Porsche has a long history of supplying racing GT-class sports cars to customer racing teams. That long history continued to pay off for the crested brand this weekend with a two-pronged customer attack on the IMSA GTLM and GTD categories with WeatherTech Racing and Pfaff Motorsports. While weather threatened to impact the two hour and forty minute race, it held off until after the checkered flag fell, allowing for a dry and extremely fast race to go down at Road America in the gorgeous rolling hills of Wisconsin cheese country. In both classes a bold two-stop strategy with aggressive fuel savings was the call, and in both cases it payed dividends for the respective teams and drivers.
With the departure of BMW from full-season competition, the GTLM class was a single privateer Porsche against the might of General Motors and the Corvette Racing squad. WeatherTech floormat scion Cooper MacNeil started the race against a pair of factory Corvette aces. While it was obvious that Cooper didn’t have the speed in himself to keep the Porsche in touch with the two Corvettes, losing chunks of time per lap to the faster pro drivers, he didn’t need to be in the car long. At the first caution of the race around the thirty minute mark, MacNeil dipped into the pits to swap seats with Porsche factory ace Matt Campbell.
Once aboard the WeatherTech-entered 911 RSR, 26-year-old Campbell set off like a rocket. When one of the Corvettes received a drive-through penalty, that moved the Porsche up into second position. Then it was a matter of fuel conservation and strategy to get Campbell up into the lead. The Corvette team went with a more conservative three-stop strategy, while Porsche opted for a two stop with a long fuel conservation stint to run to the end. For most of the second half of the race Campbell was coasting into the braking zones and pedaling out of the corners to keep his Porsche from using too much fuel. When the leading Corvette had to pit an extra time for fuel, the Porsche was able to hold on to the lead until the end to earn the win. Someone call the EPA, because Matt Campbell’s driving style should be certified as a fuel saving device!
In the GTD category, the famous plaid Pfaff Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Zacharie Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor pulled off a very similar race in a very similar fashion. The am driver Robichon started the race and pitted for fuel just before the full course caution flags flew, but opted to stay onboard for a second stint. When the race went back to green, Zach pushed his car into the lead on pure pace. After running an additional hour in the car, Robichon dipped into the pits with 57 minutes remaining in the race, handing off to Vanthoor. From that point until the end of the race Vanthoor had to run a very conservative fuel strategy to make it to the finish without a stop for more fuel. 57 minutes on a tank of fuel isn’t impossible, but it’s not easy. The Belgian driver saw the finish of the race almost 12 seconds ahead of the competition.
Comments after the race
Cooper MacNeil (Porsche 911 RSR, WeatherTech Racing #79): “This is a great victory for the team and it’s wonderful to win on our home track. The Proton Competition WeatherTech Racing Team did a great job over the race weekend in difficult weather conditions and made no mistakes. This gives us some strong momentum going into Le Mans next week and we want to continue this winning streak with Porsche at the 24-hour race. We have the chance to do this if we can stay out of trouble and are in the right place at the end – just like we were today.”
Zacharie Robichon (Porsche 911 GT3 R, Pfaff Motorsports #9): “All in all a fantastic race for our team. It started with a perfect strategy call to pit before the yellow, and then I got a good restart and was able to control the race from the front. A few brave passes were necessary but I knew the first two laps after the restart were going to be the key to the race. After this, it was all about saving fuel and getting the car in a good position for Laurens.”
Patrick Long (Porsche 911 GT3 R, Wright Motorsports #16): “I’m happy to get back onto the podium after a few rough races. It was a classic endurance race where track position, strategy and a flat-out last stint were required and it was a lot of fun. I’m proud to get the Wright colours back onto the podium and try and build on this momentum as we head to Laguna Seca on the west coast.”
Result GTLM class
1. MacNeil/Campbell (USA/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 73 laps
2. Garcia/Taylor (E/USA), Chevrolet Corvette #3, 73 laps
3. Tandy/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette #4, 72 laps
Result GTD class
1. Robichon/Vanthoor (CDN/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 69 laps
2. Auberlen/Foley (USA/USA), BMW M6 GT3 #96, 69 laps
3. Long/Hindman (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 69 laps
8. Ferriol/Legge (USA/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 R #88, 68 laps