It was another weekend of IMSA racing and even more bad luck for the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche team taking a potentially winning car out of contention. This issue was an absolute freak accident that could not have been predicted, and has never been seen before. The plaid Canadian team in GTD Pro was looking quite likely to be in the fight for the full knock-down-drag-out race. The pairing of Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet is a strong one, and they had put in a solid qualifying by sticking the car on the inside of row two, third place, for the start of the race. Campbell had never been to Long Beach before, so for him to put in such a solid effort on his first time at the street circuit is the kind of thing a pro driver is good for.
Matt Campbell, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R: “I’m very excited to go to Long Beach because I haven’t been there before. I’ve always looked at that race and I haven’t been able to go to a street circuit for a number of years now – the last time I was on a street circuit was Monaco. To finally get back to a street circuit after a few years will be a nice change. It’s really exciting coming into the weekend as well leading the championship. We maximized our performance at Sebring even though we were struggling a lot for pace, but we were able to get to the end and get a good batch of points. Damage limitation will be important as well, it’s so easy to make a mistake on a street track. It’s a very compact weekend with three sessions in one day and if anything goes wrong, it can really affect our weekend and starting position and at a street circuit, starting position is going to be absolutely critical.”
The race started well enough for the Porsche team, sitting within shouting distance of the leading Corvette, and certainly in the fight by dint of just staying on the lead lap in the opening stages. This is one of those races that is won by keeping your nose clean and making precise moves. The circuit is full of perilous pitfalls that can catch a veteran driver out without warning. For the first 29 laps, there wasn’t anything that Long Beach could throw at the plaid Porsche that the drivers couldn’t handle. Then came a truly bizarre racing incident that has never been seen before, and likely never will be again.
On lap 29 the pole-sitting and then third placed #3 Corvette came into the pits with Jordan Taylor onboard. Running just ahead in third, at the same time, Jaminet dipped into the pits in the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. During the pit stop, the Corvette team changed tires, as they normally would, and in the process of removing one of the wheels the wheel nut spun free of both the wheel and the tire changer’s gun. That wheel nut, spinning at thousands of rotations per minute, then bounced down the pit lane toward the nearly-finished pit stop of the Pfaff Motorsports car. Because of the rear-engined layout of the Porsche, the car’s radiators are laid out at a severe angle and have significant hood openings to vent the hot air exiting, while providing a bit of downforce. Those unprotected radiators are rarely at risk of damage from anything, as the cars are generally travelling forward, and the ducts exit rearward. This time, however, the Corvette’s wheel nut slammed directly into the radiator at a high rate of speed and rotation, ripping a hole in the plaid car’s cooling system.
ICYMI: The pit stop that ended our day at the @GPLongBeach. “Never been seen” and “uncontrollable circumstance” are a couple phrases we’ve heard to describe this… #IMSA | #PlaidPorsche | #FueledByDriveway | #AGPLB pic.twitter.com/MwFiPBkBN5
— pfaffmotorsports (@pfaffmotorsport) April 10, 2022
So the factory-backed Porsche team was out of the race. The offending Corvette that caused the radiator puncture, unfortunately, was able to recover to finish on the podium, despite a drive-through penalty for the incident. It’s definitely one of those things that isn’t really anyone’s fault, but it still hurts to see. The team had a good car this weekend, and could have scored some seriously good GTD Pro class points. On to the next one, I suppose.