A lap record in qualifying, pole position, and a commanding lead in the race: despite this, the dream of claiming the maiden victory for the latest generation of the Porsche 911 RSR in the IMSA SportsCar Championship at round four of this year’s North American series remains unfulfilled. After a strong performance from the number 912 vehicle driven by Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand), which culminated in a 20-second lead, torrential rain threw a spanner in the works about 50 minutes before the end of the 2:40-hour event. Bamber spun and slid from the track. At the wheel of the No. 911 Porsche, Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) at one point advanced to first place in the chaotic weather conditions, however, when the race restarted behind the safety car the vehicle had to pit. In a last-ditch effort to fight for class victory from third place under difficult conditions, Tandy slid from the track in the rain with no visibility. He and Makowiecki finished on fourth, with the sister car on fifth.
Start driver Vanthoor took up the race in the No. 912 RSR from pole position and initially lost the lead to Jordan Taylor’s Corvette. In lap 15, he reversed the order and quickly pulled clear of his pursuer. After ten consistently fast laps, he handed the 911 to Earl Bamber. The New Zealander extended the lead to a good 20 seconds and, thanks as well to late pit stops, seemed to be on track for a sure win. Then, with less than an hour left on the clock, the forecast rain set in – and turned into a downpour. Bamber was caught off guard by the sheer volume of water and spun into the gravel. While attempting to get out, the 911 RSR – missing a wing mirror but otherwise unscathed – lost two laps and ultimately crossed the finish line in fifth.
In the sister car, Frédéric Makowiecki had tackled the race from P6. The Frenchman also managed to conserve the tyres of his 911 RSR from lap ten and quickly moved up the order to lie in third place. The No. 911 car was the last in the GTLM class to pit for the first time after lap 28. Nick Tandy took over driving duties and rejoined the race in position four. In lap 31, however, the Briton had to let John Edwards’ BMW pass. Tandy promptly turned from the hunted to the hunter, and was in hot pursuit when the sky opened up. Although the chaos had allowed the outright Le Mans winner of 2015 to move into the lead by the time the race was stopped, the No. 3 Corvette and the No. 24 BMW had already been shod with rain tyres. After the restart behind the safety car, Tandy had to make a pit stop and fell back to third. In his final attempt to fulfil the dream of a class win during the remaining seven minutes, he hit the wall on the last lap. As a safety measure, he was taken to the medical centre for a check.
In the GTD class for vehicles complying with the international GT3 regulations, start driver Ryan Hardwick and factory pilot Patrick Long (both USA) made the most of the wild weather. Putting in a double stint, Long worked his way up the order from tenth to seventh place. In the mayhem of the rain, at one point he manoeuvred his way up to fourth place in the GTD class at the wheel of the 500+hp Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by the Wright Motorsport customer team. Ultimately, he finished fifth in the GTD class.
Porsche travels to round five of the season contested at the Virginia International Raceway on 23 August ranking third in the manufacturers’ classification just nine points from the top. Reigning champions Bamber and Vanthoor retain their second place in the drivers’ standings with 120 points. Their brand colleagues Makowiecki and Tandy occupy fifth place with 113 points.
Comments on the race
Steffen Höllwarth (Head of Operations IMSA Championship): “The result is very disappointing. We managed to set fast lap times over the distance, so the long runs in the practice sessions paid off. We were very well positioned and were able to steadily work our way forward in the race. The number 912 car was leading when the sky opened up. Rain, hail, lightning; we got the lot. We decided to pit a little late. When 912 came in, all chances of winning were scuttled. After the race interruption, the 911 had to pit briefly one more time to refuel and switch to wet tyres. In the last ten minutes, the race turned into a real thriller. Nick Tandy pulled out all stops. With two laps to the flag, he slid off the track in the extreme conditions and hit the barriers. Fortunately, nothing serious happened to him.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “Our starting position for the race could have been better, but we managed to work our way up the order little by little. In the dry, we were in a position to fight for a podium spot. The rain made things incredibly difficult for everyone. Our focus is now on the next race in Virginia.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “We had another race where with a bit more luck we could have had a good result. In the end the conditions were too bad to keep racing. You see this when multiple cars have no chance to even control themselves on the straights. We lost all grip and aquaplaned off the road at high speed. Luckily, I’m okay and I’m very thankful to the team at Porsche Motorsport for building such strong cars.“
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “The number 3 Corvette got a better start and was faster on the straights. I cleverly tucked in behind and conserved my tyres, because the car in front of me had attacked too hard – so I could pass it, take the lead during my stint and build a gap. What followed was a catastrophe. Earl didn’t get the radio message to come into the pits. He kept going on the dry track, got caught in the first downpour and lost the car.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “We had two great cars today. With the 912 we opted for the right tyres to win, but the message about the rain didn’t reach me. I made a mistake and flew off the track. Now we have to look ahead and earn as many points as possible at the next race.”
Result GTLM class
1. Garcia/Taylor (E/USA), Chevrolet Corvette C8.R #3, 60 laps
2. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette C8.R #4, 60 laps
3. Krohn/Edwards (FIN/USA), BMW M8 GTE #24, 60 laps
4. Tandy/Makowiecki (GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR #911, 58 laps
5. Vanthoor/Bamber (B/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR #912, 58 laps
6. Spengler/De Phillippi (CDN/USA), BMW M8 GTE #25, 55 laps
Result GTD class
1. Montecalvo/Bell (USA/USA), Lexus RC F GT3 #12, 57 laps
2. Farnbacher/McMurry (D/USA), Acura NSX GT3 #86, 57 laps
3. Hawksworth/Telitz (GBR/USA), Lexus RC F GT3 #14, 57 laps
4. MacNeil/Vilander (USA/FIN), Ferrari 488 GT3 #63, 57 laps
5. Long/Hardwick (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 57 laps