It is the end of an era. IMSA’s once highly successful GTLM class built around international GTE specification grand touring race cars is now dead. As the checkered flag fell on the 24th running of the Petit Le Mans race in Georgia this weekend, with it fell a giant of international motorsport. As the class which once saw competition from Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, Aston Martin, Ford GT, BMW M6, and Dodge Viper, among others, it was for several seasons one of the most exciting groups of cars in the world. With massive reductions in motorsport budgets and shifts of focus to other venues, the GTLM class, and with it the FIA WEC’s GTE class, withered on the vine.
In the final race for Porsche’s long-storied mid-engine 911 RSR sports car, the WeatherTech Racing squad fielded a quasi-factory team with a second 911 RSR for the 10-hour enduro. The gamble on the second car paid off handsomely as the team finished the race in first and second positions against the might of BMW RLL and Corvette Racing.
The pair of Porsches were given a relatively easy run in this race as both Corvette competitors suffered incidents that caused them to retire. The GTLM championship winners in the #3 Corvette suffered a multi-car crash on a restart from caution. The #4 didn’t go down without a fight, however, as it wasn’t until the closing minutes of the race that it was forced to retire with suspension damage from contact with the overall race winning Mazda DPi. Kevin Estre was leading the race in the one-race-only #97 with minutes remaining in the race, but it was decided that the full-season #79 car of Cooper MacNeil, Mathieu Jaminet, and Matt Campbell would be given the all-clear to pass their teammate to take the race victory. MacNeil is bankrolling the effort, after all.
Over in the GTD class Zacharie Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor secured their season championship. Early in the race title competitors in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini were mired in the pits for 13 laps, effectively putting them out of title contention altogether. With factory ace Lars Kern assisting the pair in the lumberjack-plaid 911 GT3 R of Pfaff Racing, the trio fought to the end to get yet another victory, but ultimately fell just short. In the end it would be the Heart of Racing Aston Martin which would win, and the Pfaff boys would have to settle for second.
All in all, a pretty successful ten-hour race in Georgia for the Porsche teams.