The IMSA race this last weekend, round 8 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, produced rather mixed results for the Porsches. While honours deservedly went to the #58 Wright Motorsport team of Patrick Long/Christina Nielsen in the GTD class, for the two works 911 RSRs in the GTLM class it turned into a Road America works disappointment.
With two victories behind them in the IMSA series this season, the teams and drivers of the two factory RSRs arrived at the Elkhart Lake circuit full of confidence. Things didn’t go according to plan at the track, however, and the #912 RSR of Vanthoor/Bamber qualified fourth in class while the #911 car of Pilet/Tandy was in eighth, or last in class. For Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen, the pair posted the quickest qualifying time in the GTD class in the #58 Wright Motorsport RSR. Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey were in sixth place at the start in the #73 Park Place RSR.
Even though positions four and eight at the start were a disappointment for the works teams, Nick Tandy showed the class a clean pair of heels and took the #911 into the lead. The Pilet/Tandy pairing remained at the front until an hour before the finish, but after a close duel with a pursuing vehicle, the #911 car was handed a drive-through penalty. At the end of the 2-hour 40-minute race, the pair finished in fifth position.
Unfortunately for the #912 car, having started in fourth place, Vanthoor fell back as far as eighth place over the course of the race. However, despite a number of caution phases, the duo worked their way up through the GTLM ranks and just missed out on a podium spot, finishing in fourth place.
The drivers of both cars were somewhat disappointed after the race:
Earl Bamber (#912): “We ended up in fourth place, we simply couldn’t do any more. To be honest, we were lucky that the others experienced problems. When we arrived here our expectations weren’t that high, because it’s a tricky circuit for our car and tyres. We’ve had several strong performances that we haven’t managed to turn into victories.”
Laurens Vanthoor (#912): “All in all, it was a difficult race. We encountered some critical situations with other vehicles out on the track, but that’s what I call tough racing. Fourth in qualifying was okay, but unfortunately we lacked enough speed in the race.”
Nick Tandy (#911): “In terms of strategy we were very well sorted. I was just a little surprised by the penalty from the race director. Of course, you have to accept such a drive-through penalty, which is what we did, but it meant we had to bury our dreams of a top podium finish.”
Patrick Pilet (#911): “The team did a great job. The strategy was definitely the right one and our pit stops were also extremely good today. Then out of the blue we received a drive-through penalty for contact with another vehicle. That’s frustrating.”
In the GTD class, Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen put in a flawless drive in their #58 Wright Motorsport 911 GT3 R. The pair had already posted pole position during Saturday’s qualifying on the 6.515-kilometre circuit, and with an immaculate drive on Sunday, they achieved their maiden victory in the class for GTD vehicles. This marks the 542nd Porsche win in the 49-year history of IMSA.
Unfortunately, the #73 Park Place Motorsports 911 GT3 R driven by Patrick Lindsey and Porsche factory driver Jörg Bergmeister, was thrown out of contention after contact with the track barriers.
The level of competition around the 4-mile circuit was so tight that the top five GTLM cars, and the top eight GTD cars, all finished on the same lap – the gap between the top GTLM car and the eighth placed GTD car was less than two minutes. This result for the top works driver pairing leaves Vanthoor/Bamber in fifth place in the points standings with 225 points (the class leaders are on 241 points). In the GTD class, the story is a little different, as Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen both lie in eighth place with 183 points, while the leaders are on 250 points.
Only four races remain in which the drivers can make up this deficit, and while the points gap in the GTLM race is not huge, the level of competition is very high. The next race is at the VIRginia International Raceway on 17-19 August. Be sure to keep up with the championship as the season draws to an exciting climax.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche Werkfoto