Three Takeaways: Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
Basking in Chamber of Commerce weather throughout the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the penultimate round of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series produced a mixture of closure and uncertainty.
 
Closure? Coming home second in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia clinched the GTLM drivers title for themselves and the team crown for the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R. Likewise in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), where Patrick Kelly (with the aid of co-driver Simon Trummer) clinched the driver and team championship in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07. 
 
Uncertainty? An overall and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class win by Acura Team Penske and a GT Daytona (GTD) class win by Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian cinched the already-close DPi and GTD standings tighter than a pair of proverbial drums.
 
A Team Victory
 
There is no “I” in team, especially when that team is Acura Team Penske. OK, there are a couple of “I’s” in the driver lineup, thanks to Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves – but you get my drift. Having led the balance of the race in pursuit of their first victory on the season, the No. 6 Acura ARX-05 of Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya slowed on the next-to-last lap of the race, enabling Taylor and Castroneves to take the win in the No. 7 Acura. Thus, Taylor and Castroneves assumed a narrow lead in the DPi standings over Ryan Briscoe and Renger van der Zande, who finished a disappointing sixth in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Racing Cadillac DPi. Meanwhile, Pipo Derani lies third in the championship, nine points adrift of the lead, after he and co-driver Felipe Nasr finished third in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac.
 
The manufacturer standings show Cadillac with a one-point lead over Acura, while the No. 7 Acura Team Penske (242) squad has twice that margin ahead of the No. 10 Konica Minolta operation in team points, with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering (233) in third. Needless to say, the DPis head to Florida for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Nov. 14 with everything to play for in all three championships.
 
Feeling Good?
 
The GTLM class produced both a championship and a “feel-good” story. Although it has been a foregone conclusion that Corvette and the pairing of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor were destined to win the manufacturer, team and driver titles, Sunday’s runner-up finish nailed down two of the three crowns. All either Corvette needs do to add the manufacturer title is start the race in Sebring.
 
While championships are nothing new to Corvette Racing and Garcia and Taylor, the titles are a remarkable achievement given this is the first season of competition for the Corvette C8.R, the first mid-engine design in the long and illustrious history of the Corvette and Corvette Racing.
 
Meanwhile, after what can only be rightly described as a snake-bitten season, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor took their first win of the 2020 campaign in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, a fitting follow-up to Porsche’s first win of 2020 at the Motul Petit Le Mans with the No. 911 entry a fortnight ago. Could another feel-good story be in the GTLM cards at Sebring? That would be the No. 4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin visiting victory lane in what is slated to be Gavin’s final race as a full-time member of the team.
 
Anybody’s Guess 
 
To nobody’s surprise, it’s anybody’s guess which drivers, teams and manufacturers will come out on top of the GTD standings in the wake of the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
 
Rebounding from a disappointing outing in the Motul Petit Le Mans, Acura and the Meyer Shank team earned an impressive 1-3 finish with Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry co-piloting the No. 86 Meyer Shank with Curb/Agajanian Racing Acura NSX GT3 to the win and Alvaro Parente and Misha Goikhberg securing third place in the No. 56 Acura of Heinricher with Meyer Shank Racing, sandwiching the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley.
 
Coming on a day when Patrick Long and Ryan Hardwick finished sixth in their Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R even as the AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 of Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz came home a distant P11, the results vault Farnbacher and McMurry back into the lead in the GTD driver standings with 256 points, seven better than Long and Hardwick with Telitz one point further back. 
Adam Sinclair