The 2022 IMSA Petit LeMans

Saying goodbye to DPI and hello to GTP

by Steve Erlichman

My IMSA race-going season is over. A year that started for me at the Daytona Rolex 24 (my 33rd). GTDs at Lime Rock were followed by my first LeMans 24 hours (see the two-part report here). On to my 45th Watkins Glen 6 Hours and then finally to the 2022 IMSA Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta.

Our Petit LeMans opened with Thursday night practice. Darkness poses a particular challenge for photography, which is easiest when the cars are going slower. We went to slow turn 7 at the far end of the circuit where I shot for about an hour. I stopped shooting to watch the cars as glowing brakes and exhausts lit up the darkness. Acceleration out of this first gear corner is hard as it flows on to the long back straight. Drivers fight for control as traction controls crackle to limit wheel spin. Much Georgia red clay is kicked up as drivers push hard looking for top-end speed.

Petit LeMans is the traditional finale to the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship. Coming into this event several season championships were still to be decided. The only exception was the GTD Pro class where the Pfaff Porsche team had only to take the green flag to clinch the team championship. Drivers Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet were joined by fellow Porsche factory driver Felipe Nasr for this race. The team ran into trouble during the race and weren’t a factor but took home the championship nonetheless.

The GTD Pro win at Petit went to the Vasser/Sullivan Lexus RCF GT3 driven by Hawksworth, Barnicoat and Kirkwood. It was the first endurance victory for the team and the Lexus brand. 

The end of the DPi era

The close of the DPi era came down to this race and two teams. The Acura teams of Wayne Taylor and Meyer Shank were separated by only a few points coming into the race. Simply put the team that finished the highest would win the championship. Both teams added third drivers for this 10 hour race. Helio Castroneves joined the Shank team and LeMans winner Brendon Hartley joined the WTR squad. The two teams went at it for over 9 hours trading the lead between themselves and the CGR Cadillacs.

In the end the two CGR Cadillacs came together in Turn 1 and were out on the spot. A technical problem with the WTR car necessitated a long pit stop that allowed the Shank cars to take the win and the season championship. It is the second manufacturer’s title for the Acura brand.

Other class championships

There was also a scrap for the P2 class championship that ended prematurely when the #52 PR1 Mathieson Wynns car crashed. It eliminated them from the race and the championship. Tower Motorsport’s John Farano, Louis Deletraz and Rui Andrade took the race win and the gave Farano the P2 championship.

The P3 race winner was the Andretti Autosport Ligier of Andretti, Burdon and Chaves, though the championship went to the Core Autosport team of John Bennett and Colin Braun.

The GTD class championship went to Ian James’ Heart of Racing Aston-Martin team. Roman DeAngelis shared the championship with Maxime Martin joining for the enduros.

The 2022 IMSA Petit LeMans continued the tradition of IMSA championships going down to the wire and sometimes the last laps. Petit is definitely one of the great races in the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship. 

Looking toward 2023

We say farewell to a great era of endurance racing prototypes in the USA. IMSA DPi cars will be replaced with GTP/LMDh cars for 2023. Acura, Cadillac, Porsche and BMW will have all-new hybrid powered machines on the grid at the Rolex 24 in January 2023. The brands have created their own bodywork to identify with their road cars. The new cars are based upon the P2 spines of four approved chassis makers. Engines will vary; Porsche and BMW will use V8 turbos. Cadillac will use a new DOHC naturally aspirated V8 and Acura will race with a V6 twin-turbo. A spec KERS hybrid system developed by Williams GP Engineering will be in every GTP?LMDh car. It all adds up to a total of about 770 horsepower. Lamborghini will join the party in 2024. 

All four of the new cars were on display in the Road Atlanta paddock ahead of testing at Road Atlanta following the race.

The Penske Porsche team will run two cars in IMSA next year. JDC Miller will be the first customer team for the Porsche here in IMSA. Chip Ganassi and Action Express will run a Cadillac each next year and Rahal Letterman Lanigan team will run a BMW in the IMSA series.

In an historic agreement with the ACO (they run the LeMans 24 hours) the GTP cars will be eligible to run in both IMSA and World Endurance series. It also means that LeMans Hypercars (LMH) from Toyota, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, Ferrari, Alpine and ByKolles Vanwall could all run in the IMSA series too. IMSA and ACO will use Balance of Performance criteria to assure equality amongst the different cars.

Long live the DPi formula. Bring on the hybrids!

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A gallery of race photos from Road Atlanta