The qualifying battle was fierce for the Petit Le Mans race, the last round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship on the storied Road Atlanta racetrack. In the GTLM class, which with five manufacturers is the most strongly represented, just seven-tenths of a second separated the field – promising a gripping ten-hour race on Saturday on the 4.087-kilometre circuit close to Braselton in the US state of Georgia. Earl Bamber (New Zealand) planted the #912 Porsche 911 RSR on eighth in qualifying and takes up the race from the fourth grid row. The 2015 pole-setter shares the Porsche North America works-entry 911 with Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark). The tenth quickest time on the demanding racetrack with its twelve corners went to Nick Tandy (Great Britain), who last year achieved a sensational double victory for Porsche here with the defending IMSA GT champion Patrick Pilet (France) and Richard Lietz (Austria).
In the GTD class, Matthew McMurry (USA) put the Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by Park Place Motorsports on the first grid row. At the wheel of the 500 hp customer sports racer, which he shares with regular drivers Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Lindsey (USA) at Petit Le Mans, he set the second fastest time. The third spot on the grid is occupied by Mario Farnbacher (Germany) with the 911 GT3 R run by Seattle/Alex Job Racing. For Petit Le Mans he joins forces with the former Porsche Junior Alex Riberas (Spain) as well as Ian James (USA).
Not only will the race for the IMSA SportsCar Championship title be decided at Petit Le Mans – the fight for the North American Endurance Cup is still wide open. In the prestigious long-distance classification, which encompasses the races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans, Porsche heads to the final round tied for the lead in the GTLM and GTD classes.
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Manager GT Works Motorsport: “That was a difficult qualifying for us. But it didn’t just come out of the blue. We already noticed in qualifying that we couldn’t quite match the pace of the frontrunners. I’m very pleased that Petit Le Mans is a ten-hour event. Hence, it’s not so much about fast lap times, but instead to find a good compromise in the set-up over the distance. We’ll now work out a good strategy and then we’ll see how the race goes.”
Nick Tandy (911 RSR #911): “In the slower sections of the first half of the circuit our 911 RSR looked quite good, but then things got difficult in the fast passages. Until the race we need to work on our top speed. Our starting position is anything but optimal, but that’s not so critical in a ten-hour race.”
Earl Bamber (911 RSR #912): “We did what we could. The team supported us well. We now have to accept this grid position. For the race it means that we’ll try to push further ahead by fighting hard and with good pit stops – just as we’ve been doing throughout the entire season.”
Matthew McMurry (911 GT3 R #73): “After the final practice we all asked ourselves how we could find the missing seconds. But somehow we found them. In qualifying our 911 GT3 R was a little faster in all sectors. It’s a great car! After I posted this fast lap time we stopped so that we can conserve our tyres for the start of the race.”
1. Briscoe/Westbrook/Dixon (AUS/GB/NZ), Ford GT, 1:18.131 minutes
2. Garcia/Magnussen/Rockenfeller (E/DK/D), Chevrolet Corvette, + 0.152 seconds
3. Fisichella/Vilander/Calado (I/SF/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, + 0.163
4. Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/D/F), Ford GT, + 0.196
5. Serra/Pier Guidi/Bertolini (BRA/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, + 0.218
6. Edwards/Luhr/Wittmer (USA/D/CAN), BMW M6, + 0.251
7. Gavin/Milner/Fässler (GB/USA/CH), Chevrolet Corvette, + 0.337
8. Bamber/Makowiecki/Christensen (NZ/F/DK), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.581
9. Auberlen/Werner/Farfus (USA/D/BRA), BMW M6, + 0.621
10. Pilet/Tandy/Lietz (F/GB/A), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.735
1. Keating/Bleekemolen/Miller (USA/NL/USA), Dodge Viper, 1:21.305 minutes
2. Bergmeister/Lindsey/McMurry (D/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R, + 0.460 seconds
3. Riberas/Farnbacher/James (E/D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R, + 0.593
4. Balzan/Nielsen/Segal (I/DK/USA), Ferrari 488, + 0.798
5. Aschenbach/Bell/v. Moltke (USA/USA/USA), Audi R8, + 0.809
6. Liddell/Davis/Skeen (GB/USA/USA), Audi R8, + 0.834