Following their second- and sixth-place finishes at Daytona a few weeks back, the Porsche GTLM squad were understandably upbeat about their chances in the 12 Hours of Sebring 2017 race this past weekend. This was not to be, however, as the two works Porsches finished in seventh and eighth places in the second long-distance classic of the 2017 IMSA SportsCar Championship.
The race was not short on drama and at one stage, the #911 car was on course for a podium finish and in fact, a maiden victory was even within reach on the notoriously difficult airfield circuit. Porsche had setup the 911 RSRs so that they would perform at their best during the cooler hours of the evening, and right up until this time, the strategy had unfolded precisely according to plan. But during a routine tyre change, an impact wrench suddenly failed, resulting in a longer than planned pit stop for the #911 car and as a consequence, Patrick Pilet fell back down the field from second to fifth place.
The Frenchman, whose vocabulary does not include the words ‘give up,’ proceeded to put in a blistering performance, carrying out some breath-taking overtaking manoeuvres and posting the fastest race lap. Before long, he had worked his way back up the order to retake second place and was soon lying within striking distance of the leader. His final spirited charge, though, came to an abrupt end with 33 minutes to go due to a tyre defect that resulted in an unscheduled pit stop. With the front left tyre changed, Pilet accelerated away from his pit and drove over the hose of the impact wrench earning him a drive-through penalty. This was unfortunately the final straw for the #911 car which destroyed any hope of Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner and Frédéric Makowiecki clinching their second podium result.
The drivers of the #912 sister car were hampered by a leaking left rear damper which cost them three laps. Despite being on the pace with the leaders, they were destined to finish in eighth place in class, two laps down on the #911 car. To illustrate how closely fought the contest was in this class, the leaders were still running within sight of each other with seven of the ten cars in the GTLM class finishing on the same lap (334 laps).
Patrick Pilet (#911): “Our plan was to have the best car at the end of the race. This meant that it wasn’t so easy driving during the heat of the day. But once it cooled down we were very clearly the fastest on the track. The team did an excellent job and our strategy was perfect.”
Dirk Werner (#911): “The pace of the car was very good and under normal circumstances it would have been enough to win here. Patrick was running in a very good position when he got the puncture. It’s hard to lose the fight for victory like this.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (#911): “It’s really disappointing. We knew that we would get stronger in the second half of the race when the temperatures cooled down, and that worked perfectly, too. Patrick’s flat tyre cost us the victory, but that was simply unfortunate.”
Kévin Estre (#912): “It was a tough race. Our car had the pace to run with the leaders. The track worked better for us in the second half of the race when it got cooler. Unfortunately, we then had the problem that cost us three laps, and we were able to make up one of those laps, but we couldn’t do any more than that.”
Laurens Vanthoor (# 912): “Our pace was very good, but unfortunately we lost three laps because of a leaky damper. Because there were comparatively few caution phases, we weren’t able to make up much ground in the final hours.”
Richard Lietz (# 912): “Sebring is merciless, but we knew this beforehand. We had a good car and we did our very best but unfortunately we had the problem with the rear left damper. Things like this can happen, particularly on a bumpy circuit like this one. We were well prepared, we did a great deal of testing here in Sebring, but sadly it ultimately wasn’t enough for a better result.”
In the GTD class, the Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Jörg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey/Matt McMurry finished in sixth place, the top finishing Porsche in class. A lap down was the Allegra Motorsports 911 GT3 R of Michael De Quesada/Daniel Morad/Spencer Pumpelly/Michael Christensen, who crossed the finish line in tenth place.
Round three of the IMSA SportsCar Championship will be held on the street circuit in Long Beach, California on 8 April.
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche