Scott Dixon has come away with a maiden Petit Le Mans victory after a frantic finish had two erstwhile leaders collide with ten minutes to go.
Dixon’s co-driver Renger van der Zande was running third as the 10 Hour race around Road Atlanta wound down to its final few moments. Up front, the duel for the lead was between the Acura Team Penske prototype driven by Ricky Taylor and the Action Express Cadillac of Pipo Derani.
The two were separated by nothing across the last two hours with Taylor getting the jump of Derani in the final pitstop phase courtesy of a shorter fuel stop.
Derani regained the lead just two laps later, but as they both navigated themselves through lapped traffic, Taylor saw an opportunity to dive up the inside at Turn 6. The pair collided and skated off the road.
Derani was eliminated on the spot, and that allowed van der Zande to move into the lead, taking victory with co-drivers Dixon and Ryan Briscoe.
Race Control cleared Taylor of any wrongdoing, and he followed the winning Cadillac home behind the safety car. Teammate Dane Cameron was third and like van der Zande had suffered an early off which seemingly ruled themselves out of contention.
Cameron and co-drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud dominated much of the opening half of the race. The Acura Penske looked en route for a comfortable win before it was caught up in an incident involving a slower LMP2.
Similarly, the front-running #77 Mazda RT24-P of Tristan Nunez, Oliver Jarvis and Olivier Pla fell away around the five-hour mark and never recovered.
Tristan Vautier brought the JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac home fourth, with AXR classified fifth.
Dixon, van der Zande and Briscoe now open up an eight-point lead in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance cup, following up on their Rolex 24 at Daytona victory in January.
“I saw the gap getting closer and closer,” van der Zande said. “We gambled with the setup. It wasn’t good at the start, but it got better later in the race.”
“This was massive,” Briscoe said. “What a finish! It shows you never give up, and fortune went our way.”
When van der Zande seized the lead of the race, he initially had to deal with a fired-up Taylor for the final five-minute dash. But the race was quickly neutralised under yellow flags one last time when Laurens Vanthoor crashed heavily in the #912 LMS Porsche.
Vanthoor was driving alongside Kiwi Earl Bamber and Frenchman Mathieu Jaminet when he collided with a GTD Lexus while hunting down the second-placed Corvette. Vanthoor spared off the road and into the barrier which had the race ultimately end under caution.
The result was a bitter blow for Bamber and Vanthoor whose certain podium result would have marked the pair’s first podium since Sebring in July.
Victory went to the sister Porsche factory car driven by Fred Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Matt Campbell. They benefitted from the leading BMW of Augusto Farfus being punted off the circuit by a prototype car.
Scuderia Corsa’s WeatherTech Ferrari 488 won the GT Daytona class, while the Tower Motorsport by Starworks won the four-car battle in LMP2 after their main rival fell away with mechanical troubles.