Round 7 of the Tudor United Sports Car Championship in in the history books and with their results, Porsche now leads hotly-contested North American sports car championship. Keeping Porsche's winning streak alive (this is the team's 3rd straight win), Le Mans winner Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet won the GTLM class, repeating their recent feat at Bowmanville, Canada. Making it a double victory for Porsche, their teammates Earl Bamber and Jörg Bergmeister scored second place. Porsche's full race report can be found after the gallery below.
The race on the demanding 6.514-kilometre circuit at Elkhart Lake in the state of Wisconsin was one of the most gripping of the year, particularly in the GTLM class. The grid positions of the two 911 RSR sports cars campaigned by Porsche North America could not have been more different: Earl Bamber started from pole position in the number 912 vehicle, with Patrick Pilet taking up the race from the back of the pack in the number 911 car due to a problem in qualifying.
While the Le Mans winner from New Zealand got off the line well and pulled clear of his pursuers, the Frenchman thrilled spectators with his sensational chase through the field: After the first lap he had already overtaken all ten of the GTD class contenders and closed the gap to the more powerful GTLM vehicles. After four laps he had passed four more competitors, and by lap nine he was well on his way to the podium in third place. His teammate Nick Tandy climbed into the cockpit at the first pit stop and continued the stunning performance. After the first half of the 2:40-hour race, both 911 RSR were running at the front: Earl Bamber leading with Nick Tandy in second.
Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “I can hardly believe it. To start from the very back and finish at the front of our class is something you don’t experience every day as a race driver. But our car was perfect and our strategy worked brilliantly. Now we’re back in the championship and anything is possible. Right now we’re enjoying the moment, but from tomorrow on we’ll be focusing on the next round in Virginia.”
With just 45 minutes to the checkered flag, the final series of pit stops opened the critical phase of the race: Jörg Bergmeister, who scored the last GT victory at Road America for Porsche in 2009 and had taken over driving duties from Earl Bamber by this point, came in to refuel while running in first. The German rejoined the race in third place, but lost several positions in the first lap when his tyres took too long to develop the optimal grip. Patrick Pilet pitted shortly afterwards, with Ferrari inheriting the front spot. When the machine from Maranello pulled in for its last pit stop, the Frenchman retook the lead and proceeded to open the gap.
Jörg Bergmeister (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “A one-two for Porsche – it couldn’t be better. Unfortunately it took a while to get the tires up to temperature in the first lap after our last pit stop and that cost us the race. In the final lap I did everything I could to make the double victory perfect. And it worked. In doing this, though, Pierre Kaffer and I touched slightly. But he gave me the thumbs up during the cool-down lap to signal that it was a fair maneuver. I would have said the same.”
While Pilet brought home a safe victory for Porsche, Jörg Bergmeister put in a spirited pursuit through the GTLM field to catch the Ferrari running in second. With just meters to go to the flag, Bergmeister made the decisive move to notch up the second double victory for Porsche this season after Watkins Glen.
GTLM Class Race Results
1. Pilet/Tandy (F/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 74 laps
2. Bamber/Bergmeister (NZ/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 74
3. Kaffer/Fisichella (D/I), Ferrari F458 Italia, 74
4. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette, 73
5. Auberlen/Werner (USA/D), BMW Z4 GTE, 73
6. Edwards/Luhr (USA/D), BMW Z4 GTE, 73
7. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 73
8. Henzler/Sellers (D/USA), Porsche 911 RSR, 73
GTD Class Race Results
1. Keating/Bleekemolen (USA/NL), Dodge Viper SRT, 70 laps
2. Nielsen/Wittmer (DK/CDN), Aston Martin, 70
3. Lindsey/Pumpelly (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT America, 70
Round eight of ten on the Tudor United SportsCar Championship calendar will be contested on 23 August at the VIR Virginia International Raceway in Alton (US state of Virginia).