Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet of the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport charged to the overall victory after an eventful Battle on the Bricks, the penultimate round on the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship 2023 schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After a nine year wait, IMSA made its long-awaited return to the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway with an exciting final sprint race of the season at 2-hours and 40-minutes, with the final round in October at Road Atlanta.
All five of the classes took on the 14-turn road course at the Brickyard, stirring up great battles and dramatic moments as traffic management was a key talking point for surviving the race.
Porsche’s Matt Campbell had topped all of the sessions, apart from today’s warm-up, with confidence. He most notably claimed pole position as the team started 1-2 for the first time this season.
Just 96 points covered the top-seven in the GTP championship ahead of lights out, placing ever more pressure to not only make it to the chequered flag.
The leading #10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-04 started fifth as second in the standings, the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V Series.R, started eighth.
In GTD, the highly successful #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 wrapped up at least one championship title – the Sprint Cup Championship – upon the green flag, after having gained five wins so far. They started on pole for this race, after Madison Snow set a strong qualifying lap which put them first over the whole GTD field.
As the race went green, it was a messy start in GTP as pole-sitter Campbell locked up his tyres into Turn 1, and his teammate #6 driver of Mathieu Jaminet took the lead.
Behind them, the fourth-place starting #01 Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais was spun round from the rear right by the #24 BMW M Team RLL driver of Philip Eng, as Tom Blomqvist avoided involvement although the handling was impacted by minor front nose contact.
The #01 pitted for an emergency pit stop, to change their front end and rear right wheel, the latter of which automatically earned up a drive-through penalty to be served later on.
With 10 minutes of the race completed, the second green flag welcomed a smoother restart although Patrick Gallagher in the #96 Turner Motorsport went onto the grass upon approach to Turn 11, thus ended up into a spin with contact against the #78 Forte Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 of Misha Goikhberg.
The latter driver was later awarded a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.
During the opening stages of this race, Porsche controlled the lead as they set noticeably quicker pace than their GTP rivals, as the #25 BMW of Nick Yelloly occupied third almost five seconds behind the pair.
The #24 continued their struggles as they pitted to receive a front nose, and pitted against power loss issues and fell down to the rear of the 39-car field. Their difficult season narrative, running third-to-last in the GTP standings, continued at Indianapolis.
Despite the messy start, and the drama galore, Jules Gounon in the #79 WeatherTech Racing held the GTD Pro lead with the #9 Pfaff Motorsport Porsche of Klaus Bachler who served a penalty earlier for changing lanes before the start line.
In LMP2, Ben Keating in the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 led the class lead confidently by almost five seconds as 2-hours remained of the race.
The first scheduled pit stops came as the #10 pitted for tyres and a driver change, with Filipe Albuquerque into the Acura.
The #79 leading GTD Pro pitted as they also changed tyres and Daniel Juncadella jumped into the Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO2.
A second caution was deployed after the #18 Era Motorsport LMP2 of Dwight Merriman was stranded after suspected contact with a GTD car, as many avoided a potentially unfortunate accident on the start-finish.
During this caution, with under 1-hour and 50-minutes to go, a flurry of GTP, GTD Pro and GTD pit stops took place with several cars racing each other in the pitlane.
The leading Penske Porsches were amongst the pitstoppers, as the #60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura had its front nose changed with their minor damage affecting pace earlier on, and Colin Braun took over from Blomqvist.
Pipo Derani promptly split the two Penske Porsches after the running order during the caution, before race control ordered Derani to take the lead after the two Penske Porsches ignored a wave-around order by race control, as Derani listened and therefore took the lead during the FCY.
The race went back to green flag running with 1-hour and 35-minutes remaining.
At this point, cloud cover started forming over the circuit, as the likelihood of rain remained unlikely to occur.
Further drama occurred for Frederik Schandorff in the #70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO, who nursed a right-rear puncture back into the pits from brief contact at Turn 13 with Frankie Montecalvo, driver of the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 who went into the pits immediately.
Upon green flag racing again, it was a battle for the lead with Felipe Nasr chasing Derani’s #31 Cadillac as the pair remained within distance of one another, and they managed the traffic of other lower category cars.
The #59 Proton Competition Porsche GTP of Harry Tincknell ran in ninth with flying pace, after they were awarded with a drive-through penalty after the car was worked on by pit mechanics outside its pit box, during their FCY-timed pit stop.
Approaching almost an hour remaining, the #8 Tower Motorsport LMP2 of Louis Deletraz led the class lead with just under 15-seconds over Paul Loup Chatin’s #52.
At 1-hour and 3-minutes remaining, Derani was caught up by two side-by-side fighting LMP3s into Turn 13, therefore giving chance for Nasr to chase his tail.
Moreover, Derani locked up his brakes into Turn 1, enabling Nasr to take the lead as Nick Tandy in the other #6 Porsche returned the team’s 1-2 start positions, albeit hard-fought as traffic meant the pair of Porsches were nose-to-tail.
Nasr defended his lead from Tandy, who asserted pressure on his teammate, whilst Derani fell back in third overall heading into the final hour of the Battle of the Bricks.
As the final GTP pit stops took place, the #31 was taken over by Alexander Sims as the two Penske Porsches retained their drivers in the Porsche 963s.
Nasr locked up after Turn 1, which enabled Tandy to make the overcut and take the lead from his teammate’s slight mistake. His lead grew as he set considerably stronger pace at the front.
In GTD Pro, Patrick Pilet in the #9 Porsche found their way back to the race lead over Juncadella in the #79, and the #23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Ross Gunn ran third.
Although the #9 was due another pit stop, so were unlikely to hold the lead to the end of the race.
Bryan Sellers continued the #1 BMW’s smooth race narrative amidst the various dramas so far, leading ahead of the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG of Philip Ellis in second place who kept him under form, ahead of Loris Spinelli quietly seeking their maiden IMSA podium in the #78 Lamborghini.
With the dominant #1’s championship lead, who are looking to secure the Endurance Cup title at Petit Le Mans in October – the final round of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech schedule – Sellers did not put a defence on the Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini.
GTD’s lead fight was with Ellis in the lead as Spinelli kept him within sighting distance from second place.
Just under the 10-minutes remaining margin, Spinelli forcefully took the lead from Ellis, incurring minor damage on the right-front corner of his Lamborghini, although lost later on.
The #52 of Chatin made a splash and dash fuel stop within the final five minutes, as the third-placed MLT Motorsports #54 of Dakota Dickerson suffered mechanical problems with smoke pouring out of his Ligier JS P320, as he made it to the end in P3.
At the chequered flag, it was home-favourites Porsche Penske Motorsports who secured a 1-2 finish, with Tandy in the #6 winning with teammate Mathieu Jaminet over Nasr in the #7 after 113 laps were completed.
BMW rounded off the overall and GTP podium positions as they claimed third in their #25 BMW M Hybrid V8.
In the LMP2 category, Steven Thomas and Mikkel Jensen took the win in their #11 TDS Racing machine over the #8 who was not able to continue the pace, and Deletraz was forced to fuel save significantly.
The #04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR locked off the LMP2 podium finishers.
Wayne Boyd brought the #17 AWA Duqueine D08 to race victory in the LMP3 category, winning by a sub-13-second margin with Anthony Mantella, as the #74 Riley and the #30 JR III Racing crews rounded off the top-three LMP3s.
GTD Pro was won by the #79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG duo of Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon, ahead of the #23 Aston Martin of Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas, as the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus of Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth finished 18-seconds behind the winning #79 car.
In GTD, it was Philip Ellis and Russell Ward who secured victory in their #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG, followed by the #78 Forte Racing Lamborghini of Misha Goikhberg and Loris Spinelli, as the #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW followed in third place.
The next and final round of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship takes place on 14 October, which will be a 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta.