Caymanian racer Kyffin Simpson, alongside teammates Mario Farnbacher and Till Bechtolsheimer, scored a stunning debut IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championshop victory for Gradient Racing at the 25h annual Motul Petit Le Mans 10-hour race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, having started last of 15 GTD-class runners.
The #66 InvestCayman Acura scored its first showing in victory lane, with the marque also claiming the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) victory in the race, with Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and drivers Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis securing overal season championship honors.
After a problem with a turbocharger wastegate prevented them from competing a qualifying lap, Kyffin and his teammates lined up dead last for the drop of the green flag on Saturday. A clean start from Till catapulted them into the fight, before dramatically seizing the lead in green flag pit stops late in the race.
Kyffin’s faultless performance was reflective of the team as a whole. On multiple occassions, the 17-year-old outpaced series veterans sharing the track with him, setting purple laps and sectors around the 2.5 mile circuit.
For the final nail-biting hour, GTD leaders Farnbacher and the chasing McLaren were rarely separated by more than a second, but Mario held his nerve to rebuff any attempts made before a final yellow flag period brought the race to a close.
“After the problem we had in qualifying, the guys tore the whole car apart, made it absolutely perfect for today, and here we are,” said Farnbacher. “I’m so proud of the guys. It’s absolutely great.
“It means a lot. Ten years ago was my first race in the U.S., at this track. I won back then, and now, exactly 10 years later, I won again. So, there’s a really special connection to this track.” – Mario Farnbacher
“It was all a blur, and I was just trying not to throw up. An incredible day. Kyffin was just clinical all day, and the last couple stints from Mario were out of this world. It’s huge for Gradient to get their first win in IMSA.” – Till Bechtolsheimer
I don’t think I could be happier with how the weekend went. From the very first practice, the team was performing well and we got the car in a very good window for the race.
Even with the unfortunate qualifying issue, we were able to make up most of the lost ground in Till’s opening stint. The Gradient crew’s pit stops were amazing, and by the time Till had finished his second stint we were P2.
Mario’s driving was incredible. He overtook both the BMWs and got our deficit to the lead down to around 5 seconds – it was something like 20 before that.
I focused on remaining consistent and staying out of trouble in my stints. For once, we had a clear run and I managed to get some purple laps in there too. The car felt so good to drive!
To be completely honest, this season has been a very tough one. I do think we could have challenged for podiums earlier than the final round if luck went our way sooner, but we were finally able to get it done and it couldn’t have happened without God, Till, Marc, Mario, Andris, Declan, all the guys at Gradient racing, all of my sponsors and my family. What a way to end 2022! – Kyffin Simpson