IMSA WeatherTech: Third victory for Riley Motorsports
4 - 7 August 2022 – En route to Road America for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. With the fastest time in free practice, pole position with #33 entered by Sean Creech Motorsport, victory with #74 run by Riley Motosports, plus the fastest lap in the race and a podium finish for CORE Autosport's #54, the Ligier JS P320s exerted total domination on the sixth round of the championship despite very unsettled weather!
The #33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 driven by Joao Barbosa and Malthe Jakobsen topped the time sheets in the first free practice session on Friday 5th August on the Road America circuit in Wisconsin. The #33 LMP3 set the fastest lap in a time of 2:00.439s in front of #74 run by Riley Motorsports. In the late afternoon, #36 entered by Andretti Autosport (Jarrett Andretti and Gabby Chaves) improved the quickest time in FP2 with a lap in 2:00.039s.
On Saturday 6th August, Jakobsen in the #33 Ligier JS P320 clinched pole position with a lap in 1: 59.434s, which turned out to be the fastest lap in the category all weekend. Andretti's #36 and Riley Motorsports'#74 completed the top 3.
A slippery track due to rain
On Sunday, it looked like the race would be a difficult one as light rain was falling on the Road America circuit. It wasn't heavy enough to warrant putting on wet weather tyres, but was already too heavy for slicks. While the #33 Ligier JS P320 held on to first place #38 run by Performance Tech Motorsport driven by Cameron Shields and James French moved up from fifth to third place and then overtook the Andretti Autosport #36 on the third lap. The rain eased off but certain parts of the track were still damp. An LMP2 was caught out and left the track bringing out the first yellow flag.
On the restart, the #74 Riley Motosports Ligier JS P320 moved up into first place followed by Andretti's #36 pursued by #33. But the rainy weather was still as capricious as ever, stopping and then restarting almost immediately! #54 entered by CORE Autosport for Jon Bennett and Colin Braun pitted to shod the correct tyres. Yellow flag came out to allow a piece of debris on the track to be removed. It was extended after two GTs tagged each other and the teams took advantage of this to carry out pit stops.
Contact between #36 and #33
When the race restarted the Ligier JS P320s monopolised the first three places led by #74 followed by #36 and #33. #54 run by CORE Autosport was fourth. Fifty minutes before the chequered flag, the Andretti Autosport car slid, was passed by #33, but the two LMP3s then squabbled over the same piece of track a bit further on and both ended up in the wall. #33 entered by Sean Creech Motorsport was forced to retire.
There was still half-an-hour to go to the end of this round on the Road America track. The #38 Ligier JS P320 was lying second pursued by the Riley Motorsports' #74 with Felipe Fraga at the wheel. He ate into the gap separating him from the cars in front and took the lead in LMP3. #54 run by CORE Autosport pulled back two places and installed itself in third position. It looked well placed to finish second, but a yellow flag at the end of the race meant it had to be content with third.
Riley Motorsports scores its third victory
Third victory of the season for Gar Robison-Felipe Fraga at the wheel of the #74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320. “That was more stressful than the (Rolex 24),” Robinson said. “Ever since I've come up here, you test and you're fast in qualifying, and then it rains. And if you're not fast, the weather will be perfect. Or it'll be perfect, and you'll be fast, and some crazy yellow will come out. This is one of hardest races I've ever tried to win.” Felipe Fraga set the fastest lap in the race in 2:01.296s.
Thanks to their third place, the CORE Autosport team and their #54 Ligier JS P320 are still leading the championship with 1716 points. Riley Motorsports are second with 1633 points. The title will be decided during the IMSA WeatherTech final, the Petit Le Mans, on the Road Atlanta circuit on 30th September.
For the championship standings, CLICK HERE.
For more info about the Ligier JS P320, CLICK HERE.