A move past four cars within the opening two turns of Sunday’s GT-only IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Virginia International Raceway set Nick Tandy and the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR up for a successful ninth round of 2019.
- Results: 2019 Michelin GT Challenge
Tandy landed sixth on the grid in the eight-car GT Le Mans category due to an off-track excursion during Saturday’s qualifying, marking a low point of the weekend for the Porsche GT Team. The impact of the poor starting position disappeared, however, when Tandy passed both Corvettes and both Ford GTs before Turn 3 of the first lap.
With Tandy’s co-driver Patrick Pilet climbing aboard for the middle stint, the No. 911 Porsche raced in close quarters with its championship-leading sister car, which started from the pole. A five-second faster final pit stop for the No. 911 heightened its track position advantage late in the race, though a late full-course caution for a heavy single-car GT Daytona crash eliminated the gap Tandy grew over Earl Bamber in the No. 912.
Tandy faced little challenge from his Porsche stablemate in the dash to the checkered flag that followed the final yellow, winning by 0.737 seconds over Bamber after 88 laps during the event’s two-hour, 40-minute duration.
Now within 11 points of the No. 912 entering the season’s final two events, Tandy and Pilet pulled even with Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor with three wins on the year, bringing Porsche’s total to six.
Chip Ganassi Racing came 4.396 seconds short of winning a third consecutive race with its No. 67 Ford, with Richard Westbrook coming home fifth in the car after battling the three other American machines more so than the Porsches during the day.
Both Corvette Racing cars finished just up the road from the Fords, led by Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R with Tommy Milner in the No. 4 less than seven-tenths of a second behind after wheel-to-wheel fighting over the final few minutes.
Completing the two-by-two running order for the four GTLM manufacturers, Dirk Mueller, Tom Blomqvist and Jesse Krohn filled the final three positions in the No. 66 Ford and Nos. 25 and 24 BMW M8 GTEs.
Riley Motorsports’ Mercedes-AMG GT3 was competitive throughout the weekend in the GTD division and overcame the pole-sitting Pfaff Motorsports entry and the championship-leading No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 to take the class win at the Alton, Virginia venue.
Zacharie Robichon kept Pfaff’s plaid-liveried Porsche 911 GT3 R ahead early on but fell to fourth in the closing stages, due especially to a significant track position loss during a slow visit to pit lane with returning driver Scott Hargrove in the cockpit.
Meyer Shank Racing driver Mario Farnbacher chased Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Riley Mercedes-AMG during the closing laps but speed under the checkers just over half a second after the race winner, banking points for second place late in its campaign for the championship.
The win for Bleekemolen and co-driver Ben Keating is the team’s first podium result of the year and finally arrived in their third-to-last race pairing together before Gar Robinson and Lawson Aschenbach take their place as they head off to full-time FIA World Endurance Championship competition.
Toni Vilander took over for Cooper MacNeil in Scuderia Corsa’s Ferrari 488 GT3 and claimed the final podium position ahead of Hargrove in the Pfaff Porsche, who held off Patrick Long in the Porsche of Park Place Motorsports to finalize the top five.
Heading to the final sprint race of 2019 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Robichon is 37 points back from the driver’s championship lead and one point ahead of Turner Motorsport’s duo of Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley. AIM Vasser Sullivan’s No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3, piloted by Frankie Montecalvo and Townsend Bell, lost championship ground with a seventh-place finish.
The Laguna Seca weekend, which will lead into the Motul Petit Le Mans season finale, will feature all four WeatherTech Championship classes and take place Sept. 13–15.