The Porsche customer team Wright Motorsports has claimed a podium result at the six-hour race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Driving a Porsche 911 GT3 R, the American works driver Patrick Long, his compatriot Ryan Hardwick and Belgium’s Jan Heylen secured third place in the GTD class at Road Atlanta. With fluctuating temperatures in the US state of Georgia, the Porsche GT Team struggled with poor tyre durability. Britain’s Nick Tandy and his French teammate Frédéric Makowiecki achieved fourth in the GTLM class with the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. Their brand colleagues Earl Bamber from New Zealand and Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium came sixth in the No. 912 sister car.
Tandy had taken up the six-hour race from pole position and initially managed to defend his top spot in the fiercely competitive GTLM field. However, when temperatures dropped in the first part of the race, it soon became apparent that the Michelin tyres on the Porsche 911 RSR were unable to offer the necessary grip over a full stint under such conditions. When the sun came out and conditions improved, the ca. 515 hp GTLM racer from Weissach was the fastest in the field over long stretches. Tandy and Makowiecki led the field in the No. 911 car until the final pit stop. As clouds gathered in the final phase, the asphalt temperature plummeted from 50 to 40 degrees Celsius and the performance again dropped off significantly. In his final stint, Tandy could no longer fend off his rivals’ repeated attacks and he crossed the finish line in fourth place.
The crew in the No. 912 car experienced a disastrous day. In the chaos of the first racing lap, Vanthoor had to dodge several prototypes that became entangled in a collision at the start. As a result, the Belgian lost contact with the GTLM frontrunners. Badly deteriorating tyres forced Vanthoor to take an early first pit stop. Two drive-through penalties, an unplanned change of the brakes and repairs to the rear of the Porsche 911 RSR threw Vanthoor and Bamber three laps down the field. Ultimately, the reigning GTLM champions took the GTLM-class flag in sixth place.
In the GTD category, the customer squad Wright Motorsports scored its first podium result of this season. In qualifying, Jan Heylen had planted the 500+hp Porsche 911 GT3 R on the third grid spot and retained this position in the first stint of the race. In the fierce competition of the GTD class, the vehicle dropped back to tenth place at one point. Thanks to flawless teamwork and an impressive performance from Heylen, works driver Patrick Long and local hero Ryan Hardwick, they were rewarded with the third podium step.
In the manufacturers’ classification, Porsche ranks third after six races. In the drivers’ championship, the two crews Makowiecki/Tandy and Bamber/Vanthoor are tied for points on fourth place.
Round seven of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship takes off on 27 September at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course close to Lexington in the US state of Ohio.
Comments on the race
Steffen Höllwarth (Head of Operations IMSA Championship): “As expected, this race was a tough nut to crack. And as feared, we struggled with the temperatures. From the midway mark of the race we were leading with our number 911 car for quite some time, but ultimately we couldn’t maintain the pace. After two mistakes in the pits and a defect in the No. 912 car, the gap was so large that we simply couldn’t catch up. That’s disappointing. We’re now preparing meticulously for the next round so that we can strike back.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “I was so surprised at how our competitors were suddenly able to improve in the last stint. We simply couldn’t match such a fast pace. We tried everything, but in the end, we couldn’t do more than fourth. All in all, our performance is nothing to be ashamed of. We did a great job as a team – and that includes the mechanics, engineers, strategists as well as us drivers.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “It was almost the perfect weekend for us. We were ahead in free practice, in the lead in qualifying and also over long stretches of the race. Unfortunately, when the track conditions changed, we couldn’t quite maintain the pace in the end. In fact, the competition even managed to improve. Obviously, the result is disappointing, but our performance has once again underlined that our maiden victory with the new Porsche 911 RSR is sure to arrive soon.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “We can forget about today. We made two minor mistakes during pit stops which resulted in drive-through penalties. That alone would have been enough to throw us out of contention for a class win. Unfortunately, on top of that, we had a problem with the brakes. The repairs cost us several laps. That was the final straw.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “This race was a disappointment from start to finish. The penalties were annoying, but that happens sometimes. What was worse was the damage to the brakes, which was probably caused by driving over debris on the track. That relegated us so far back that we no longer had a chance.”
Patrick Long (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “It felt great to climb the podium again. We really deserved this result after our strong performance. The team has done a consistently good job over the last weeks, so such a success was only a matter of time. Big compliment to Jan Heylen. He provided fantastic support this weekend. I hope he can join us again as a teammate for Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta and at the 12 Hours of Sebring.”
Result GTLM class
1. Spengler/De Phillippi (CDN/USA), BMW M8 GTE #25, 254 laps
2. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette C8.R #4, 254 laps
3. Krohn/Edwards (FIN/USA), BMW M8 GTE #24, 254 laps
4. Tandy/Makowiecki (GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR #911, 254 laps
5. Garcia/Taylor (E/USA), Chevrolet Corvette C8.R #3, 254 laps
6. Vanthoor/Bamber (B/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR #912, 252 laps
Result GTD class
1. Farnbacher/McMurry/Michimi (D/USA/J), Acura NSX GT3 #86, 245 laps
2. Sellers/Snow/Lewis (USA/USA/USA), Lamborghini Huracan GT3 #48, 245 laps
3. Long/Hardwick/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 245 laps