Cup, which features GT3 and LMP3 class machines that race on the most compelling circuits in Europe.
United Autosports not only utilizes the AERO advantage on its fleet in the ELMS, but also shares that advantage with its lineup of Michelin Le Mans Cup entries.
The team will campaign a three-car program, including WeatherTech championship runner-up Colin Braun and his co-driver Naj Husain. The No. 23 LMP3 entry of Richard Meins and Christian England boasts a gorgeous iteration of the traditional Gulf livery on the Ligier-Nissan combination.
Matt Bell and Jim McGuire had a strong third place finish last year at Portimão and are hoping to get back on the box to close out the season.
“This season has been a strong effort by all without the results we have hoped for,” said McGuire. “Regardless we have had great fun and we push on to our last MLMC race of 2018. Portimão is where Matt and I had an epic podium in 2017 and that brings fantastic memories of the look on Richard Dean's face once he laid his eyes on the trophy. That look was the highlight of 2017 for me! At Portimão we will work hard to get good pace with our AERO-painted Ligier JS P3 and hope to repeat our 2017 result. United Autosports has been outstanding. We have an incredible crew behind us both on and off track. I'm excited to take our Ligier out in Europe one more time and let that AERO shine under the Portugal sun.”
“Heading into the final round of the year still in with a chance of the LMP3 Championship is a great achievement to say we have been pretty unlucky this year,” said Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports. “I’m hopeful after a couple of great results last time out at Spa we can continue that momentum into the final round.”
The roster of teams that have AERO-painted liveries continues to grow, with success rising along with it. Case in point is the Ecurie Ecosse team, which arrives in Portugal with the momentum of a convincing team 1-2 weekend at Spa when the No. 79 Ecurie Ecosse of Colin Noble and team director and driver Alasdair McCaig who scored the victory ahead of the sister No. 2 LMP3 entry of Anthony Wells and James Littlejohn coming home second.
Also carrying an AERO-painted livery will be the No. 4 Brookspeed LMP3 entry of John Schauerman and Nico Rondet. Brookspeed, based in the UK, also utilizes AERO on the GT4 Porsche that the team races internationally.
- The Michelin Le Mans Cup race will kick off the weekend on Sunday with its two-hour race beginning at 4:00am ET (9:00am local) followed by the ELMS race starting at 8:30am ET (12:30pm local).
- The races will be carried at https://www.europeanlemansseries.com/en/ and https://www.lemanscup.com/en/ respectively!