At round five of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in Watkins Glen, a late caution phase prevented Wright Motorsports from securing a well-deserved podium spot.
In a final sprint over 37 minutes, the team from the US state of Ohio finished in eighth place, directly behind the car of the Porsche customer team Pfaff Motorsports. After a gripping final phase, Hardpoint EBM finished tenth in the GTD class with its Porsche 911 GT3 R. In the GTLM class, the Porsche 911 RSR fielded by WeatherTech Racing had to retire from the six-hour race after just three laps.
“Watkins Glen has once again shown just how quickly the tide can turn in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship,” concludes Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “Wright Motorsports delivered a very strong performance and took maximum points for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup after three hours in the lead, but in the final hour, a safety car phase reshuffled everything. Different strategies as well as the unlucky timing of the safety car deployment pushed the competition to the front. For us, it was then a case of damage control and to keep all three 911 GT3 R in the top ten.”
In sunny conditions and temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius, Trent Hindman was the first to take the limelight at the wheel of the No. 16 car. Driving for Wright Motorsports, the American had taken up the race from the second grid spot. He quickly snatched the GTD-class lead and successfully fended off all overtaking attempts during his two stints. Belgium’s Jan Heylen also defended the lead spot and handed the car off to works driver Patrick Long about two hours before the end of the race. Due to a different strategy, the American fell back to second place and was on a steady course for a podium finish. However, the fourth and final full-course yellow shattered the podium dream.
Different pit stop tactics resulted in six rival vehicles passing the blue 911 of the Ohio-based team. After the last pit stop service, three Porsche 911 GT3 R launched a final sprint over 37 minutes. At the flag, works driver Laurens Vanthoor beat his brand teammates in Pfaff Motorsports’ No. 9 car. The Belgian, who shared driving duties with Porsche’s development driver Lars Kern from Germany and the Canadian Zacharie Robichon, ultimately crossed the finish line in seventh place ahead of Long/Heylen/Hindman. Katherine Legge achieved tenth place after a gripping final spurt. For the Watkins Glen race, the British racing driver teamed up with Americans Rob Ferriol and Andrew Davis in the cockpit of Hardpoint EBM’s No. 88 vehicle.
Despite the mediocre result in Watkins Glen, Porsche and its customer teams have defended the lead in the manufacturers’ classification of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. Like the classics at Daytona, Sebring and the ten-hour event at Road Atlanta, the six-hour Watkins Glen classic counts towards the Cup.
For the Porsche 911 RSR fielded by WeatherTech Racing, the event in the US state of New York was over after just three laps. Starting driver Cooper MacNeil from the USA, who shared the cockpit of the No. 79 Porsche with works drivers Mathieu Jaminet (France) and Matt Campbell (Australia), hit the barriers at Turn 9. The resulting damage caused a fire in the rear of the ca. 515 PS GTLM-class vehicle. Despite the quick response to extinguish the fire in the pit lane, the Sebring class winners were unable to continue their race.
Round six of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be contested again in Watkins Glen this coming Friday, 2 July. The second event within just five days on the storied racetrack in the US state of New York runs over 2:40 hours.
Drivers’ comments on the race
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “About halfway through the race we couldn’t quite match the pace of the frontrunners. So we opted for an alternative strategy. Unfortunately, the safety car was deployed at a very inopportune moment for us. When the field went green again shortly before the finish, we were far behind. I made it up to seventh place – but I couldn’t do more.”
Patrick Long (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “We were in front with a Lexus the whole time, and like our main rival, we chose a tactic that didn’t take a caution phase into account. Unfortunately, it turned out very differently. Our plan came to nothing. At the restart, we were behind a big pack of other GT3 cars. It was very tight, but overtaking was really difficult. That’s how it goes when a lot of cars are at the same level. We were unlucky and we have to live with that.”
Katherine Legge (Porsche 911 GT3 R #88): “We’re a new team and we learned a lot over these six hours at Watkins Glen. We made a few mistakes, and the car didn’t have an optimal setup. We’ll compete on this track again in a few days. Until then, we have some work ahead of us.”
Cooper MacNeil (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “My mistake. I’m so sorry for the team. At the beginning of the weekend, we struggled with the car’s twitchy rear end. We changed the setup for the race and suddenly we encountered severe understeer. I hit the barriers on the exit of Turn 9, and that caused the fire. It’s my fault. I hope we can get the Porsche 911 RSR ready in time for the next race this coming Friday.”
Result GTLM class
1.Garcia/Taylor (E/USA), Chevrolet Corvette #3, 187 laps
2.Edwards/Krohn/Farfus (USA/FIN/BR), BMW M8 GTE #24, 187 laps
3.De Phillippi/Eng/Spengler (USA/A/CDN), BMW M8 GTE #25, 187 laps
DNF. MacNeil/Campbell/Jaminet (USA/AUS/F), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 3 laps
Result GTD class
1.Auberlen/Foley/Read (USA/USA/AUS), BMW M6 GT3 #96, 179 laps
2.Sellers/Snow/Lewis (USA/USA/USA), Lamborghini Huracan GT3 #1, 179 laps
3.Gunn/De Angelis/James (GB/CDN/USA), Aston Martin Vantage #23, 179 laps
7.Robichon/Vanthoor/Kern (CDN/B/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 179 laps
8.Long/Hindman/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 179 laps
10.Ferriol/Legge/Davis (USA/GB/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #88, 179 laps