The Porsche customer team Wright Motorsports continues its success streak in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In the sprint race over 1:40 hours on the Charlotte Roval, works driver Patrick Long and his compatriot Ryan Hardwick achieved second place in the GTD class under difficult wet conditions. This marks the third straight podium result for the team from the US state of Ohio. Meanwhile, the unrelenting run of bad luck also continued at round eight for the Porsche GT Team in the faster GTLM class. For both Porsche 911 RSR, the evening event near the city of Concord ended after just 20 minutes.
The first race of the IMSA series at the Charlotte Roval started an hour later than planned due to delays in the previous NASCAR Xfinity Series. Facing heavy rain and poor visibility under floodlights, Frédéric Makowiecki initially managed to defend his second starting position in the No. 911 car, with Laurens Vanthoor working his way from sixth on the grid to fourth in the No. 912 vehicle. However, after just four laps, the Belgian hit the track barriers with his ca. 515 hp GTLM car. The damages to the rear of the defending champion’s 911 RSR were too serious to continue, and the car was out of the race after just ten minutes.
In the meantime, the Frenchman Makowiecki battled against several rivals and spun in the first corner on the seventh lap. Like his teammate Vanthoor, the resulting contact with the track barriers caused considerable damage, in this case to the front of the car. The damages to the No. 911 contender were also so severe that repairs needed to get the car back into the 100-minute sprint race seemed pointless. The Porsche GT Team had to withdraw the second RSR from the race after around 20 minutes.
However, the customer team Wright Motorsports enjoyed a positive race day. The American Ryan Hardwick had planted the 500+hp Porsche 911 GT3 R on a strong fifth position in qualifying. In the first 30 minutes of the race, the amateur driver lost a little ground in the No. 16 car before handing the car over to works driver Patrick Long at the first pit stop. The seasoned American racing driver quickly ploughed his way through the field and crossed the finish line in second place, just 1.497-seconds behind the class winner. In the overall standings, the duo has advanced to second.
In the manufacturers’ championship of the GTLM category, Porsche ranks third after eight rounds. In the drivers’ classification, the two crews Makowiecki/Tandy and Bamber/Vanthoor lie in fifth and sixth respectively. Round nine of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the so-called Petit Le Mans, will be contested on 17 October at Road Atlanta in the US state of Georgia.
Comments on the race
Steffen Höllwarth (Head of Operations IMSA Championship): “We had big plans and the race started well but then the event came to an abrupt halt for us after just 20 minutes. Both vehicles hit the barriers in heavy rain. We weren’t able to do the necessary repairs within the short time available. That’s bitter for our entire team. We have a lot of work to do before the next race.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “First I have to let this sink in. I’m deeply disappointed. After the qualifying, things seemed really good. The second grid spot looked promising for the race. But heavy rain threw a spanner in the works. We had massive problems with aquaplaning and the car just couldn’t be controlled. We’ve had difficulties in heavy rain throughout the year.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “I didn’t turn a single race lap so I can’t really comment on the events. Let me focus on the positive. I very much enjoyed the fact that we discovered uncharted territory in the IMSA series with the Charlotte Roval. The course is a huge challenge. That became very obvious today. Now we’ll throw ourselves into preparing for the upcoming race at Road Atlanta.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “Crash in qualifying, crash in the race. Quite honestly, that was my worst performance in years. I don’t know what happened. It just didn’t work. We had hardly any grip in the rain. We had nothing to lose so I tried everything to match the pace of the leaders. Unfortunately, it went terribly wrong.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “Not our day. Rain is always associated with difficulty for us. We had massive aquaplaning on the extremely wet track. The car very quickly ended up in one of the walls that stand very close to the track edge at Charlotte. Now we’re looking forward to Petit Le Mans. The race runs over ten hours. That should suit us better – at least if it stays dry in Florida.”
Ryan Hardwick That was quite possibly the most difficult race I’ve ever competed in! The Charlotte Roval presents enough challenges itself to the teams and drivers as far as combining all the different track surfaces, the extreme banking, and the concrete walls everywhere. Then you throw in the added difficulty of limited visibility from the darkness of night, as well as an absolute downpour of rain from a tropical depression that lasted the entire race! I think every driver and team would agree that this event was one we will all remember for a long time. Our Wright Motorsports guys gave Pat and I a great car to drive, and we absolutely nailed the single pit stop of the race, gaining four positions in the process! Momentum is a great thing to have in any situation, and in racing, it’s very hard to beat. Right now, the momentum is definitely on our side, and it couldn’t be happening at a more important time with only three races to go in the season. We are all extremely focused on taking this championship fight right down to the very last lap of the season at Sebring. I’m looking also forward to heading back to my hometown track for the Petit LeMans next weekend and keeping this momentum rolling!
Patrick Long That was an unbelievable race. Ovals at night in the rain are a trifecta of things that challenge drivers in many aspects. Ryan did a great job keeping his composure, turning a clean car over to us. We made a lot of time up in our pit stops. We got into the groove and tried to manage tire pressures. It was hard to battle Mario and Jack. Then on the restart, we had a chance with Bill, who was the car to beat this evening. It was great points day for us an unbelievable effort by the team to have us up there fighting for the victory at the end.
Result GTLM class
1. Garcia/Taylor (E/USA), Chevrolet Corvette C8.R #3, 62 laps
2. Krohn/Edwards (FIN/USA), BMW M8 GTE #24, 62 laps
3. Spengler/De Phillippi (CDN/USA), BMW M8 GTE #25, 62 laps
4. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette C8.R #4, 54 laps
DNF Tandy/Makowiecki (GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR #911, 8 laps
DNF Vanthoor/Bamber (B/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR #912, 4 laps
Result GTD class
1. Foley/Auberlen (USA/USA), BMW M6 GT3 #96, 61 laps
2. Long/Hardwick (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 61 laps
3. De Angelis/James (CDN/USA), Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #23, 61 laps