BRASELTON, Ga.- The suspense will be over soon for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and the other IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams still in contention for 2018 championship and Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC) titles.
After leading the GTLM standings for much of the year, Ford CGR enters Petit Le Mans as the underdog, even after all but securing the manufacturer’s title for Ford.
The No. 67 duo of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook are second in the driver and team standings, nine points behind the leaders, entering the 10-hour Petit Le Mans, the final race of the season.
Briscoe and Westbrook combined to earn three wins (Rolex 24, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Road America) and two poles (Watkins Glen, VIR) so far this year.
“We’ve fallen a bit behind on the points, but we can still win it and we have one goal, to go out and win the race and see where the points fall at the end of it,” Briscoe said. “It’s an important race to win no matter where you are in the championship, so you’re going to have everyone gunning for the win. It’s always an exciting race, one of my favorites.”
The championship hopes of the No. 66 Ford GT driver team of Joey Hand and Dirk Müller were ended at Laguna Seca, when Müller was collected in a prototype accident at the drop of the green flag. They are still in contention for the TPNAEC crown with third driver Sébastien Bourdais, as are Briscoe, Westbrook and Scott Dixon.
“We’re not really able to win the overall championship at this point, but (Petit Le Mans is) a race I haven’t won before personally,” Hand said. “It would be great for me to put on the list with the other endurance races. It’s the last big one I haven’t won. For me, it’s a big deal. On top of that, going after TPNAEC, we’ll put a little more focus on the stage points and see if we can put ourselves in the position to get the right points at the right times. Not having to worry about the main championship, we can put a little more focus on that.”
The No. 66 Ford GT team has a four-point lead in the TPNAEC, with the No. 67 in third, five points behind. Ford has a five-point lead in the TPNAEC manufacturer’s title chase that awards the best-performing teams in IMSA’s endurance races (Daytona/Sebring/Watkins Glen/Petit Le Mans).
“This is a tough race,” Hand said. “Petit Le Mans is one of those where it’s only 10 hours, but it always ends up being a really crazy race. It’s just the nature of the Road Atlanta track. You don’t have a lot of room, you’re fighting other cars, you finish in the dark, guys are doing crazy things. It’s not an easy race to finish. You have to first find a way to finish, then you might have a chance to win it.”
If Ford CGR crosses the starting line, the IMSA GTLM manufacturer’s title will be won for Ford.
“I don’t think anyone at Ford CGR is giving up the fight quite yet. It’ll go down to the wire,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports. “It’s been quite a season for the Ford GT and the team and all of our partners, and we’re looking forward to seeing the conclusion!”
The green flag drops for Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2018. The race will be broadcasted inside the U.S. on FOX Sports 1 and 2, starting at 10:30 a.m. ET, and outside the U.S. on IMSA.tv.