It seems like just a few weeks ago we were talking about Porsche winning an endurance sports car race, oh yeah, it was the endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is a different series, and a different race, but 6-hours at Watkins Glen in New York is still quite exciting and quite important to Porsche's racing program. No surprise, then, that they wouldn't be interested in settling for anything but the absolute best results. On this storied race track in this historic race, Porsche took a well deserved and celebrated 1-2 GTLM-class victory with their strong and fast 911 RSR race car. After 6-hours of drama and excitement, Porsche again came out on top of their competition.
Porsche's Charge To The GTLM Category Win
After 157 laps and six hours of racing in all kinds of nasty weather, Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler and his American teammate (and FLATSIXES contributor) Bryan Sellers won the Watkins Glen endurance round of the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship, driving Team Falken Tire's Porsche 911 RSR. Following them to the finish, and clinching second place for Porsche, was the combination of Jörg Bergmeister and newly-crowned Le Mans winner Earl Bamber.
Earl Bamber, Driver, Porsche Motorsport North America 911 RSR #912 -
“Second place feels really good. At the end of a very eventful day it’s a great achievement for the Porsche North America squad, particularly after such a difficult beginning. At the end we could have done with a couple of extra race minutes under green. Perhaps then we could have even won. It’s a shame, but still, congratulations to the Falken Team.”
At the start of the race, factory racer Patrick Pilet took the green flag in his 911 RSR from 5th position on the grid, and with heavy rains continuing to pour down, nabbed the class lead on the first lap, overtaking four cars in quick succession. It didn't take him long to stretch that lead out to over a minute on the competition.
While Pilet was soaring high, Bamber unfortunately suffered a terrible first lap, contacting someone who spun ahead of him and damaging the splitter. After repairs were effected, Bamber then had to work from a one lap deficit. The rain had stopped and the track was starting to dry when the torrents returned. When that happened, many cars were caught out and there was a lot of crunched bodywork. A safety car was deployed, but that wasn't enough and the race was eventually red flagged until the standing water could dissipate a bit.
After going back to green, it would seem there was a litany of yellow flags. Team Falken Tire had planned well and were in the right place at the right time, managing the weather properly and making the best of the hand they were dealt. With what may be the best GT class rain-tires in the business, Falken wasn't exactly a surprise winner in a race pockmarked by heavy rains. That said, they still had to have the good drivers to keep the car out of the wall. Sellers started the race, and after completing his time, Henzler stepped in.
Bryan Sellers, Driver, Falken Tire Racing Porsche 911 RSR #17 -
“In the end it was simply a matter of keeping cool: Is there enough fuel or not? We did what we could. We were fast in both dry and wet conditions. Under such conditions you need a little luck of course, but I think all in all it was a well-earned victory. To achieve this result the entire team has worked very hard over the last weeks and months. Today we reaped the rewards.”
There were a few teams caught out by driver changes (including Porsche's Tandy/Pilet team) that forced them down the lineup. Luckily Henzler was in a good position to attack, and inherited the lead. Bamber, thanks to some heroic driving, made some great wet-track maneuvers to come home in second place in what was his first trip to Watkins Glen.
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Leader GT Works Motorsport -
“That was an incredibly intensive race with a phenomenally good outcome for Porsche. Congratulations to our colleagues from Falken Tire and our works driver Wolf Henzler on this fantastic achievement. On the wet track our drivers got away brilliantly at the start. But then the caution phase came exactly at the wrong time and the more than 50 second advantage that Patrick had worked so hard to build was gone. Under these changeable conditions, strategy played a vital role. Unfortunately we finally had to call Patrick into the pits otherwise he would have exceeded the maximum allowable driving time. If this hadn’t have happened we would have locked out the top three places.”
1. Henzler/Sellers (D/USA), Porsche 911 RSR, 157 laps
2. Bamber/Bergmeister (NZ/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 157
3. Auberlen/Werner (USA/D), BMW Z4 GTE, 157
4. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette, 157
5. Kaffer/Fisichella (D/I), Ferrari F458 Italia, 157
6. Pilet/Tandy (F/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 157
7. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 136
1. Carter/Lawrence/Goosens (USA/USA/B), Dodge Viper SRT, 152 laps
2. Potter/Lally/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 GT America, 152
3. Haase/von Moltke/Miller (D/USA/USA), Audi R8 LMS, 152
4. Sweedler/Bell (USA/USA), Ferrari 458 Italia, 152
5. McNeil/Keen/Davis (USA/USA/USA), Porsche GT America, 152
6. Keating/Bleekemolen (USA/NL), Dodge Viper SRT, 152
7. Farnbacher/James (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT America, 152