The efforts of the factory Porsches over the weekend came to naught, as the two 911 RSRs finished well down the order in the third race of the 2018 IMSA season. All washed up at Long Beach may well be the way it ended for the two works 911s, but it could have been so different.
The Long Beach race looked to be a promising one for the two Porsches, and especially after the Porsche team’s successful result in the 12 Hours of Sebring in mid-March, expectations were high for both Porsche cars in California. But qualifying saw the #912 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber in a certain pole position until it was snatched from them by the #66 Ford GT by a mere 0.144 seconds. Vanthoor and Bamber had to settle for second place on the grid, the first time this season that the Porsche has started from the front row of the grid. Their colleagues, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy, in the #911 Porsche were in third place. It should be noted that just 1.355 seconds covered all eight cars on the starting grid in the GTLM class.
Due to space limitations around the extremely tight street circuit, the GTD class did not contest the Long Beach round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. At just 1 hour 40 minutes, the Long Beach race, together with round 5 at Detroit, are the two shortest races on the IMSA calendar.
At the start, Laurens Vanthoor in the #912 Porsche got away first, wrestling the lead from the pole sitting Ford on the first lap, and the Belgian was still in front when he handed the car over to Earl Bamber at the first pit stop. Bamber rejoined in second place and maintained the pressure on the lead BMW, eventually overtaking the car, and was able to not only hold onto the lead, but to also put distance between himself and the rest of the class. It was all going swimmingly well until 22 minutes from the end of the race when the car’s suspension broke. The #912 Porsche was parked at the edge of the track, with its race run.
Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy had their share of bad luck too, when the #911 Porsche rear-ended the pack of cars in front when they stopped abruptly for turn two on the tight street circuit. With overtaking so difficult on the Long Beach circuit, the Pilet/Tandy duo decided on a fuel saving strategy which worked perfectly. However, the #911 car was unable to take advantage of the shorter pit stop thanks to less fuel being required, as Nick’s attempt to rejoin the race was thwarted by another car which blocked his passage. This swift action by the team would have seen Tandy rejoining the action in second place, but as it happened, they were set back even further and thereafter unable to make up the places. The #911 Porsche had to settle for a sixth-place finish.
In his usual measured manner, Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars, had this to say: “This race offered everything that spectators like on a street circuit. With our #912 car, Laurens and Earl did everything right. The race for the #911 car was influenced by a rear-ender. There wasn’t a lot Nick and Patrick could do after that. All in all, we can say that the performance of the 911 RSR was good and that the team did a great job.”
Race result – GTLM class:
Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner
Richard Westbrook/Ryan Briscoe
Joey Hand/Dirk Müller
Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia
Jesse Krohn/John Edwards
Porsche 911 RSR
Nick Tandy/Patrick Pilet
Porsche 911 RSR
Laurens Vanthoor/Earl Bamber
Alexander Sims/Connor de Phillippi
After three rounds of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy are lying in joint fourth place in the GT Le Mans Drivers points table. Their colleagues, Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber are in joint sixth place.
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