This weekend marked the final round of the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship at Road Atlanta's famed Petit Le Mans. The ten-hour race in northern Georgia was bound to be a tough one from the start, but Porsche was more than ready for the challenge. The mid-engine 911 RSR competitors donned a throwback livery in the form of 1998's Le Mans-winning 911 GT1 with Mobil oils white, blue, and red. Both cars looked spectacular as the green flag flew, and they were both incredibly quick. The team ran a largely flawless race, and managed to take the victory they so desperately wanted, their third win of the season.
The #911 car was the one to cross the finish line first in the GTLM class, having run into almost no issues all race long. This is the age-old Porsche strategy of running consistently quick lap times while staying out of the pits as much as possible to place higher. It worked at Le Mans, and it worked at Petit Le Mans. Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, and Fred Mako put in an incredible effort to win over the competitive GTLM field with BMW, Ferrari, Ford, and Corvette doing everything they can to win themselves. With about three hours remaining on the race clock, Mako moved the #911 into the lead of the class, and maintained that lead through his stint. He then handed off to Tandy, who brought the car home in the lead with a margin of over 11 seconds.
Meanwhile, the #912 team car of Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor, and Mathieu Jaminet spent much of the opening few stints at the front of the pack as well, despite having slowed for a punctured tire early on in the endurance race. A mistake, which incurred a drive-through penalty, cost the team any shot, however. Losing that time in the pits was too insurmountable to make back up, and they ultimately finished down in 6th, one minute behind the winning sister car.
In GTD, Porsche's Wright Motorsports team suffered similar to the #912, having run up front early, but falling out with a drive-through penalty. Patrick Long, Christina Nielsen, and Robert Renauer put in as strong a drive as a trio can, but could do no better than just off the podium in fourth, one lap down. Meanwhile, the Park Place Motorsports car retired before the end of the race.
Comments on the race
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser (Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars):
“Our strategy worked perfectly. Right from the start, we focused on having a car at the end of the race that was very fast in cool conditions. Patrick laid the foundations for this success with a strong double stint. Nick and Fred then brought it home. But you need the right tactic, too, and that worked perfectly. Petit Le Mans was a huge race. This victory fits perfectly with the successes that came just in time for Porsche’s 70th anniversary. If someone had written a film script for such a scenario, no one would have believed it to be real. But it worked and that’s just terrific!”
Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsport):
“It was a gripping race with highs and lows. Minor errors on the racetrack cost us some time, but with perfect strategies and tyre choices we made it to the front of the field. After victories in Sebring and at Le Mans and now Petit Le Mans – the entire team simply did a perfect job, and today we extended the contract with the squad for another three years. Now we’ll prepare for next season.”
Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 RSR #911):
“Such moments underline why we systematically work together as a unit throughout the year. In such races you’re rewarded for this. We always believed we could win. When Nick climbed into the car for the final stints, I said to him: “Do it like at the Nürburgring. Go flat out and give it all you’ve got.” That’s exactly what he did. Everything came together. I’m incredibly proud of the whole team. To score so many victories at major races in one season is simply a dream.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912):
“This race actually went like the second half of the season: We had every chance to win, but we walked away empty handed. Congratulations to our teammates in the 911. It was a tremendous achievement for Patrick, Nick and Fred.”
1. Tandy/Pilet/Makowiecki (GB/F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 419 laps
2. Milner/Gavin/Fässler (USA/GB/CH), Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 419 laps
3. Krohn/Edwards/Mostert (FIN/USA/AUS), BMW M8 GTE, 419 laps
4. Sims/De Phillippi/Auberlen (GB/USA/USA), BMW M8 GTE, 419 laps
5. Briscoe/Westbrook/Dixon (AUS/GB/USA), Ford GT, 419 laps
6. Vanthoor/Bamber/Jaminet (B/NZ/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 419 laps
7. Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/D/F), Ford GT, 418 laps
8. Magnussen/Garcia/Fässler (DK/E/CH), Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 417 laps
9. Vilander/Molina/Bertolini (FIN/E/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 416 laps
1. MacNeil/Serra/Jeannette (USA/BRA/USA), Ferrari 488 GT3, 407 laps
2. Legge/Parente/Hindman (GB/P/USA), Acura NSX GT3, 407 laps
3.Sellers/Snow/Lewis (USA/USA/USA), Lamborghini Huracan GT3, 406 laps
4. Long/Nielsen/Renauer (USA/DK/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 406 laps
13. Henzler/Pumpelly/Pappas (D/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 122 laps