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IMSA SportsCar Championship, Round 2, Sebring ... Porsche wins GT classes


 

Sebring, 21th March, 2021

The Porsche customer teams WeatherTech Racing and Pfaff Motorsports have won both GT classes at the 12 Hours of Sebring. In the hotly contested GTLM category, works drivers Mathieu Jaminet from France and Matt Campbell from Australia joined forces in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with the American Cooper MacNeil and beat the opposition. In the GTD class for vehicle complying with the FIA GT3 regulations, works driver Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium, Porsche’s development driver Lars Kern (Germany) and the Canadian Zacharie Robichon won at the wheel of the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R. The Wrights Motorsport outfit rounded off the triumph for the sports car manufacturer from Stuttgart with second place in the GTD division.



The tradition-steeped endurance race in Florida was marked by nonstop close duels and many caution phases. The decision for victory in all categories hung in the air until the final laps. After the last of eight full-course yellows, the suspense finally reached its climax. In a last dash over 20 minutes, the Porsche customer squads battled for the top places and built on the already impressive record at the 12-hour classic. This marks the fourth straight win for the Porsche 911 RSR and the second in a row for the 911 GT3 R.

In the GTLM class especially, the competition intensified in the last few laps. Jaminet headed into the final sprint running in third place. At the restart, his ca. 510 hp 911 RSR with the starting number 79 duelled wheel-to-wheel with the second-placed BMW, but he had to surrender his position – luckily. Only a few metres later, the two leading cars collided in a direct encounter. Jaminet profited and went on to cross the finish line as the winner. “That was a fantastic success at our Sebring ‘home’”, says Steffen Höllwarth, Head of GTLM Operations. “It was the fourth class win in a row for our Porsche 911 RSR. And it was very special because this was the last time the GTLM class will race at Sebring.” From 2022, the vehicle category, which is also run in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC under the name GTE-Pro, will no longer be contested in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Unbelievable! This was only our second race in the IMSA series,” says a delighted Christian Ried, whose Proton Competition team maintains the 911 RSR for WeatherTech Racing. “Our crew and all three drivers did a perfect job. At the end of the day, we kept our cool while the works teams shunted each other out of contention. We were very lucky to score third place, but still, we deserved this win.” WeatherTech Racing founder David MacNeil adds: “Porsche is known for racing cars at a technically perfect level. That’s why we decided to collaborate in the IMSA series. We’ve now harvested the fruits of this at only the second race. I’m very proud!”

Customer teams celebrated an even bigger success with a one-two in the GTD class. Over long stretches during the 12-hour event, the strong squads from Pfaff Motorsports and Wright Motorsports took turns at the front of the field. In the final 20-minute sprint, factory pilots Laurens Vanthoor (No. 9) and Patrick Long were driving. In a tight duel, the Belgian managed to stay ahead and took the flag just 2.112 seconds ahead of his American brand teammate. Long shared the cockpit of the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R with his compatriot Trent Hindman and Belgium’s Jan Heylen. “A weekend couldn’t have ended better than this,” says Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “All teams had the chance to finish on the podium. At the end of the day, there’s a one-two and a strong performance from Hardpoint EBM’s number 88 car.”

Hardpoint EBM, however, experienced bad luck. Katherine Legge from Great Britain, Denmark’s Christina Nielsen and Ana Beatriz from Brazil were maintaining a sensational third place shortly before the finish. However, a drive-through penalty due to a collision after the final restart relegated the No. 88 Porsche 911 GT3 R back to fifth place. The No. 99 sister car had already fallen far behind during the first third of the race. First, amateur driver Rob Ferriol (USA) flew into the barriers about two hours into the race. The team managed to repair most of the damage to the front of the Porsche 911 GT3 R and get it back into the race. Two hours later, the New Zealander Earl Bamber collided with a rival. The repairs cost the team almost 40 laps, with the team ultimately crossing the finish line in tenth place. Bamber and Ferriol shared the cockpit with Trenton Estep from the USA.

“We couldn’t have wished for a greater success for our fantastic customer teams,” states Pascal Zurlinden, Director Factory Motorsport. “All in all, it was a banner weekend for Porsche. In the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, the 718 GT4 Clubsport set pole position and finished the race in second place. At the debut of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America, 34 cars lined up on the grid, including 23 brand-new 992-generation 911 GT3 Cup cars. This race gave fans a real treat. In the end, the Sebring class victories number 75 and 76 in the IMSA race are the crowning glory.”

Round three of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be contested on 16 May at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Drivers’ comments about the race
Cooper MacNeil (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “To have victory decided on the very last lap at a 12-hour race is just crazy! I’m ecstatic! Everyone in the team did a flawless job, and the Porsche 911 RSR was a real dream to drive in the race. I’m overwhelmed by this win.”

Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “We made the most of our car’s great potential. We made no mistakes, we had no incidents and a perfect strategy. The caution phases at the end made things a little more exciting than we wanted. Prior to that, we’d eked out a decent advantage. But I stayed calm at the restart and made it to the finish line.”

Patrick Long (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “In the close duel for victory, the traffic proved decisive. I had a bit of bad luck, so it wasn’t quite enough. But a one-two for Porsche is still fantastic. I can’t really complain, because we’ve taken over the championship lead with second place.”

Katherine Legge (Porsche 911 GT3 R #88): “I’m disappointed obviously because we had a good chance of scoring a podium result. Unfortunately, there was a penalty at the end. Still, I’m very proud of us women drivers and the team. The project came about at very short notice just before the Sebring race. But we’ve achieved a more than respectable result and given a strong performance.”

BMW Team RLL has claimed a double podium at the Twelve Hours of Sebring (USA). After 333 eventful laps of racing, the #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, driven by Connor De Phillippi (USA), Bruno Spengler (CAN) and Philipp Eng (AUT), crossed the line second in the GTLM class. John Edwards (USA), Jesse Krohn (FIN) and Augusto Farfus (BRA) completed the podium with third place in the #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE. The classic race in the US state of Florida was the second major endurance event of the season in North America.Starting drivers De Phillippi and Krohn each moved up one place after beginning the race from third and fourth positions. That was followed by twelve eventful hours of racing on the Sebring International Raceway, with numerous full course yellows. The #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE led the GTLM class for a time before falling back a little to second place in the final stages. The #24 car was also in a promising position before slipping down a lap due to a minor pit stop fire around two hours before the finish and then returning to the track in fourth place.

The closing stage proved to be full of drama. During the battle for the lead, De Phillippi made contact with the leading GTLM car eight minutes before the end and received a drive-through penalty. Despite that he was able to hold on to second place in the class with the #25 car. Krohn moved up from fourth to third place on the final lap in the #24 car.

The No. 25 M8 GTE led the race at the four-hour and eight-hour marks, and with second place at the checkered flag won the Michelin Endurance Cup for this event.

In the GTD class, the Turner Motorsport #96 BMW M6 GT3 secured eighth place. Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley (both USA) and Aidan Read (AUS) shared driving duties. The trio had lost a substantial amount of time during repairs in the early stage of the race and worked their way back up as the race progressed.

The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race took place on Friday. After two hours of racing, Auberlen and Dillon Machavern (USA) finished third in the Turner Motorsport #95 BMW M4 GT4 to secure a spot on the podium. The duo of Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan (both USA) finished fifth in the #43 BMW M4 GT4 of Stephen Cameron Racing. Robby Foley and Vincent Barletta (both USA) secured seventh place in the #96 BMW M4 GT4 from Turner Motorsport.

The third endurance race of the season for BMW Team RLL, the 6-hour race at Watkins Glen (USA), is scheduled for 27th June.

Bobby Rahal (Team Principal BMW Team RLL)

“The guys did a great job. It was unfortunate for the #24 and we still don’t know what exactly happened at the pit stop with the fire but thankfully nobody got hurt and we were able to get going again. The final minutes were unlucky. When you have the chance to win the Twelve Hours of Sebring you’ve got to go for it. It didn’t quite work out, but you can’t blame anybody; everybody was aggressive at the end. It was a shame, but we gave our best shot and today it looked pretty good for a while. We got a good gap to the Corvette and the Porsche but then the yellows came out and that made it a whole new race again towards the end. We would have liked to win this race, especially this race, but with P2 and P3 we are now looking forward to the next one at Watkins Glen.”  

Connor De Phillippi (BMW Team RLL, #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 2nd place GTLM class)
“I think we can be really proud of our performance today. We knew we had to maximise literally everything into this car and this is exactly what we did. We put ourselves in the position to fight at the end. I could taste the win, tried to battle with the leader. I saw an opportunity and went for it, but it didn’t work. We still came home second and third for BMW. It’s great to be on the podium. It was nice to come back here and show that we have the speed. It’s a good result and good points for BMW and now we will try to get the win at the six-hour race.”

Bruno Spengler (BMW Team RLL, #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 2nd place GTLM class)
“What a race. We were competing for the lead pretty much the whole race. At times, it was really intense and felt like a sprint race. After the restarts, behind each other and chasing each other, it was a lot of fun. We fought until the end and Connor saw a gap and went for it. Unfortunately, there was a contact and for sure it was not intentional from his side, he just tried to go for the win, but we still finished in P2. It’s a great result for us, for the whole team. The team has been working awesomely hard to give us such a good car here at Sebring so we can be happy about this great result.”

Philipp Eng (BMW Team RLL, #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 2nd place GTLM class)
“I am obviously very happy about the podium. It is such a fantastic race and such a fantastic racetrack. In the end I think Connor just relied on his instinct. The outcome is what it is, but I would not have done it any differently. Unfortunately, we missed out on the win, but it is still a double podium for BMW.”

Jesse Krohn (BMW Team RLL, #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 3rd place GTLM class)
“It was really bad luck. Two years in a row, we fell out of the battle at the end. Unfortunately, the yellow came too late, so we were stuck driving one lap behind the other guys. There is not much you can do. Fortunately, some things then happened at the front and we came out with P3, but it wasn’t really what we were looking for and what we could have done.”

John Edwards (BMW Team RLL, #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 3rd place GTLM class)
“My sister sent me a text and it said ‘you really rose from the ashes’ and I think that is true tonight. A surprising podium on the last lap as the Corvette was having problems. So, we take it and take the points. But overall it was a disappointing day as we were very competitive. Together with the other car, we were running in P1 and P2 with a couple of hours to go and it looked like we could have a shot for both cars to stay there. We then had the fire but most importantly everyone is okay.”

Augusto Farfus (BMW Team RLL, #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 3rd place GTLM class)
“It’s a shame that we had the fire. Looking at how the race ended I think we would have been right there, and we would have been able to go for the victory, but besides that I think it’s a shame what happened to Connor. We all had a very good race, trouble free apart from the incident in the pit lane in which luckily no one got hurt. Another podium, so I think there is a reason to celebrate.”

Result GTLM class
1. MacNeil/Campbell/Jaminet (USA/AUS/F), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 334 laps
2. Eng/de Phillippi/Spengler (A/USA/CDN), BMW #25, 333 laps
3. Edwards/Krohn/Farfus (USA/FIN/BR), BMW #24, 333 laps

Result GTD class
1. Robichon/Vanthoor/Kern (CDN/B/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 320 laps
2. Long/Hindman/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 320 laps

3. James/De Angelis/Gunn (USA/CDN/GB), Aston Martin #23, 320 laps
5. Nielsen/Legge/Beatriz (DK/GB/BR), Porsche 911 GT3 R #88, 320 laps
10. Ferriol/Bamber/Estep (USA/NZ/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #99, 280 laps