Podium for Conway
Podium for Conway

Mike Conway completed a memorable debut at Petit Le Mans by finishing second in his maiden race at Road Atlanta as he teamed up with Action Express Racing for the final time this year.

This weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the Motul Petit Le Mans and this round represented the season finale of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and also the fourth and final road round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.

After starring with the Action Express Whelen Engineering team at the Rolex 24 Hours and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Mike Conway reunited with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran in the #31 Cadillac DPi.

Practice & Qualifying

Starting his weekend on the Thursday, Mike got himself familiar with the #31 Cadillac Dpi through the day’s three practice session and the Action Express Racing team came out of the blocks confidently as they finished the sessions in 6th, 3rd and 6th respectively.

Completing a successful first day in the car with his teammates, engines were cranked up for Friday as the final practice session of the weekend took place before the race’s qualifying session. Unfortunately, the team failed to build on its positive first day and ended the final practice in 8th place before Eric Curran was handed driving duties for qualifying.

Ending the qualifying session in 10th place, Mike and the team remained positive about their chances in the 10-hour race.

“We didn’t quite have enough in qualifying but we gave it all we could. Tomorrow is a long race so we won’t be too downbeat about the result as anything can happen in a 10-hour race.”

Race

Eric Curran was the first to man the #31 Action Express Cadillac as the race started under damp conditions but with the track beginning to dry, lap 8 saw the first switch from the wet weather tyres onto slicks. Curran performed tremendously well in the conditions and moved the team up to 4th place.

However, on lap 12, out came the first full-course yellow as Matteo Cressoni in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari hit the wet grass, squeezed the brakes, and flew into the side of the Penske car, sending himself and Castroneves into the gravel trap at the end of the back straight. A second full course yellow occurred when Kenny Habul’s GTD-class Mercedes AMG GT went off track and collected two WeatherTech signboards and dropped them on the track.

Continuing his fine pace through the second hour, Curran ended his first stint and handed over driving duties to Mike as he made his first appearance of the race. Getting up to speed rapidly, Mike began to post rapid lap times as he moved up to 3rd place before going on the offensive again.

With several incidents playing into the hands of the #31 Action Express, Mike kept his nose out of trouble and, by the time five hours had elapsed, he was now leading the race on his first ever stint!

However, an unscheduled pitstop for debris stuck in the front of his prototype saw Mike lose precious time in the pits but rejoined the race still in a competitive position. Leading the race at the halfway stage, Dane Cameron was in the car and in a close battle with the sister Action Express prototype.

Still running at the competitive end of the standings, Eric Curran was back in the car and running in 4th place as night rapidly approached and conditions became all the more difficult for the field – setting the scene for a dramatic finale to the race.

Entering the final hour of the race in 4th place, a dramatic twist would play straight into the hands of the #31 Action Express Cadillac but at the cost of the sister car. Firstly, Pipo Derani, in the #22 ESM Nissan was adjudged to blame for sending Ryan Briscoe’s Ford GT off course while holding the lead and received a drive-through penalty – promoting the #31 Cadillac into the podium places.

Meanwhile, Filipe Albuquerque, in the sister #5 AXR Cadillac, was issued a stop-and-hold penalty for ushering teammate Dane Cameron, in the #31 AXR Cadillac, off the track during the final restart. However, the sister Action Express Racing Cadillac responded too late to the penalty and was forced to serve another drive-through penalty for the incident – promoting the #31 into second place to conclude a dramatic finale to the race.

“Today was a real enjoyable race with lots of drama which is great for the fans. The team and my teammates did a fantastic job in the car and the luck was definitely in our favour at the end. We were unlucky with the debris getting stuck under the car during my stint but we kept fighting and we’re all delighted to finish 2nd! I’m really excited to come back and join the guys next year as this year’s races have been really enjoyable.”

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