Porsche GT Team dominated the proceedings Sunday (Aug. 25) at VIRginia International Raceway. The two Porsche 911 RSRs combined to lead 85 of the 88 laps in Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR. There were no passes for the lead on track, but on the first stop of the race, the No. 911 team was able to jump the No. 912 despite swapping Nick Tandy out of the car in favor of Patrick Pilet. As the race wound down, this pass turned out to be the pass for the win as Tandy and Pilet held on for their third win of the season. It is also Porsche’s sixth win in nine races this year.
“It’s a perfect day,” Pilet said after the race. “We had a tough [qualifying session] for Nick [Tandy Saturday]. He was really pissed he went off, but I told him [to] never give up. We have a great car. The guys [did] an excellent job [repairing the car].
“I have to say the mechanics made a great [first stop],” Pilet continued. “After the yellow, we needed fuel, and change tires and drivers at the same time. I think it was maybe the quickest driver change we’ve had all season. Maybe it was 10 seconds, so it was great. And the mechanics did a really good job. I have to say, in every intense moment we did a great job.”
Laurens Vanthoor started from the pole and led early on. Tandy was able to jump past Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen on the opening lap to take second. Once line astern, the two Porsches were able to maintain the advantage over Magnussen and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA’s Joey Hand.
After early contact, Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley lost the casing off of his right rear tire. That brought out a full course caution, the series’ first since Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in early July. That brought everyone in for early stops in which the No. 911 took the overall lead.
Pilet was able to maintain the advantage over Vanthoor after the stops, while Corvette Racing’s Magnussen and Oliver Gavin gave chase. It was here that the pit strategy diverged. Pilet pitted on lap 40 for full service. This also saw Tandy get back in the car. Vanthoor waited five extra laps, which got the team past the halfway point of the race before stopping. With Earl Bamber behind the wheel, the No. 912 was able to retake the lead.
As the race continued on, the Porsches pulled away from the pack. Just prior to the final round of stops, it was more than 30 seconds from Bamber back to Ford’s Richard Westbrook in third. In the final round of stops, Tandy was able to get out in front of Bamber and retake the lead.
A late crash in the Esses for Katherine Legge brought out a full course caution with 20 minutes to go, stacking the field up. Despite that, no one could prevent Porsche GT Team from earning a one-two finish.
It was roughly three-quarters of a second from Pilet and Tandy to Bamber and Vanthoor at the finish. Corvette Racing’s Magnussen and Antonio Garcia finished third, followed by teammates Gavin and Tommy Milner. Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe finished fifth.
In GT Daytona, PFAFF Motorsports’ Zacharie Robichon led early in his Porsche, seeking his third straight victory. Behind the plaid Porsche, there was a fair amount of contact. The opening laps saw Foley have contact with Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Alice Powell. That contact cut one of Powell’s tires, forcing her to make an unscheduled pit stop.
Later on, Foley was attempting to get past AVS Vasser Sullivan’s Richard Heistand for position when he was hit from behind by Paul Miller Racing’s Corey Lewis. Foley and Lewis spun, collecting Compass Racing’s Matt Plumb. The tire issue that caused the first caution was sparked by the contact to Foley’s right rear wheel.
Given the minimum drive-time rules in the GT Daytona class, no one got out of their car during the first caution, but everyone pitted except Robichon and Scuderia Corsa’s Cooper MacNeil. Despite keeping the lead, Robichon had a tire disadvantage. That allowed Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Trent Hindman to run Robichon down prior to a round of stops.
After the stops, Scott Hargrove was in the class lead in his return to the PFAFF Porsche. This time, he was under threat from AVS Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth. Hawksworth was able to run Hargrove down and take the class lead just past the halfway point. Unfortunately, mechanical issues ended the day for Hawksworth and Heistand early.
After the final round of stops, Riley Motorsports’ Jeroen Bleekemolen, who made his late model debut Saturday night at South Boston Speedway, found himself in the class ahead of the Acura of Mario Farnbacher. Bleekemolen had a decent lead, but Legge’s crash erased it. The final few minutes saw Bleekemolen hold on to take the first victory of the year for himself and Ben Keating.
The margin of victory was just more than half a second over Farnbacher and Hindman. Scuderia Corsa’s MacNeil and Toni Vilander finished third, followed by Hargrove and Robichon, who faded in the second half of the race. Park Place Motorsports’ Patrick Lindsey and Patrick Long were fifth.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be back in action in three weeks at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in California. The 160-minute race will also be the final event in the WeatherTech Sprint Cup for GT Daytona teams. The race is scheduled to run at 3 p.m. on Sep. 15 and will air live on NBC.
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