For the first time all season, Pat Long and Christina Nielsen paired for a Porsche GTD victory. Despite having qualified on pole before, they couldn't convert that into a Wright Motorsports victory until this Sunday afternoon. As the field of competition fell apart around them throughout the race, Patrick and Christina put in a flawless race that defies comparison. Other teams faltered on fuel strategy or tires in the hot sun, but the red and white Wright 911 simply went about its business and ran an unassuming and behind-the-scenes effort to drop into the lead in the final stint after running toward the front all day. Of course, you'd be forgiven for missing it if you watched the broadcast, as the GTD efforts went largely undocumented.
Patrick Long started the race, as he was the qualifying driver. As the green flag flew, he got down to business and led for the opening stint. When he pitted at 45-minutes to hand the Porsche off to Nielsen, she returned to the field in 3rd under green flag conditions. Running the full middle-stint, Nielsen ran a long fifty-five minutes on track to stretch their fuel load. With just one hour remaining in the race, she came in for a regularly scheduled stop to hand back off to Patrick for the finish of the race. While they were pitted, the course went yellow due to an incident, and only the Porsche and the #48 Lamborghini made it into the pits before they closed.
Long came out behind the Lamborghini at the back of the pack, but the remainder of the field finally pitted after the pit lane opened up, promoting the pair to first and second. Then, it was just a flawless battle between Long and former Porsche ace Bryan Sellers in the Lambo. It took Patrick just two laps of action to find his way by into the lead, making an exquisite pass down the inside at turn one. Then it was simply up to Patrick to control the field and his fuel level to bring the race home in the lead with a 3.6 second margin of victory.
Patrick Long, Driver, No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R:
“We’ve waited a long time for this, so it definitely makes it sweeter. Coming off of a disappointing run two weeks ago, we all banded together as a team to make this happen. The focus and motivation in the atmosphere was the highest it’s been all season and that says a lot about the organization. The race itself had a lot more yellows than we expected, which that always makes you nervous because you’re thinking about how the strategy should be. Fortunately, everyone just kept their cool and hit their marks. The car was phenomenal. I honestly don’t remember having a car that had that perfect of a balance in a long, long time, so I have to give credit to the whole organization on the setup and speed. We’ll try to carry this to VIR.”
GTLM Race Report
Things didn't go quite so smoothly for the GTLM classed Porsche factory effort. The pair had qualified fourth and eighth at the start, which made things look bleak from the green flag, but thanks to a bit of luck and some flawless strategy and driving, Nick Tandy brought his 911 up into the lead of the class, and remained there for quite some time. On the reverse of the coin, Vanthoor and Bamber were forced back to 8th at the start, and worked hard to get back up through the field of players, putting in some excellent passing maneuvers in the process.
Just before the one-hour remaining mark, however, Tandy's Porsche was being caught up by some competition. In his signature style, Tandy's temper got the best of him, and contact was inevitable. The race stewards deemed his actions to have been avoidable contact, and he was handed a drive through penalty. Patrick Pilet couldn't do much from there, beyond bring their Porsche home in 5th. Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber, meanwhile, used some caution action as their savior, bringing them up into fourth, just barely missing out on a podium.
Ford won their fourth GTLM battle in a row. BMW looked to be on track to win this race, but Connor di Phillippi ran out of fuel on course and could not get back into the pit lane for a fuel refill.
Comments on the race
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport:
“That was a tough race for the team. We knew that the track characteristics with its long straights would make it difficult for us here. We really struggled in the qualifying, but we made up for this in the race with a perfect strategy and optimal pit stops for our #911 car. But then we were handed a drive-through penalty and we went backwards from that point on. In two weeks we’ll be in Virginia, where we’ll attack again. Congratulations to our customer team Wright Motorsports on winning the GTD class.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912):
“We ended up on fourth place. We simply couldn’t do any more. To be honest, we were lucky that the others experienced problems. When we arrived here our expectations weren’t that high, because it’s a tricky circuit for our car and tyres. We’ve had several strong performances that we haven’t managed to turn into victories. Now let’s see how it goes in Virginia.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911):
“In terms of strategy we were very well sorted. And everything else worked perfectly. I was just a little surprised by the penalty from the race director. Of course you have to accept such a drive-through penalty, which is what we did, but it meant we had to bury our dreams of a top podium finish.”
Race result GTLM class
1. Briscoe/Westbrook (AUS/GB), Ford GT, 66 laps
2. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 66 laps
3. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 66 laps
4. Vanthoor/Bamber (B/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR, 66 laps
5. Tandy/Pilet (GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 66 laps
6. Sims/De Phillippi (GB/USA), BMW M8 GTE, 64 laps
7. Hand/Müller (USA/D), Ford GT, 63 laps
8. Krohn/Edwards (FIN/USA), BMW M8 GTE, 52 laps