Although it was expected to be a difficult race, qualifying eighth and ninth out of nine cars in the GTLM class and finishing seventh and eighth in the race, was probably not what the team had hoped for. The two factory 911 RSRs ran a virtually trouble-free race only to be disappointingly outpaced by quite some margin on the long straights.
In qualifying on the 5.263-kilometre track close to Danville in the US state of Virginia on Saturday 26 August, Laurens Vanthoor (teamed with Gianmaria Bruni) clocked the eighth fastest time in the #912 Porsche 911 RSR. In the second 911 RSR, Dirk Werner (teamed with Patrick Pilet) occupied the ninth grid spot with the #911 car. In the GTD class, Morad/Long qualified in eighth place, Bergmeister/Lindsey in eleventh and MacNeil/Jeannette in thirteenth, all driving the Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports said after qualifying, “That was the difficult qualifying session we were expecting – and unfortunately that was the expected outcome. Still, we not totally disappointed. The team worked well. We didn’t get things 100% right today, but almost. In the race, we’ll do our utmost to make up some positions. It won’t be easy, but we’ll fight.”
Laurens Vanthoor (#912) had this say after qualifying, “This might sound strange, but my fast lap was almost perfect. The 911 RSR ran well and I didn’t make a single mistake. Still, there wasn’t a lot we could do today, and it won’t be easy in the race either. Even the GTD cars are not that much slower than us on the straights, and it’ll be very difficult to overtake them.”
With Saturday’s qualifying behind them, the 2 hour 40-minute race at the Virginia International Raceway was run on Sunday 27 August at 13h35 local time.
It seems that Patrick Pilet made the only (slight) mistake amongst the works drivers during the race which saw him take to the grass momentarily, but this did not materially affect the team’s outcome. All the factory drivers, without exception, pointed out that they were down on top speed, and there was nothing they could do about it. Only the #24 BMW M6 of John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk, which completed just 72 laps due to a technical fault, finished behind the two Porsches, 20 laps down. This effectively meant that the two works Porsches crossed the line second-last and last of the cars that finished.
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports said the race, “After the qualifying it was obvious that the race would be difficult for us. Because we have a significantly lower top speed than our opponents, we had to come up with a special strategy on this track with its long full-throttle passages. However, for our strategy to work, we needed safety car phases, and there weren’t any today. We tried everything, but all in all it was a very difficult weekend for us. I hope that the IMSA authorities will take a very close look at this race and draw the appropriate conclusions. Then I’m confident that we’ll be back up amongst the frontrunners at the next race in Laguna Seca.”
Gianmaria Bruni (#912): “Aside from the lack of top speed, the race for us ran without any problems. The team worked well over the entire weekend. What came out in the end, however, is frustrating, but it’s no reason to hang our heads. As a team, we have to pull together again and do better at Laguna Seca.”
Dirk Werner (#911): “As expected, the race was difficult. As always, we were well prepared. But our pace was not good enough, especially on this racetrack, where our lack of engine power was particularly noticeable. For the time being we have to accept this, but I hope the situation looks better again for the last two races.”
In the GTD class, the results were as follows: MacNeil/Jeannette finished sixth, Braun/Bennett were eighth, Long/Morad ninth and Bergmeister/Lindsey in tenth place.
Reading the race reports and analysing the results, it is not difficult to see why the team and drivers were disappointed, especially with a brand-new car that by rights should be much quicker than the opposition. On a weekend where none of the cars reported any technical faults, it must have been frustrating not to be able to compete on a level playing field with the opposition.
The tenth and penultimate round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship will be contested on 21-24 September at Laguna Seca, California, at the Continental Tyre Monterey Grand Prix.
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche Motorsport