Victory in the 26th running of Motul Petit Le Mans (12-14 October) assured CrowdStrike Racing by APR of the 2023 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup and George Kurtz of the Jim Trueman Bronze Cup, which comes with an automatic entry to the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans.
CrowdStrike Racing’s Kurtz, Ben Hanley and Nolan Siegel came out on top in the stop/start finale to the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, taking the team’s tally to two race wins, three podium finishes and two pole positions across a sensational maiden IMSA LMP2 season, complemented by an historic triumph in the Le Mans Centenary.
The 2023 edition of Petit Le Mans commenced on a slick and greasy track following overnight rain, and spins on the formation laps preceded an untidy start to the ten-hour contest that resulted in an early Full Course Yellow (FCY).
Kurtz, though, kept his nose clean and initially lifted the #04 ORECA 07-Gibson from fourth into the podium places.
A drive-through penalty for an alleged “pass under yellow” dropped him back to seventh, but a third FCY instigated a flurry of pit stops and provided the CrowdStrike CEO with an opportunity to dispatch the #11 TDS Racing of Trueman Cup rival Steven Thomas for second position.
Personal best lap times ensured he kept pace with the leading #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport of Ben Keating – also a threat for the Trueman Cup – but a quick reaction to a fourth stoppage meant CrowdStrike Racing won a “cheap stop” and vaulted to the top of LMP2.
Later, despite being relegated by the #52 in the hands of Pro driver Alex Quinn, Bronze-graded Kurtz kept the rest of the pack at arm’s length until the completion of his 2h30m minimum stint-time, when Hanley was placed in the hot seat.
Notably, CrowdStrike Racing by APR arrived at Road Atlanta atop the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup (IMEC) standings, and a core objective was to maximise the #04 car’s track position at the four and eight-hour junctures, when up to five additional points would be awarded.
The incessant neutralistions made backtiming to those critical intervals more difficult, but CrowdStrike Racing headed LMP2 beyond the four-hour mark to bag a full five IMEC points, despite being chased hard by the #11.
Minutes later, CrowdStrike Racing temporarily surrendered the initiative to install Siegel and then brim the #04 prototype, but it retook and maintained P1 during the middle phase of the ten-hour race as many LMP2s fell off the lead lap.
Siegel did well to keep the pursuing #52 at bay while threading his way through lapped traffic until hour six, when CrowdStrike Racing’s sharp reactions to yet another caution period allowed it to switch Siegel for Hanley moments before Race Control closed pit road.
The title-contending #52 and #11 were both unremitting in their pursuit, until the latter found the wall in what was a pivotal moment in the championship.
Preempting a Safety Car that never materialised, CrowdStrike Racing swapped Hanley for Siegel, who held on out front until the #52 got the jump in the following round of stops that occurred at sunset.
Unperturbed and keen to bank another five IMEC points for leading at the eight-hour mark, Siegel piled on the pressure but ultimately tumbled to fourth when he was heavily compromised by traffic as the race entered the critical final two hours, held in complete darkness.
Nevertheless, CrowdStrike Racing still led PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport by a single point in a winner-takes-all battle for the IMEC, but the rival #52 car ended up losing two laps after a trip through the gravel, which put the #04 trio well and truly in the box seat.
With Hanley back at the controls, CrowdStrike Racing leapt to the top of the LMP2 leaderboard during a caution that occurred with 40 minutes to run, and the team capped off a magnificent season with a Petit Le Mans victory that sealed the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup and the Jim Trueman Bronze Cup, with a coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans entry for Kurtz.
George Kurtz (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “We’ve been on an incredible journey and credit to CrowdStrike Racing, Algarve Pro Racing, Ben (Hanley) and Nolan (Siegel). Everybody did a fantastic job and executed flawlessly, and to be able to come out on top at Motul Petit Le Mans is a big win with huge implications.
“Everything had to go our way to win the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship LMP2 titles, but the main focus was always winning the Michelin Endurance Cup and the Jim Trueman Bronze Cup, with the ultimate prize being the 24 Hours of Le Mans entry. Algarve Pro Racing did a great job to put the 2023 IMSA LMP2 programme together and, although we initially set out to do the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds, we eventually decided to go for it and aim for Le Mans. To have had such amazing success along the way is something we could never have dreamed of at the beginning of the year.”
Ben Hanley (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “Petit Le Mans was an awesome race. The whole CrowdStrike Racing by APR team did a great job to give us a package that was capable of winning, and a car I could place whenever I needed through traffic, which always makes life a lot easier at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Congratulations to my teammates George (Kurtz) and Nolan (Siegel), who drove brilliantly to achieve what is a fantastic result for the entire team.”
Nolan Siegel (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “I feel so great! This is my first IMSA Petit Le Mans win and I couldn’t be happier. In fact, I’ve loved all of the endurance races I’ve done this year in 2023. It has been super enjoyable, I’ve loved competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and the whole experience has been even better because I’ve done it with CrowdStrike Racing by APR, George (Kurtz) and Ben (Hanley). We’ve had a lot of success but, beyond that, it’s a great environment full of great people, and I hope to have more opportunities to race with them.”