Porsche scored just a single win in the 2017 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship about three-quarters into the season, but now the Porsche GTLM team have notched up their first victory this year in just the second round. Their success in Florida in the 12 Hours of Sebring came by way of a win for Patrick Pilet/Fred Makowiecki/Nick Tandy in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR. Their teammates, Laurens Vanthoor/Earl Bamber/Gianmaria Bruni finished in third place in the #912 car.
Following qualifying, the #912 Porsche started from sixth place with the #911 car in eighth place. After the first lap, the #912 car had moved up two places in class while their teammates had gained three places. The first of eleven safety car phases came after just 14 laps, but on lap 40, Laurens Vanthoor moved into the lead for the first time, a position which his teammate, Gianmaria Bruni, held at the front of the GT field for some time.
The two works Porsches continued to run without fault through to the halfway mark in the race. Shortly before halftime, Nick Tandy also had his turn at the head of the field in the #911 Porsche. During the second half of the race, it was the Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki who dominated the GT field for two hours, only relinquishing the lead when he came in for a scheduled pit stop after dark. However, the 911 RSR continued to put the leaders under pressure and a torn-off rear diffuser caused by a minor off-track excursion was replaced in record time, and the lost time was quickly regained.
And the Porsche pilots continued to hold their own. On the 279th lap, and after ten hours and ten minutes of hard racing, it was Pilet’s turn to lead for the first time. Nick Tandy, in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR then defended this position with an inspired drive to the flag. Thanks to this victory, Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki now move into second place in the driver’s classification, while Porsche advances to second in the manufacturer’s championship. This result also gives Porsche a strong boost in the points tally that counts towards the North American Endurance Cup.
Comments on the race
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “It’s a great achievement to score two podium spots at Sebring. The secret was our consistency and the fact that we didn’t make one mistake. We may not have been the fastest over a lap, but over the distance the drivers and the entire team put in a perfect performance.”
Patrick Pilet (#911): “This win was missing from my collection. It was a great team effort. To celebrate this achievement with my friends Nick and Fred, is incredible. After qualifying, victory seemed a long way off, but when you’re determined to achieve something and you go for it, you can do it. This race is proof of that.”
Nick Tandy (#911): “They say that the best victories come from the toughest races. Today was such a race. We didn’t have the slightest problem over the entire distance and that was the key to our success. My last two stints were incredibly intense, especially the duels with the Ferrari and the BMW. We switched to new tyres during the last pit stop – after that, nothing could hold us back.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (#911): “That was one of my greatest successes. Sebring is my all-time favourite race in the USA and we knew that we’d only have a chance if we as a team didn’t make any mistakes. It was a really tough race, but that makes this victory all the more special.”
Earl Bamber (#912): “This race was a real rollercoaster for us. A case in point is when another car blocked our pits and we lost twelve seconds and several positions. It was a banner day for Porsche. We’ve waited a long time for such a sense of achievement. Now we’ll tackle the rest of the season feeling even more motivated.”
Laurens Vanthoor (#912): “Victory and third place, what a great success for Porsche. The whole team has worked hard for this major race and they deserve this success.”
Gianmaria Bruni (#912): “I’m proud to be a part of this squad. What they’ve achieved today is hard to describe in words. It’s unbelievable how quickly the mechanics got our car back in the race after I left the circuit briefly towards the end and had to pit with a damaged diffuser.”
Race result – GTLM class
|1||911||Porsche 911 RSR||Tandy/Pilet/Makowiecki|
|2||25||BMW M8||Sims/de Phillippi/Auberlen|
|3||912||Porsche 911 RSR||Vanthoor/Bamber/Bruni|
The two private teams in the GTD class, had their own struggles and stories to tell. The Wright Motorsports team bounced back from two laps down and earned a sixth-place finish for the #58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long, Christina Nielsen, Mathieu Jaminet and Robert Renauer.
Nielsen had the honour of taking the green flag for the 12-hour classic. Following a clean start, the Porsche Selected driver managed to drive the #58 Porsche as high as fifth place in her opening stints.
A number of challenges, including a pit lane penalty and a minor off, set them back two laps in the early stages of the race. Despite the setbacks, the team maintained their composure, kept the car clean, and proceeded to knock out quick laps.
Long was making excellent progress when a full course caution came out and with four hours remaining, the #58 Porsche was brought back onto the lead lap. Jaminet was then called up to complete his first laps of the race and, from joining the race in fourteenth place in class, he managed to climb his way up to fifth before handing the car back to Long for a single stint. Long maintained the pace and returned the controls to Jaminet for the final two hours of the race, where he brought the car up to third place. With 50-minutes remaining, Jaminet pitted from third to take fuel, rejoining down in eighth in class. He continued to push right to the end, ultimately bringing the #58 Porsche 911 GT3 R home in sixth place.
Patrick Long (#58): “I feel like the end result of the race really isn’t reflective of the speed the car really had. This was a great step forward from Daytona in performance and execution. I’m very proud of my teammates and the entire Wright organisation.”
Christina Nielsen (#58): “This last week was a week with mixed emotions. I got to know the team a lot better, which was really good for me. Their professionalism, optimism and how hard-working they are, is really something that’s hard to come across and a pleasure to be around. The 12 Hours of Sebring is never an easy race, and unfortunately this wasn’t our weekend.”
Mathieu Jaminet (#58): “I would like to thank Wright Motorsports and my teammates for allowing me to race this weekend. This was a great opportunity for me. During the race, we did a great job with no mistakes from the crew or drivers and we had a really strong car. We maximized our package throughout the weekend.”
Robert Renauer (#58): “Thanks to my teammates and the whole Wright Motorsports team. Everyone did a great job the whole weekend. We had a great car and were very strong in the end. Unfortunately, we lost some positions after the last pit stop, which cost us a good result.”
Park Place Motorsports did not enjoy their finest weekend. After qualifying down in seventeenth place in class, they managed to haul themselves up to ninth in class. That said, the #73 Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Joerg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey/Timothy Pappas, finished on the same lap as the class winners.
Race result – GTD class
|1||48||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||Sellers/Snow/Lewis|
|2||63||Ferrari 488 GT3||Balzan/McNeil/Jeannette|
|6||58||Porsche 911 GT3 R||Long/Nielsen/Jaminet/Renauer|
|9||73||Porsche 911 GT3 R||Bergmeister/Lindsey/Pappas|
Thanks to perfect pit stops from the factory Porsche GT crew and an excellent performance from drivers, the factory 911 RSRs were able to hold their own against tough competition throughout the race. The top five GTLM all finished on the same lap (328 laps) while the top ten cars in the GTD class all finished on the same lap (321 laps), highlighting just how tight the racing was.
With the Porsche factory team scoring a win in Sebring, the next race will prove interesting for the enthusiasts and followers of the Stuttgart manufacturer. Round three of the IMSA SportsCar Championship is the Long Beach street race in the US state of California on 14 April.
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche Werkfoto