The No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R finished sixth on Sunday afternoon at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in the final sprint race of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. The battle for the GTD class championship title will come down to the final race of the year, the 12 Hours of Sebring, in two weeks’ time. Following today’s result, Wright Motorsports continues to hold firm to second place in the points, seven points behind the No. 86 Acura of Meyer Shank Racing.
“We were aiming higher than a sixth-place finish today, but we gave it all we had,” said Team Owner John Wright. “That restart caused a little bit of a shuffle for us, but we’re still in the hunt for the championship and we’ll give it a stong final fight at Sebring.”
Ryan Hardwick started the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 in ninth, keeping position as the GTD field dove tightly into turn one. In the opening laps, he got pressure from behind by John Potter in the No. 44 Lamborghini but began to pull away as the faster prototypes began to lap the GT cars. Matching pace with the GTD class leaders, Hardwick was able to pass the No. 22 Acura of Till Bechtolsheimer and set his sites on the No. 76 McLaren of Jeff Kingsley 1.5 seconds ahead. Less than two laps later, Hardwick had reeled in the competition, passing the No. 76 in turn 11 and looking ahead to the No. 12 Lexus of Frankie Montecalvo 5.6 seconds ahead. He made quick work of the No. 12, expertly maneuvering the Porsche past to focus on the 6.8-second gap to the No. 23 Aston Martin of Ian James.
As Hardwick closed in on his final laps, he virtually eliminated the gap to the 23. As the GTD field came into pit lane under green for their first of two pit stops and mandatory driver changes, Hardwick entered right on the tail of the Aston Martin. He hit his marks in the pit box, jumping out of the Porsche for co-driver Patrick Long to take over. Long joined the race in sixth, with a 1.2-second gap to the No. 23, now with Roman De Angelis at the wheel and 70 minutes remaining in the race. Knowing tire degradation would be a factor for all competitors on the sandy road course, the team instructed Long to save the tires for a final-stint push.Long held position to the second and final pit stop, entering pit lane at the same time as the Aston Martin. The Wright Motorsports crew worked their usual magic, filling the car with fuel and changing the tires in a perfectly orchestrated stop, which allowed for the No. 16 Porsche to exit pit lane ahead of the No. 23 car. Long began his final stint in fifth, with the No. 63 Ferrari just 2.2 seconds ahead. For 23 laps, Long fought to close in on the No. 63 while holding off pressure from the Aston Martin he had just bested.
With 23 minutes remaining, a full course caution for debris on track paused the action and brought the field back together to prepare for a dash to the finish. The restart caused a shuffle, resulting in the No. 63 spinning and the Wright Porsche losing two spots to the No. 23 and No. 44 cars. Long pushed hard in the final laps to make up the lost ground, but the limited time resulted in a sixth-place finish.
While the result was not ideal for the Porsche team, they were still able to hold second place in the team and driver standings, just seven points away from the new leaders, the No 86 Acura of Meyer Shank Racing. The battle for the 2020 GTD class championship will play out at the Twelve Hours of Sebring November 11-14 at Sebring International Raceway. Wright Motorsports has proven themselves to be strong in the endurance races with excellence in the car set up to handle over the longer runs, driver endurance, and pit stop efficiency.
Laguna is always a tough track for every team and every driver. I think our car was well-prepared for the challenging conditions. We had a good pace over the long stint, but we lacked the outright speed of some of the other cars to battle at the front. We made up some ground and got a solid finish for the championship. We still find ourselves second in points and we’re within striking distance to the leaders going into Sebring. The championship is still possible, but we definitely have some work to do. This team is going to be up to the challenge and I can’t wait for it.
It was a hard-fought day. Just wild class-to-class, and multi-class contact in that last yellow. I had heard “green” over the radio, but it was actually the announcer coming through the microphone, so I backed off and got caught out in everyone’s mess coming to the green. The BMW GTLM car just sent it down the No. 63, and I followed the BMW on the racing line, and we came together at the exit of turn two. I’d have to see the video to see how it all unfolded. It was one of those days where we never gave up. We made points on the leaders coming into this deal, but we lost some points on the Meyer Shank car. It’ll come down to Sebring. We’re still in this thing, and we have to be proud we fought so hard all year to be in the position to go out and fight for the championship in the last race
Source. Wright Motorsports/Photo. Porsche