On Saturday afternoon, pit strategy was the name of the game in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. Porsche GT Team’s two 911 RSRs stopped with 62 minutes to go for their final stops of the race. That is approximately 12 minutes more than what a usual stint is for a GT Le Mans entry.
However, from there, Patrick Pilet was able to make his fuel last all the way to the end to claim the first win of the season for the No. 911 Porsche. It is the first victory for the new “mid-engined” Porsche that debuted earlier this season.
Afterwards, Pilet described the race as a team effort.
“It means a lot. Since the first race of the season, we’ve fought for the victory but never achieved that,” Pilet said during the post-race press conference. “It was great because everybody worked so hard. It went smooth all weekend since first practice. Both cars were really quick, especially the 912. We managed to get a really good pace during the long runs and we knew it was a key here to be strong during the long runs and it went perfectly. It was the very clean race since the beginning of the season so we will stop to enjoy and just celebrate and get focused for the next one.”
Gianmaria Bruni started from pole in the No. 912 Porsche and opened up a small gap on teammate Dirk Werner. However, just prior to the first pit stop, Bruni had an off-course excursion and covered the grille of his 911 RSR with grass. That allowed Werner to take the overall lead.
Further back, the battling was quite fierce. 24 minutes in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dirk Müller and Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner were fighting hard for fifth in class. Milner appeared to wheel-hop the No. 4 under braking for the chicane and just clipped the grass. Milner spun and clipped Müller.
Müller continued after repairs to the right side flying buttress on the Ford GT and eventually finished four laps down. Milner’s No. 4 Corvette suffered a suspension issue, resulting in Milner crabbing the car back to the pits. After a brief stay in the paddock for repairs, Milner rejoined the race nine laps down.
With no yellows to break up the action, pit strategy became key. Bruni’s off-course excursion resulted in an extended first stop to clean the grass from the car. Werner pitted shortly afterwards, giving the lead to John Edwards. Edwards stayed out to the one hour mark before stopping on lap 68. That was considered to be the high end of the pit window. Richard Westbrook managed to blow that away, staying out for a full 77 minutes (86 laps) before making his pit stop. At that point, Ryan Briscoe got in the No. 67 and the team intended to try to go the distance from there.
Due to the No. 912’s long stop, the No. 911 ended up with an 11-second lead over the No. 912 with Laurens Vanthoor now aboard. While Vanthoor turned in a series of very fast laps, he was unable to close the margin back in.
While the Porsches stopped together with 62 minutes remaining, the No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia stopped with 48 minutes to go. That allowed Garcia to push all the way to the finish, but also put him 40 seconds back. Over the final 48 minutes, Garcia tried to gain enough on the Porsches so that he could overtake them if they had to pit. That did not come to pass as the Porsches held on for a one-two finish.
Pilet’s margin of victory was 14.5 seconds over teammates Bruni and Vanthoor. BMW Team RLL’s No. 24 for John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk was third, nearly 40 seconds back. Tomczyk just held off the No. 3 Corvette of Garcia and Jan Magnussen.
As noted above, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 67 for Briscoe and Westbrook tried a very unusual one-stop strategy on Saturday. In the closing minutes of the race, Briscoe was running third, 24 seconds back. However, the car ran dry in the closing minutes. A splash-and-go dropped the No. 67 to a fifth-place finish, nearly a full lap down.
In GT Daytona, Paul Miller Racing’s Madison Snow led early, but he had a number of foes hot on his toes. The No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 of Katherine Legge had the speed to compete, but had a series of issues early.
In the first 20 minutes of race, Legge was judged responsible for two separate incidents. She had contact with Change Racing’s Corey Lewis, resulting in Lewis spinning into the tires in turn 4. Later on, Legge had contact with last-minute sub Dion von Moltke and spun out von Moltke’s SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes. Both incidents resulted in pass-through penalties. Despite the two penalties, Legge was able to keep the No. 93 Acura on the lead lap in the class.
Snow pulled out a decent advantage early in the race, but Alegra Motorsports’ Patrick Long was able to run down Snow and take the advantage 35 minutes into the race. Pit strategy here differed quite a bit as well. Long stuck to a traditional strategy, pitting after 50 minutes and giving the lead back to Snow. Snow stayed out to the one-hour mark.
Park Place Motorsports’ Patrick Lindsey pitted right after the 45 minute mark guaranteed him points. However, that wasn’t necessarily the original plan. The plan changed when Lindsey had contact with 3GT Racing’s Sage Karam in West Bend, causing a significant tire rub. Lindsey stayed out until he was guaranteed points before he stopped.
3GT Racing’s No. 15 for Jack Hawksworth and Turner Motorsport’s Jens Klingmann stayed out to stretch the first run. While Hawksworth led laps and handed over to teammate Robert Alon in good position, Klingmann ended up having contact with SunEnergy1 Racing’s Tristan Vautier in the chicane. The contact resulted in the team visiting the paddock for suspension repairs.
Once all the stops were complete, the GT Daytona race ended up resembling the Street Tuner three-way duel in Saturday’s Lime Rock Park 120. Park Place Motorsports’ Jörg Bergmeister ended up with the lead, while Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers and Alegra Motorsports’ Daniel Morad gave chase.
For the rest of the race, the three drivers fought hammer-and-tong. In the closing laps, Bergmeister was able to pull out a small margin and held onto that for the victory.
Afterwards, Bergmeister attributed the victory to their pit strategy.
“Basically we tried an undercut, we pitted first for the last stop, so I knew it was going to be really difficult to mange the tires through a long stint,” Bergmeister said after the race. “But once I got in the lead and passed Bryan [Sellers], I tried to be really smooth and save the tires. He tried to do the same but when Patrick [Pilet] came up and was defending [in his class], I was able to check out a little bit.
Bergmeister and Lindsey’s margin of victory was 3.473 seconds over the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini for Sellers and Snow. The Alegra Porsche for Long and Morad was third.
The Racers Group’s No. 007 Aston Martin was in position for fourth in class until James Davison stalled on the inside of West Bend inside of the final ten minutes. That gave fourth in GTD to Stevenson Motorsports’ Lawson Aschenbach and Andrew Davis. They had to recover from a costly penalty for spinning the tires on the jack during their first stop. Despite the two pass-through penalties, the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura for Legge and Andy Lally recovered to finish fifth in class.
The next race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America on Aug. 6. All four classes will be in action on the 4.048-mile road course. Race coverage will air live on FOX Sports 1 at 2:30 p.m.