The Porsche GTLM class factory IMSA effort secured victory this weekend at Mid Ohio Sportscar Course, making this their second win across the first four races of the season. That’s a pretty good ratio for any racing team, but to hold that distinction in as competitive a class as GTLM, Porsche has to be beaming. Competition from Ford, Chevrolet, and BMW had Porsche in fits across the full two hours and forty-five minutes of the race, but they ultimately held on to keep a hard charging BMW at bay in the last handful of laps, winning the race by just 1.673 seconds as the checkered flag fell. It was an exciting race, from flag to flag to say the least, especially considering there were no full course yellow laps.
During Porsche’s pre-tests at Mid Ohio in mid-April, the weather turned sour and they experienced snow and freezing winds for two days. Because of that, the team had no viable data with which to build their race. Mid Ohio has been off the IMSA calendar for at least long enough that this would be the 911 RSR’s first race on the midwest circuit. Because of that, and the fact that it was a warm and gorgeous day on Sunday at the track, the team was forced to work doubletime to figure out a setup for the race.
Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber set the pace for the weekend, putting down fast lap times in each of the three practice sessions. In Qualifying, however, it was Nick Tandy who put Porsche on the outside pole, sharing his car with Patrick Pilet. Tandy got a great start and took the lead of the class on the first lap. Earl Bamber, who also had a killer start, put his car right behind Tandy’s wing and stuck there. At the first pit stop, Bamber swapped out for Laurens Vanthoor. With Pilet now in for Tandy, the pair ran in lock step until the next pit stop. Pilet was struggling to keep pace with the field on his new set of tires, and was forced to leave Vanthoor at the front as he drifted further to arrears. As the BMW, on fresher tires, closed in during the final phase of the race, Vanthoor knew that this was his opportunity to finally take a victory for the team. He’d managed his tires well, and was able to find a slim margin on which to finish ahead.
Laurens Vanthoor (911 RSR # 912): “We’ve waited for a year and a half for this day. We were often so close to winning, but then something foiled it. Today it was finally our turn. Earl drove a great first stint and conserved as much fuel as possible. After the first pit stop we took the lead. I tried to control the race while keeping a close eye on the tyres. That wasn’t easy, but it worked.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR #911): “Nick’s first stint was great. He did precisely what was needed to put us in the lead. I don’t quite know why our performance dropped off later, but we’ll take a good look at this and fix the problem before the Watkins Glen race.”
Race resultGTLM class
1. Vanthoor/Bamber (B/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR, 118 laps
2. Sims/de Phillippi (GB/USA), BMW M8, 118
3. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette, 118
4. Hand/Müller (USA/D), Ford GT, 118
5. Westbrook/Briscoe (GB/USA), Ford GT, 118
6. Tandy/Pilet (GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 118
7. Krohn/Edwards (SF/USA), BMW M8, 118
8. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 118
1. Marcelli/Baumann (CAN/A), Lexus RC, 118 laps
2. Legge/Parente (GB/P), Acura NSX, 118
3. Sellers/Snow (USA/USA), Lamborghini, 118
7. Long/Nielsen (USA/DK), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 115
11. Henzler/Schein (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 113