Here are your 2019 Michelin Endurance Cup champions

October 23, 2019

Here are your 2019 Michelin Endurance Cup champions

October 23, 2019

Some familiar faces and teams secured the 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup championships, and proved the top scorers in IMSA’s four longest races.

The four-race Michelin Endurance Cup comprises the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen and 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans for a total of 52 hours of racing.

Most eligible Michelin Endurance Cup drivers heading into Motul Petit Le Mans.

The Whelen Engineering Racing (DPi), Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports (GT Daytona) and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing (GT Le Mans) teams repeated their titles of 2018. Meanwhile Performance Tech Motorsports picked up the spoils in the LMP2 category.

Cadillac (DPi), Mercedes-AMG (GTD) and Ford (GTLM) matched their teams to win the Michelin Endurance Cup manufacturer’s championships.

Michelin Endurance Cup round winners at Motul Petit Le Mans.

Whelen Engineering Racing’s No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R came from behind to secure the DPi crown after entering two points behind the sister No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac entered by Wayne Taylor Racing.

A mix of strategic positioning to score maximum points at two of the three segments ensured Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran retained the crown. They won the race outright, and nearly secured the overall championship as well.

The remarkable run of form sees Action Express Racing win its sixth consecutive Michelin Endurance Cup, a feat achieved with both its No. 31 and No. 5 cars over that time period.

“The Michelin Endurance Cup is a big deal championship to win, and Action Express just keeps winning one after another,” Curran said. “Road Atlanta has been good to me for years, but never a win. I’ve been trying to win this race for many years, and I’ve come in second a number of times. I’ve also won a few championships here as well. But to come up with a win at Petit Le Mans is pretty impressive.”

Mercedes-AMG and Riley kept their Endurance Cup title streak alive with their third straight crown. In a year where their results in all of Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans didn’t fully match their performance on-track, they excelled and held off close rivals WeatherTech Racing and Scuderia Corsa to retain the crown.

Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen won the title with their third different third driver in as many years, Felipe Fraga following on from Luca Stolz (2018) and Mario Farnbacher (2017) previously. Fraga defended as best he could against Bill Auberlen on a fuel save strategy but was unable to make it home on fumes.

“It’s a lot of racing, and a lot can go wrong in all of these endurance races, but it was great,” Bleekemolen said. “We won another championship, three years in a row for the Endurance Cup with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and we can be really proud of that. We could have won the race, we were one liter short on fuel, but we showed what we can do. It was good, and we just went for it. If the overall leader had passed the finish line 10 seconds earlier, that would have even made a difference. It was really tight.”

Ford also deployed a come-from-behind strategy to retain its Endurance Cup crown in its last race as a factory GTLM program. Entering the race several points behind Porsche, the No. 67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon ran a flawless event. Briscoe set the race’s fastest lap and they finished second.

“Oh man, as far as what you can do in a race, and how the guys performed across the board, I think it’s one of the best outright performances we’ve ever had as a team,” Briscoe reflected.

“We just did everything absolutely right to the maximum, no mistakes. We had such a close battle at the end with the Ferrari, they just had a bit more speed and luck with the traffic. We gave it all we had.

“We got the (Michelin IMSA Endurance Cup) and got close to the manufacturer championship. The way we performed today made me so proud of the guys. It’s a bit emotional, I had a lot of thoughts going through my head the last few laps, but I’m really proud of the job that everyone’s done – today and for the past four years.”

Performance Tech’s Petit Le Mans was truncated after Cameron Cassels got hit from behind by Helio Castroneves. This inflicted serious race-ending damage to the No. 38 ORECA 07.

However courtesy of its performance earlier in the year at Daytona and Sebring, which they won, Performance Tech positioned itself well for Cassels and Kyle Masson to take home the Endurance Cup LMP2 title.

“We work hard every day of every weekend,” team principal Brent O’Neill said. “We didn’t end today the way wanted. We’re glad Cameron wasn’t hurt, that was a really hard hit. But I think we can be proud of an endurance championship. It proves that we know how to put together a car that goes the distance.”

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