BRASELTON, Ga. - Rebellion Racing wrote the final chapter in the history of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, winning the season-ending 16th Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta.
Neel Jani and Nico Prost repeated as winners of the 1,000-mile race, joined by Nick Heidfeld in the No. 12 Rebellion Timepieces/Lemo Connectors/Speedy Garage Toyota-powered Lola B12/60. Jani took the checkered flag by six laps over P2 winner Ryan Briscoe, who helped co-driver Scott Tucker to his fourth consecutive championship.
An unscheduled pit stop by Romain Dumas and the retirement of the P1 championship-winning No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c-Honda five hours into the event opened the door for Rebellion, which spent the early hours battling to regain a lost lap resulting from an unnecessary contact penalty.
"The beginning was not easy at all, it was dry, wet, dry, but wet enough so had to keep the slicks," Jani said. "It was kind of a gamble on the tires. It was a bit of a question what do you risk. I tried not to burn out the tires, but the rain never came so we switched back."
The race took a dramatic turn at the five-hour mark when Dumas pitted with a one-lap lead in the No. 6 machine co-driven by Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf. After a brief examination by the crew, the car was pushed behind the wall with terminal overheating problems.
"It's a shame that the season ends like this," Luhr said. "But in racing, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."
Luhr ended his ALMS career with a series-leading 49 victories, with the team carrying an eight-race winning streak into the finale that saw Luhr and Graf clinch the driver, team and manufacturer titles. Rebellion Racing led three times for 228 of the 394 circuits, while Muscle Milk Pickett Racing paced the field twice for 158 laps.
Both the P2 and Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire (PC) titles went down to the wire, with Tucker and Chris Cumming earning the respective championships.
Tucker's co-drivers Marino Franchitti and Briscoe moved from third to first in the closing hour, with Briscoe winning by 1.394 seconds over David Brabham in the No. 01 Tequila Patrón HPD ARX-03b co-driven by Scott Sharp and Anthony Lazzaro with Extreme Speed Motorsports. Unofficially, Tucker beat Franchitti by eight points while Sharp was 10 points behind. Tucker won his third straight P2 crown after taking the PC title in 2010.
"All of them have been hard, and today it came down to the last race - and we had to win," Tucker said. "Fortunately, it all worked out. Extreme Speed Motorsports gave us really tough competition, and it could have gone either way."
A key moment came one hour into the race when race leader Jani brushed PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports' No. 52 Molecule ORECA FLM09 as Dane Cameron exited the pits. As a result, that team lost 20 laps in the pits before Mike Guasch returned to the race in seventh position. The team was able to work its way back through attrition to finish fifth.
Cumming and co-drivers Kyle Marcelli and Stefan Johansson had to come from behind to win the third straight PC race for the No. 8 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09. Ozz Negri and Sean Rayhall led much of the race - including eight laps overall - in the No. 25 8Star Motorsports entry, with Marcelli taking the checkered flag by 11.442 seconds over Rayhall.
The victory enabled Cumming to take the driver's title by one point over Guasch, 141-140, while BAR1 Motorsports took the team title in a tie-breaker over CORE autosport (145-145, three victories to two). CORE finished third in the finale with Jon Bennett, Tom Kimber-Smith and Colin Braun in the No. 05 Composite Resources ORECA FLM09.
"After Baltimore, where we scored no points, we thought the season championship was completely out of our reach," Cumming said. "We showed up at Circuit of The Americas with the attitude to go all out and win some races. We won COTA, and ended up winning at VIR. We came here with an outside shot at winning, but we needed everything to work out. It was one of those dream days where everything worked out."