To say it wasn't Porsche's day in Long Beach this weekend would be an understatement. A very successful qualifying session had both 991s sitting in comfortable positions for the start, with the Earl Bamber/Laurens Vanthoor car on the outside of the front row. Porsche was confident that after a great finish in the long Florida endurance race at Sebring, they'd have no issue running quickly in this, the shortest race of the year. Friday ended with the team riding a wave of high emotion, but unfortunately it would not last.
At the green flag, Laurens Vanthoor pushed his way into the lead of the race, and absolutely dominated through the first stint, putting down fast laps and keeping the nose of the 991 R out of trouble. During the race's second caution phase, Vanthoor pitted to hand off the car to Earl Bamber, while BMW driver Alex Sims assumed the lead. It took only eight laps for Bamber to re-take the lead of the race and start to stretch a gap at the front of the field.
Everything fell apart for the Porsche team when Bamber's front right suspension sheared a bolt off and the 911 collapsed at that corner. Porsche was forced to retire #912 from the race after 80 of the 100 minutes. It'd run at the front for the whole race, and led the majority of those laps, but it's all for naught because of a small five dollar part failing. Sometimes that's just how the cookie crumbles.
Earl Bamber (911 RSR #912): “Our 911 RSR ran very well on this track. The guys did one quick pit stop and we were holding a comfortable lead. But then something went wrong with the suspension and that was the end of our race. It’s a shame for the team, but such things happen. Now we’ll be back to attack in Mid-Ohio.”
As for the #911 car, their issues were not mechanical, but a result of getting held up behind someone else in the pit lane. The car was held up at turn two, where some minor damage was done to the Porsche's front bumper, having impacted the rear bumper of the car ahead. During the pit stop where Patrick Pilet handed the car off to Nick Tandy, Sebring winners both of them, a car held up the team in pit lane. They were on track to rejoin the field in second position, but the hold up shoved them back several spots. An extra pit stop later in the race cost the team their hold on the lead lap, and they ultimately finished 6th.
Comments on the race:
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars:
“This race offered everything that spectators like on a street circuit. With our #912 contender, Laurens and Earl did everything right. Laurens made a cracking start and immediately took the lead. Earl also fought his way back to the front after the pit stop. Both of them drove an immaculate race, and also found brilliant solutions to difficult situations during some close calls with competitors. For a street race, they were in a very comfortable lead when the damage to the suspension, which could have been caused by contact, quite possibly cost them the win. That was simply bad luck. The race for the #911 car was influenced by a rear-ender. There wasn’t a lot Nick and Patrick could do after that. All in all, we can say that the performance of the 911 RSR was good and that the team did a great job. We’ll take these positive impressions with us to the next race in Mid-Ohio.”
Race result: GTLM class
1. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 69 laps
2. Westbrook/Briscoe (GB/USA), Ford GT, 69
3. Hand/Müller (USA/D), Ford GT, 69
4. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette, 69
5. Krohn/Edwards (SF/USA), BMW M8, 69
6. Tandy/Pilet (GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 69
7. Vanthoor/Bamber (B/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR, 52
8. Sims/de Phillippi (GB/USA), BMW M8, 37