In just one race, a team’s fortune can drastically change — and change again. On Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix held at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park, Christina Nielsen and Patrick Long looked to be well on their way to earning their first podium finish of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season. After starting from pole position, both Wright Motorsports drivers maintained a top-three position for the majority of the two-hour, 40-minute race, until the final half-hour when there was a tire issue, causing the pair to finish in eighth place. However, the team behind the No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital Porsche 911 GT3 R tasted the possibility of a podium finish at Lime Rock, and has even greater motivation to earn a top-three spot in the final races of this sportscar season.
Nielsen did extremely well during practice, as did Long. Both drivers felt very positive about the Porsche ahead of Saturday afternoon’s race. After securing a pole, Long started at the front of the GTD field and enjoyed a wide margin — at times, racing at over 20 seconds ahead of the next car in class on the 1.5-mile track. Nielsen took the next stint and quickly re-joined the race in third, and as she maintained that position with clean, smart driving, many of her lap times were even faster than those of the class leader. When it was Long’s turn to take the No. 58 back to the track, it looked as if the team would capture the podium — until the second half of his stint, when a problem with the tire caused the car to lose valuable positions. The team’s eventual finish in eighth place was bittersweet, but Nielsen is keeping a positive outlook.
“I was quite happy with my stints today,” Nielsen said. “I did well, the team did well in pit stops and driver changes, and we had a good car. Pat and I were having a great run and the tires were fine during the first stints. But, on the last set, there was a tire issue that cost us the podium.”
As the end of the race approached, there was an issue with one of the tires that made the car nearly undrivable. The team was not aware it was an inherent issue with the tire itself, so it did not send Long to the pit wall, hoping there would be a caution.
“It’s one of those weekends that is devastating, because it really looked like we were going to get a top-three finish today,” she continued. “It really is a heart-crusher. This gives us encouragement for the next weekend. After leaving a race week that was so strong, with so much potential, we’re just going to focus on how to carry it on to the next weekend and compete for a podium finish at Road America.”
The next IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship race will be at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., from August 3 to 5.
Source. Christina Nielsen