Emotions run high in the Porsche GT Team as it heads to round nine of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Road Atlanta. In the North American championship, the factory squad returns to the scene of one of the greatest sensations in US motor racing.
In 2015, the team scored a spectacular outright victory with the Porsche 911 RSR at the so-called Petit Le Mans – the tradition-steeped ten-hour race in the US state of Georgia. Under most challenging conditions, Porsche left the otherwise much faster prototype vehicles behind. This coming Saturday, the American factory team Core Autosport tackles the GTLM class with two of the latest generation Porsche 911 RSR. In the GTD category, the two customer squads Wright Motorsports and Pfaff Motorsports each campaign a Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Since 1998, “Petit Le Mans” has been contested annually on the 4.088-kilometre Road Atlanta circuit, which characterised by 12 turns and spectacular passages. On top of the overall victory of 2015, Porsche has notched up a total of 23 class wins. Most recently, works driver Nick Tandy from Great Britain and his French teammates Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet won the fiercely competitive GTLM class in 2018 with the Porsche 911 RSR. “We have always been strong at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta and have scored many successes at this event. It’s also home turf for our works team because Porsche North America has its headquarters in Atlanta. So, there is no better place to get back on the road to success with our latest Porsche 911 RSR,” says Pascal Zurlinden, Director Factory Motorsport.
“After the accidents in Charlotte, our main priority was to repair the extensive damage to both cars within a very short time,” explains IMSA Head of Operations, Steffen Höllwarth. “We’re heading to the ten-hour race well prepared. During a successful test at Road Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, we worked on critical set-up details. We made good progress towards increasing our chances. I’m also delighted that we have our strong, young works drivers Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet with us. They will help us harvest the fruits of our hard work. It’s time for our first win of the season.”
The ten-hour race at Road Atlanta counts towards the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup – a special competition encompassing the four longest races of the season. After successful outings at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January and the six-hour event at Road Atlanta in September, Porsche currently ranks second in the Endurance Cup.
The Porsche GT team drivers
Regular drivers Nick Tandy and Frédéric Makowiecki share driving duties in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR with the young Australian Matt Campbell. The trio achieved third place at the season-opening round in Daytona. Earl Bamber from New Zealand and Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor join forces with Mathieu Jaminet at the wheel of the No. 912 sister car. Like his works driver colleague Campbell, Jaminet contests the endurance races at Daytona, Sebring and Road Atlanta. The Frenchman finished the Daytona 24 Hours in January in second place with the reigning IMSA champions Bamber and Vanthoor. In the manufacturer’s classification, Porsche ranks third after eight of eleven rounds.
The customer teams
In the GTD category, Wright Motorsports fields the Porsche 911 GT3 R with the starting number 16. Joining works driver Patrick Long and his American compatriot Ryan Hardwick in the cockpit is the experienced Belgian Jan Heylen. Wright Motorsports currently lies second in the championship category for GT3 vehicles. The Canadian squad Pfaff Motorsports fields an identical model in the race. Porsche development driver Lars Kern (Germany) shares driving duties with Canada’s Zacharie Robichon and the Norwegian Dennis Olsen, who won the drivers’ title in the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge at the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Drivers’ comments prior to the race
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “It’s good that there’s no time to ruminate after last week’s disappointment. We head straight into a real classic – the ten-hour race at Road Atlanta. We’ve always been strong over such big distances. For this reason, I’m heading to Petit Le Mans feeling confident. Whenever I go there I’m reminded of our overall victory of 2015 – an experience I’ll never forget, and one that motivates me for the task ahead.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “When we contested the six-hour race at Road Atlanta in early September, we had problems with tyre wear over the full stint. We then took a good look at this issue with Michelin during tests at the track. I think we’ve made good progress in this area, and we can feel optimistic about the upcoming race. We’ll do our absolute utmost to finally climb to the top step of the podium.”
Live streaming of the race
Round nine of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Road Atlanta takes off on Saturday, 17 October, at 12.40 p.m. local time (6:40 p.m. CEST). The ten-hour race can be viewed outside the USA and Canada on www.imsa.com
The schedule (loacl time, CEST: -6 hours)
Thursday, 15 October
11:15 am – 12:15 pm: Free practice 1
3:45 – 5:00 pm: Free practice 2
7:30 – 9:00 pm: Free practice 3
Friday, 16 October
12:30 – 12:45 pm: Qualifying GTD
12:55 – 1:10 pm: Qualifying GTLM
Saturday, 17 October
9:10 – 9:30 am: Warm-up
12:40 – 10:40 pm: Race
The Porsche 911 RSR
The Porsche 911 RSR (2019 model year) celebrated its debut in the IMSA SportsCar Championship at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January. Compared to its extremely successful predecessor model, the Weissach engineers made improvements to the car, most notably in areas such as drivability, efficiency, ergonomics and serviceability. About 95 per cent of all components are new. The 911 RSR is powered by a 4.2-litre, six-cylinder boxer engine.
This is the IMSA SportsCar Championship
The IMSA SportsCar Championship was founded in the USA and Canada in 2013 after the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Series. A year later the new sports car race series, which is organised by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), was contested for the first time. Sports prototypes and sports cars start in four different classes: GTLM (GT Le Mans), GTD (GT Daytona), Dpi (Daytona Prototype international) and LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2). The new Porsche 911 RSR is fielded in the GTLM class, and the Porsche 911 GT3 R contests the GTD class.