Pfaff Motorsports continued its remarkable run in the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet played the strategy game to perfection to secure victory in the penultimate round of the season at Virginia International Raceway.
In the all-GT affair, Winward Racing secured the honours in GTD with the race-winning move done with just two minutes left on the clock as Philip Ellis passed a massively fuel-saving Maxime Martin in the Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin to secure their third class win of the season.
At the start, pole-sitter Ross Gunn – in the GTD Pro Heart of Racing Team Vantage – made a clean getaway to get to the Horseshoe with an unthreatened lead. Helped, in small part, by Campbell forcing his Porsche 991.2 GT3 R up the inside of Antonio Garcia in the Corvette C7.R to snatch away second on the opening lap.
From there, things settled down somewhat as teams all looked to extend their fuel mileage as much as possible, meaning action was on the quieter side until the first round of stops around the 50-minute mark into the 2-hour 40-minute encounter.
After the first round of stops, it was Jordan Taylor – taking over from Garcia – who held the lead after slick work by the Corvette pitcrew vaulted the American muscle car from third to first – just ahead of the Pfaff Porsche.
Taylor didn’t enjoy too much time in the lead, as the real turning point of the race took place on the half-way mark. Going through the fast left-right sequence of Snake, Russell Ward – in the Winward Racing car – found his racing line shut off and plowed through an advertising board. No damage was done to the car, but debris from the sign was scattered across the track.
The resulting Full Course Yellow gave almost all the field the opportunity take a free stop, with the exception of Magnus Racing and Team Hardpoint, and a quick service put Jaminet out onto track just behind Andy Lally, in the non-stopping Magnus Aston Martin.
Nerves, and a twitchy feeling through the teams, meant it was only about 20 minutes later that a number of teams jumped in again for what would be the final stop. Instigated by Stevan McAleer pitting the Team Korthoff Mercedes-AMG GT3 slightly off-schedule because of an earlier technical problem, Pfaff and Corvette both called their drivers in to make a stop to try and prevent being leap-frogged by McAleer should another FCY come out.
That meant there was an odd divide in the 17-car field – NTE/SSR retiring on the first lap with a blown engine – with the leading seven all in theory needing to make another stop to make sure they had enough fuel to get to the end, but trying to stretch out their fuel mileage as far as it could possibly go.
Jaminet was the leader of those who had made their final stops, and slowly but surely he made his way up the order as others took to the pits.
In the closing ten minutes, Ellis pitted the Winward entry to move Jaminet to second, after a 65-minute stint, which set the Frenchman free to attack Maxime Martin in the Heart of Racing Aston. With the Vantage racer needing to drastically save fuel, Jaminet sliced down the lead in no time at all, eventually securing the lead – the 10th lead change of the race – with just five minutes to go.
Taylor also powered through into second overall and was within a second to Jaminet, but ran out of time to make any attempts to try and force the lead. He does move himself and Garcia to second in the championship, though, and an outside chance of snatching the championship away at next month’s Petit Le Mans if Pfaff has a complete horror show at Road Atlanta.
Behind the leading duo, Winward took the GTD win as Ellis easily passed Martin going into Oak Tree for the penultimate time. The latter’s fuel saving went to the extreme but his 74-minute stint – pretty much entirely under green flag conditions – secured the team second in class.
Only just though. Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers was absolutely flying on the last two laps – no doubt told by the team that Martin was having to crawl round to avoid running dry – and cut down a 12-second lead to just two seconds at the chequered flag, one more lap and the BMW squad would have added second in GTD to their WeatherTech Sprint Cup Championship they secured by starting the race.
An intriguing battle for fourth in GTD went to Aaron Telitz and Frankie Montecalvo in the #12 VasserSullivan Lexus, fending off Wright Motorsports and WeatherTech Racing in a back-and-forth scrap for the final 30 minutes of the race.
Ninth overall, and securing the final podium position in GTD Pro, was the second of the VasserSullivan cars as Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat secured a solid result despite fading down the order as the race went on – benefitting from a drive-through for the pole-sitting Heart of Racing entry of Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas for having too many mechanics working on the car during the FCY pitstop.
Turner Motorsport rounded out the top ten, taking seventh in GTD. The team of Robbie Foley and Bill Auberlen had led for a significant amount of time, having made their first stop just after the two hours to go mark. However, their off-sequence plan didn’t quite pay off with only the one caution period, and had to make a late stop for a splash and dash.
The final round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Motul Petit Le Mans, with the 10-hour race taking place on October 1.
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