20 years ago IMSA held its only race to-date at the Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) with Porsche holding nearly half the starting spots. Since that time much has changed in the sport and at the Concord, North Carolina track. It will all come back together on Saturday October 10 when three Porsche-built race cars will challenge the Charlotte “ROVAL” for 100-minutes race.
In keeping with Charlotte’s stock car tradition, the race will feature only the GTLM and GTD classes of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The event – a make-up to replace the Lime Rock Park race which was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns – will feature not only the series’ return to Charlotte but also the Porsche GT Team’s return to the series. The factory program’s two car effort of Frédéric Makowiecki (France)/Nick Tandy (Great Britain) in the No. 911 and the No. 912 of Earl Bamber (New Zealand)/Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) chose to opt out of the most recent race of the season out of an abundance of caution two weeks ago. Porsche privateer Wright Motorsports comes to Charlotte on a high having two consecutive podium finishes in the GTD class. North America’s only Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) joins Ryan Hardwick (Atlanta, Georgia) behind the wheel of Wright’s No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R having scored third-place finishes at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and then, most recently, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The Porsche factory effort was forced to miss the most recent round of the championship as a result of three positive Covid-19 tests that were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While missing the race in the highly competitive class essentially removes Porsche from contention for defending its 2019 GTLM Driver (Bamber/Vanthoor), Team (No. 912) and Manufacturer titles, the desire to close-out the final season of official “works” status in the WeatherTech series with a string of victories remains the primary focus of the CORE autosport-run team. The event will be held near the factory team’s home-base on the continent in nearby Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Famously known for the Coca-Cola 600 traditionally raced the Sunday evening before Memorial Day, the North Carolina facility revamped the old road course layout used in 2000, adding corners and curbing to make the track a more traditional feeling road course. Much like its counterpart, the Daytona International Raceway in Florida, the Charlotte track, known as the “ROVAL”, uses a portion of the 1.5-mile tri-oval and purpose-built corners in the interior of the track. In early testing, the 2.32-mile, 10-turn track has proven a challenge to drivers as they learn to balance the raw speed of the banked oval with the infield portions of the track.
The schedule for the GT-only weekend includes a 60-minute opening practice on Friday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET to prepare for night racing on the lit race course. A second practice session is set for Saturday morning beginning at 9:45 a.m. through to 11:00 a.m. ET. GTD qualifying is set between 2:00 – 2:15 p.m. Saturday with GTLM following at 2:25 p.m. for 15-minutes to set the grid for the green flag at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Drivers’ comments prior to the race
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “Each manufacturer got the chance to test on the Charlotte Roval with one vehicle. While that gave us preliminary insights, there are still a lot of open questions. The layout puts the tyres under a lot of stress. The key to success at Charlotte is a consistently fast pace over an entire stint. I hope we can find an optimal setup during the two short practice sessions. If we manage that, the chances for our first win of the season look good.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “I only know Charlotte from the simulator. I’ve turned a lot of virtual laps there and discovered that the course is a big challenge. The stresses on the cars and tyres are enormous. It’ll be tricky for us drivers because there are massive barriers right next to almost all of the track. You need to be careful. Since we’re no longer in contention for the championship title, we can thoroughly enjoy the events and we want to achieve as many individual successes as possible.”
The schedule (local time, CEST: -6 hours)
Friday, 9 October
7:30 – 8:30 pm: Free practice 1
Saturday, 10 October
9:45 – 11:00 am: Free practice 2
2:00 – 2:15 pm: Qualifying GTD
2:25 – 2:40 pm: Qualifying GTLM
8:05 – 9:45 pm: Race