Bourdais in the pole-sitting Ganassi Cadillac held off Tom Blomqvist’s Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the start of the race, with Ricky Taylor holding onto third in the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ahead of Alex Lynn in the second Ganassi Caddy. Knowing that winning the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic was vital to sparking their comeback into IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship points contention, Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande essentially led Saturday’s 100-minute sprint race from start to finish.
But it was far from easy. Bourdais, who claimed the Motul Pole Award with a track record lap of the Belle Isle Raceway 2.3-mile, 14-turn temporary street course on Friday, led the first half of Saturday’s race before bringing the No. 01 Cadillac V-Performance Academy DPi-V.R in to hand off to van der Zande.
While saving fuel to make the single-stop strategy work, the Dutchman withstood intense pressure from Oliver Jarvis in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 DPi throughout his 50-minute closing stint.
Meanwhile, Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi was catching them at a rapid rate while trying to execute a two-stop game plan. Derani caught the lead duo and Earl Bamber in the third-place No. 02 Cadillac Racing DPi-V.R with about 25 minutes remaining.
From there, it was a nail-biter to the finish, with van der Zande in control at the front and a frenetic battle for the remaining two podium positions. Derani briefly moved into third place, but ultimately crossed the finish line fourth after a fierce scrap with the No. 02 Cadillac. However, the No. 31 Cadillac was found underweight in postrace technical inspection and moved to the rear of the class.
Bourdais and van der Zande completed 73 laps, a record distance for the Detroit race that ran without a full-course caution for the first time. They won by 0.398 seconds over Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Acura, followed by Bamber and co-driver Alex Lynn in the No. 02 Cadillac.
“What a day!” Bourdais exclaimed after his ninth career IMSA victory. “It was definitely not the easiest race we ever won, but I’m super proud of that whole (No.) 01 Cadillac team. We had to save a ton of fuel. Renger brought it home, and it was very hard. It was hard-fought, but it’s that much sweeter when you win it.”
The triumph was a long time in the making for the No. 01 team, which has endured a rollercoaster 2022 season that left it sixth in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) standings heading into the weekend. The points for the Detroit pole position and race win vaulted Bourdais, van der Zande and the No. 01 into fourth position, unofficially 143 points behind Jarvis, Blomqvist, and the No. 60 Acura with four races still remaining.
“It seems like it’s been feast or famine for the (No.) 01,” said team owner Chip Ganassi, whose organization prepares the Nos. 01 and 02 Cadillacs and collected the team’s 63rd IMSA win. “They either win or something stupid happens.”
Bourdais has earned pole position for four of the last five WeatherTech Championship races, but prior to Detroit, he and van der Zande won just once this season on the streets of Long Beach, California, and failed to finish on three occasions.
“It’s a good points day,” declared van der Zande, who now owns 17 career IMSA race wins and made it back-to-back Detroit victories following last year with Kevin Magnussen in the No. 01. “The championship is not over until it’s over, so all we have to do is keep winning races and see where we end up. We had some trouble this year, so I’m very happy to get it behind us. Win this one, and hopefully some more.
“Today was a bit of a gamble for everyone,” he added. “We have a great strategy on the pit wall, and we have a guy (Bourdais) who can save a lot of fuel. I think we saved a bunch, and then it was just the tactics on the track. It was kind of a fun game. When there was a gap, I was lifting massively, and then when there was traffic, I could give it a bit more. But we got it done.”
Behind them, Tristan Vautier thrust past Olivier Pla, Pipo Derani’s new teammate at Action Express Racing, to move the JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac into fifth.
Blomqvist wasn’t letting Bourdais get away up front, running within a second, and Taylor was only one second further back, but by Lap 5 Lynn had already fallen five seconds behind the tail of this trio. Despite this, he wasn’t holding up Vautier and Pla who were battling over last in class.
AXR pulled Pla in on Lap 10, to install Derani.
Finally, on Lap 16, Bourdais stretched his lead to 1.5 seconds, with Blomqvist staying one second ahead of Taylor. Lynn was now nine seconds behind Taylor but staying ahead of Vautier. Derani was now 1sec faster than Pla’s best but wasn’t really gaining on Bourdais.
By Lap 25, the top trio had stretched out, partly due to where they caught the GTD traffic. Bourdais now had a three-second lead over Blomqvist, who had a four-second margin over Taylor.
WTR pitted the #10 on Lap 29, and Filipe Albuquerque took over and emerged some eight seconds behind Derani who set a new lap record on Lap 30, of 1min19.808sec.
Vautier handed over the JDC-Miller car to Richard Westbrook on Lap 31 and dropped to sixth.
With 50mins to go, the halfway point of the 1hr40min race, Bourdais finally pulled in, at a time when Blomqvist had pegged his lead back to 1sec. Ganassi ensured van der Zande in the #01 car remained ahead of the MSR Acura now driven by Oliver Jarvis. The pair of course emerged behind the off-strategy Derani, who pitted on Lap 40 and got back on strategy. He emerged in fifth, right ahead of Westbrook, but 18sec from the #02 Cadillac which Earl Bamber had taken over from Lynn.
Up front, their teammate held a 1.7sec advantage over Jarvis, while WTR’s Albuquerque ran within a second of the similar MSR car. However, Albuquerque suddenly pitted on Lap 45 and tumbled to the back of the class, and the man on the move was Bamber, charging hard to close up to van der Zande and Jarvis.
Lap by lap he was making it work, shaving tenths off the leaders every lap so that with half an hour to go, he was only four seconds behind van der Zande, who had Jarvis’ Acura filling his mirrors. As Bamber charged, so too did Derani, setting an astounding 1min18.877sec on his 51st lap, drawing within 12sec of the lead.
On Lap 53, the top three were covered by one second, and Derani was only another 6sec further back. Just five minutes later, the trio was a quartet, covered by 1.5sec. Bamber had a look around the outside of Jarvis at Turn 11, but locked up and couldn’t make it work.
On Lap 59, Derani went down the inside of Bamber at right-handed Turn 1 and didn’t leave Bamber much room through the left-handed Turn 2, so the Ganassi driver had to mount the curb in avoidance. Down to Turn 3, the AXR car had the advantage and Derani was into third.
Over the last dozen minutes, the margins between the top four were concertina-ing, and three minutes from home, a failed attempt to pass the MSR Acura through Turns 1 and 2 costs Derani momentum onto the long straight down to Turn 3, and Bamber pulled alongside him on the inside and grabbed third.
There were no more order changes, but a 100-minute race that saw the top four covered by 1.7sec despite no caution periods meant IMSA signed off its time on Belle Isle with a classic.
Roman De Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage on the outside of the front row burst away from polesitter Kyle Kirkwood driving the Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F.
In third was Madison Snow in the Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 and Frankie Montecalvo in the second Lexus. Stevan McAleer had moved the Team Korthoff Mercedes-AMG GT3 into fifth ahead of Aidan Read’s Rick Ware Racing Acura NSX.
On Lap 18, Russell Ward lost the front of his Winward Racing Mercedes exiting Turn 10 and hit the wall, but he got the car down the Turn 11 runoff so there was no caution flag needed.
The 35min mark meant the GTD amateur drivers were able to hit the pitlane and hand off to their pro teammates. De Angelis was one of the last to come in, to hand over to Ross Gunn, but not the last. That was Kirkwood, who went one lap longer than the Aston Martin before pitting and handing off to Ben Barnicoat. His in-lap was strong, and sure enough, Barnicoat emerged in front by three seconds.
Behind, PMR had kept the #1 BMW M4 in third and now had Bryan Sellers at the wheel, 4.5sec ahead of Aaron Telitz who’d taken over the second Lexus from Montecalvo. Mike Skeen was now steering the Korthoff Mercedes in fifth, while Jeff Westphal moved the Carbahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracan around Ryan Eversley’s RWR Acura.
With 35mins to go, Gunn and Sellers were inching closer to the lead Lexus, and Gunn was within two seconds. With 27mins to go, Barnicoat, Gunn, and Sellers came up behind the off-the-pace Wright Porsche of Heylen, who eventually moved aside for them.
After that moment, Barnicoat started pulling away from the HoR Aston, and the pair of them were pulling away from Sellers’ BMW. Barnicoat came home 2.26sec clear of Gunn, with Sellers 3.6sec further back.
Telitz/Montecalvo was best of the rest in the #12 Lexus ahead of Korthoff and Carbahn/Peregrine, while Heylen’s strangely slow Porsche claimed seventh when Eversley’s Acura died at Turn 9, five laps from home.
The next race for the WeatherTech Championship, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International set for June 23-26, is the third of four rounds in the 2022 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. All five series classes will compete.