This weekend at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, Porsche put in a mighty fight to bring home a much needed podium place finish. Being that the circuit is far smaller and tighter than most of the traditional circuits on the IMSA season schedule, only the GTLM and GTD classes were on hand for the battle, leaving the Prototype class at home. Because of this, Porsche was actually fighting for the overall victory, not just in class. And it's fair to say they had the car to do it. After running near the front for much of the race, both cars suffered bad luck on track and on the pit lane that cost them their chance at the victory.
Laurens Vanthoor started the day in the #912 car from second on the grid, and got off to a strong first stint, making a safe and conservative run work out for him. He pitted on schedule still in second place, handing off to teammate Earl Bamber. Bamber, knowing that the overall win was on the line, pushed a little harder as the race wore on. He managed to close the gap to the leading car, but in his struggle to go faster ran off track briefly, dropping him back a bit. When he came in for his second pit stop of the day, a lengthy error dropped him further, putting the #912 Porsche 911 RSR out of contention for the overall win but still on podium.
Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy, who shared the #911 car, suffered even worse luck than those men in their sister car. In the pre-qualifying warm-up session, Pilet had an off which damaged his Porsche. Because the crash was just 35 minutes before qualifying, the team managed to get the damaged parts changed out, but did not have time to re-set the car's setup, and the best he could manage was a grid position of 8th in an 8-car class. When the race started, Pilet couldn't make up any ground on the cars ahead with a narrow track and a car that still wasn't quite right. Pilet handed off to Tandy, and thanks to their superior pit strategy made up two positions. Tandy pushed hard and eventually made a pass into fifth just two minutes before the checkered flag fell. It's safe to say that this just wasn't their weekend.
Comments after the race:
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport: “It was another difficult race for us. Our car was constantly competitive so we could attack under any situation. But because of the mistakes that began in the warm-up and ended with the #912 car’s last pit stop, we missed out on first place. This is the third race in a row where we unfortunately haven’t been rewarded for our hard work. We’ll work harder over the next two weeks so that we can get back on the road to success again at Road America.”
Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “The car was extremely fast over the whole weekend, but my mistake in the warm-up threw a spanner in the works. On this racetrack, where overtaking is particularly tricky, it’s difficult to compensate for a grid spot at the back of the field. Although I was faster at the beginning of the race I couldn’t make up any positions. When Nick got a clear run he managed to shorten the gap, but at the end of the day it was simply too big. The team’s tactics and strategy were definitely spot-on. It’s important that we managed to collect valuable points towards the manufacturer’s classification with third place for the sister car.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “You shouldn’t really complain about a podium placing, but we could have won today. We lost 14 seconds due to a pit stop error – which is basically the gap to position one. We had the pace to win, but unfortunately we only came third.”
Race result GTLM class
1. Hand/Müller (USA/D), Ford GT, 178 laps
2. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 178 laps
3. Vanthoor/Bamber (B/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR, 178 laps
4. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 178 laps
5. Tandy/Pilet (GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 178 laps
1. Sellers/Snow (USA/USA), Lamborghini Huracan GT3, 172 laps
2. Potter/Lally (USA/USA), Audi R8 LMS GT3, 172 laps
3. MacNeil/Jeannette (USA/USA), Ferrari 488 GT3, 172 laps
8. Long/Nielsen (USA/DK), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 171 laps