The race for the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi title has ended just like last year. And while 2021 wasn’t a four-way battle to the finish, it was close – last lap, drop it and go tight on the grass. In last year’s Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Ricky Taylor did everything he could to get his Wayne Taylor Racing Acura from Felipe Nasr’s Action Express Racing Cadillac, because that’s how he and Felipe Albuquerque claim the championship. He did not; he followed Nasr’s taillights across the finish, and Nasr and Pippa Derani were crowned 2021 champions.

On Saturday, the story could be the same, only instead of an Acura vs. Cadillac battle, two Acura teams will battle it out for the big prize. Curb Agajanian’s Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Meyer Shank Racing are chasing the WTR pair after leading the points multiple times. They enter contention thanks to consistency in the No. 60, with a win at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and five runner-up finishes. WTR, on the other hand, has four wins for the No. 10, the most of any team this season, and its second win at Daytona, leading the championship 3,066 to 3,047 – 19 points, the same margin as Taylor and Albuquerque last time. year.

It’s close. If the gap between any consecutive finishing position other than first and second is 20 points, 19 is nothing.

Qualification will play a big role in the result as 10 percent marks are awarded for qualification. If MSR wins WTR in qualifying on Friday afternoon, all that matters is which team finishes ahead of the other, just like in 2021. If things go the other way, Blomqvist and Jarvis, joined by Helio Castraneves for Petit Le Mans, will need to finish two places ahead of Taylor and Albuquerque – with Brendan Hartley as third driver – to take the title unless MSR wins. Did we mention it’s close?

“I wish it was sadder; it’s never been easy,” said Taylor, who is in the title race for the third consecutive year after winning with Castroneves for Penske in 2020. “It’s nice to have the experience of being there before. It is obviously very difficult to reach the final round of the championship while fighting for the title, let alone a 10-hour endurance race, which in itself is one of the most difficult races in the world. So it all adds up to a lot of drama and a lot of stress for the teams and the drivers. But I think it’s going to be a great show.”

None of the contenders for the 2021 title won last year’s race. It was Jarvis who drove the Mazda away with a bang, accompanied by Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarritt. But this is a different year in a different car.

“It’s nice to know that I’ve won it before,” Jarvis said. “So I know what it takes. But it’s a 10-hour race to end the season. It’s hard. Anything can happen. You just have to stay on track, stay out of trouble. And this is not easy to do in such events. But as long as we prepare as well as we can, we will take advantage of the best opportunities… I think we will have enough speed to fight for the win and, more importantly, fight for the championship.”

Consistency is a good thing and it keeps MSR in the fight. But permanent second place is a sore spot for them, especially since they were able to win many of them. Finishes like Albuquerque making a bold move on the final restart at Watkins Glen, or Renger van der Zande coming out strong in the #01 Cadillac at the end of the Canadian Motorsport tire park, disappointed Jarvis and Blomqvist.

“I felt like we were ahead most of the time and then they got an opportunity and took advantage of it,” Bloomquist said. “So obviously it hurt a lot of the time for me, it hurt like hell. Was I thinking big picture at the time? No, not really. We were leading the race and then they got the better of us. They were better at handling such situations. Yes, yes, it hurt. I think if some things had maybe not played out the way they did, we would have been in a different position with this championship. But things went the way they did, so we just have to deal with it at Road Atlanta.”

Blomqvist has produced some stellar qualifying efforts this season, and the 60th-place qualifier will have to do so on Friday – possibly dealing with the remnants of Hurricane Ian. Qualifying could well change the nature of the championship fight during the race.

“I think in qualifying, it’s a little more pressure at 60,” Albuquerque explained. “And the reason I say that is because if they qualify before us, nothing will change going into the race. They still have to finish before us or we have to finish before them. But if we qualify ahead of them, we get a position to just finish behind them if they don’t win. So I think the 60 car is under a little bit of pressure to make sure they narrow that down to just being able to finish ahead of us.

“At this point, we’re not even thinking about Cadillac and we’re not thinking about winning the race; we’re thinking of beating the best and seeing where we can end up because if we defend, it’s not going to work. So we need to attack and probably 60, again, will be around the top three all the time, as always. So we should be in our best game ever.”

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