Porsche Motorsports Weekly Event Notes: Monday, May 7, 2018

This Week.
• Porsche Wins. Second IMSA Victory of Season for 911 RSR, Championship Lead. • WEC Podium. Porsche GT Team Kicks Off World Championship with Second-Place.

Porsche Profile.
Event Story Lines.
Porsche Wins. Second IMSA Victory of Season for 911 RSR, Championship Lead.

Clinching the second win of the 2018 season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Porsche took the Manufacturer lead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GTLM class. In a nail-biting finale, Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand) snatched victory with the 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR on Sunday at the Lexington, Ohio road course. It was Bamber and Vanthoor’s first win in North America as teammates.

After completing 118 laps on the 2.258-mile track, the No. 912 Porsche GT Team held a 1.673-second advantage in the manufacturer-heavy class. This marked the second race victory in four rounds so far this season. In March, Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) won the twelve-hour classic in Sebring, Florida with the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. At Mid-Ohio, the No. 911 took the checkered flag in sixth-place after spending a long period in the lead.

This was the first IMSA Championship race at Mid-Ohio since the merger of its two primary sanctioning bodies was announced in 2013, and most of the teams competing over the weekend had to start from scratch on car set up. The Porsche GT Team had planned for multiple days of testing at the historic track in April. However, snow and near-freezing temperatures limited the effort.

In Saturday’s qualifying, Tandy planted the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR on the front row of the grid and got the best jump at the green flag to start the race. He maintained the lead in the first lap with Bamber, who’d gained two positions at the start, in his slipstream. Lapping in close formation, the leading duo stayed nose-to-tail on the challenging circuit, keeping their strong rivals at bay. After the first round of pit stops, Vanthoor took the lead in the No. 912. After the No. 911 pit stop, Pilet could no longer maintain the pace set by the leading group, leaving Vanthoor at the front.

The final phase of the race was the most exciting of the season and was definitely not for the faint-hearted. With 20 minutes to the checkered flag, Vanthoor was running 3.879 seconds ahead of the second-place BMW, who had pitted well after his competitors and was chasing down the frontrunner on fresher Michelin tires. With 15 minutes left on the clock, Vanthoor’s lead had shrunk to 3.587 seconds. Ten minutes to the finish and it was just 2.329 seconds, and five minutes later his advantage had diminished further to just 1.393 seconds. Under the enormous pressure, the Belgian kept his cool and brought the 911 RSR safely over the finish line in first.

In the GTD class, the No. 58 Wright Motorsports 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) and Christina Nielsen (Denmark) finished in seventh-place, while the second Wright Motorsports entry of Michael Schein (New York, New York) and Wolf Henzler (Germany) finished in 11th. The No. 16 Wright machine made its debut at Mid-Ohio and will contest the non-North American Endurance Championship rounds for the remainder of the season.

Steffen Höllwarth, Program Manager IMSA SportsCar Championship.
“What a race. That was not for weak nerves. Laurens and Earl drove a flawless race and always stayed at the front. The final stint, when the freshly-shod BMW launched an attack and slowly reeled our car in, felt like an eternity. But Laurens kept his cool in the car. It’s fantastic how he brought the car home with just over a second to spare. It was like in the movies. It’s a pity that our number 911 car was off the pace and lost ground after getting the second set of tires. Still, this was a banner day for Porsche. Two wins from four races in the USA – that’s an interim result we can all be proud of. Porsche now leads manufacturer’s classification in both the IMSA and WEC championships. This gives us an additional boost heading to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“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 tires. That wasn’t easy, but it worked.”

Earl Bamber, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“Winning here feels fantastic. It’s our first victory together in the USA, and it’s well deserved. I’m thrilled for the whole team, especially the guys looking after the number 912 car. They’ve waited a long time for this win. Today the winner’s champagne tasted particularly delicious.”

Patrick Pilet, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“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.”

Nick Tandy, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“Congratulations to our teammates. It’s great how they won this gripping race. For us, everything ran according to plan initially, we were in the lead until the first pit stop. But then we lost pace and dropped back. Today was a great success for the entire team.”

WEC Podium. Porsche GT Team Kicks Off World Championship with Second-Place.
After a gripping race at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Porsche GT Team has started into the season with second and fourth-place finish. Frenchman Kévin Estre and his Danish teammate Michael Christensen scored a second-place result in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR and narrowly missed out on clinching the maiden WEC victory in the LMGTE-Pro class. Their team colleagues, the two former WEC champions Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Richard Lietz (Austria), concluded the race in fourth-place with the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR. Over six hours, ten vehicles from five manufacturers battled it out in round one of the 15-month 2018/2019 WEC Super Season.

Starting the race from third on the grid, Bruni and Lietz moved into the lead of the GTE-Pro class after less than two hours, and only relinquished it shortly before the flag. In the sister car, Estre and Christensen made the most of the turbulent start to advance from fourth into third-place. After the last pit stop, Christensen, driving the final stint, swept into second-place in the No. 92.

Four other customer Porsche 911 RSR race cars lined up to contest the LMGTE-Am class. For the Dempsey Proton Racing team, Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia), Christian Ried (Germany) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France) secured fourth-place with the No. 77 car. Sixth at the opening round in Spa went to the No. 88 sister car driven by Khaled Al Qubaisi (United Arab Emirates), Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) and Giorgio Roda (Italy). Directly behind them, Alex Davison (Australia), Ben Barker (Great Britain) and Michael Wainwright (Great Britain) took the flag in the 911 RSR of the Gulf Racing customer squad. The newcomer team Project 1 scored ninth-place with pilots Patrick Lindsey (Santa Barbara, California) and Egidio Perfetti (Norway) as well as Porsche’s works driver Jörg Bergmeister (Germany).

Round Two of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) will be the 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 16 – 17. Prior to the legendary 24-hour classic, a test day will be held June 3.

Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport.
“That was a very difficult race for us. The performance of the cars and the team was very good. In fact, everything looked good for us to win the race. But unfortunately Lady Luck wasn’t with us towards the end of the race, because the last safety car phase didn’t fit in with our strategy. Now we’re heading to Le Mans where we’ll go all-out.”

Richard Lietz, Driver, No. 91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“As expected, that was a very tough fight. We held the lead for a long time, but the safety car phase eroded the gap we’d built up. Towards the end of the race I drove a double stint and could barely fend off the attacks from my pursuers.”

Gianmaria Bruni, Driver, No. 91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“I’m disappointed, of course. We were running in the lead for more than four hours. Richard and I did everything we could and we’d built up an advantage of around 15 seconds to the car behind us and about 55 seconds to third-place. Unfortunately, the safety car phase cost us this lead.”

Kévin Estre, Driver, No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“Our start went really well. Unfortunately the tires began to deteriorate badly at the end of the first stint. In the middle of the race we had to drive a double stint. Michael did a great job and lost hardly any time. After that came a stop-go penalty for wheel spin in the pit lane, but we fought our way back up to position three. Sadly it wasn’t enough to win. For Porsche, it’s a very good result to start the season.”

Michael Christensen, Driver, No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“This race had truly everything that a six-hour race can throw at you. Our start was okay and we managed to maintain our position over the distance. But then unfortunately we received a stop-and-go penalty. This was followed by a safety car phase and a lot of traffic. Consequently, it was a very difficult race. I’m thrilled with the podium result.”

Jörg Bergmeister, Driver, No. 56, Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR.
“We performed well and if those issues hadn’t happened we may have been able to finish on the podium. It was important to secure some championship points despite the problems, as they could play a key role at the end of the season. We can definitely build on this performance.”

Patrick Lindsey, Driver, No. 56, Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR.
“It was a great start to our WEC adventure. It’s not the result we had hoped for and that we could have achieved. But considering it was my first race in the WEC, I am still happy. That being said, we still have a lot to learn.”