In the final round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship last weekend, the Porsche GT Team ended the season on a high, scoring a one-two victory with their Porsche 911 RSRs and Wright Motorsports taking a class win in the GTD class with their 911 GT3 R.
It turned out to be a somewhat dramatic Sebring 12 Hour race in which Britain’s Nick Tandy, Frédéric Makowiecki from France and New Zealander Earl Bamber won in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR. Bamber in fact managed to celebrate twice after also taking second place in the #912 car, which he was driving with teammates Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium and Neel Jani from Switzerland.
The North American Porsche works team have been contesting a total of 75 race since 2014 and have in that time, achieved 21 victories and 56 podium finishes, with Pascal Zurlinden, who is the Director Factory Motorsport, summing the weekend up by saying:
“That’s just crazy. There’s no better way to wrap up a factory programme. At the end of our IMSA campaign, we secured three wins in a row at Road Atlanta, Laguna Seca and now Sebring. That’s phenomenal. Congratulations as well to our customer squad Wright Motorsports. And let’s not forget our one-two success today at the WEC in Bahrain. There, too, we managed to celebrate another class win with a customer team. It was an incredibly successful day for Porsche Motorsport.”
There were nine safety car phases during the 12 hour race and in the final 15 minutes in the GTLM class, it was still anyone’s guess as to who would take the chequered flag. Tandy manoeuvred himself into the slipstream of the leading BMW shortly after the final restart, managing to take the lead in his Porsche 911 RSR after the frontrunner sustained some tyre damage following a collision by a number of GTD runners, and then held onto to the lead to the end of the race.
It was the third race victory in a row for the British driver and Makowiecki at the Sebring endurance classic. Whilst Bamber, who drove stints in both works cars at the season, crossed the finish line in second place, just 9.025 seconds behind the sister Porsche 911 RSR.
There was also celebration for the Porsche customer team Wright Motorsports, with works driver Patrick Long, Ryan Hardwick and Belgium’s Jan Heylen bringing the #16 911 GT3 R home in first place. It was also a great race for the customer team from Ohio, who managed to wrap up the championship in second place, just two points shy of the title.
Steffen Höllwarth, Head of Operations IMSA Championship, commented:
“I’m incredibly proud of the team. This weekend wasn’t easy for us. Because of the upcoming farewell, the mood was different than usual, but everyone coped just fine. We weren’t the fastest in the field, but we were the ones who made the least mistakes – and that’s how things like this happen. Suddenly you find yourself at the front. After three straight wins at Sebring, I’d say that this track has become our turf. Now it’s time to celebrate!”
Drive Frédéric Makowiecki in the Porsche 911 RSR #911, said:
“I can’t believe it! This is the third win in a row for Nick and me at this 12-hour classic. It’s a very special and unforgettable achievement. We may not have been the fastest today, but at such moments, that’s precisely the time to throw our hat into the ring. We worked flawlessly, the crew did a perfect job and as such we virtually forced our luck. I’m over the moon.”
Teammate Nick Tandy said:
“Our third straight win at Sebring, plus a double victory for Porsche – at the last outing of our works team no less! It doesn’t get better than that! Despite all the rejoicing, I feel very sad at the same time. We’ve scored so many incredible victories over the past few years and I’ve grown very close to the team. We’ll party hard tonight – so hard, in fact, that unfortunately we’ll have to postpone the loading of equipment into the trucks until tomorrow.”
Earl Bamber, who drove both the Porsche 911 RSR #911 and #912 said:
“It feels somehow very strange to be called on to the podium as the winner and runner up at the same time. You don’t get that every day. I contributed only in a minor way to the victory of number 911 car, my main task was to do the stints in ‘my’ number 912 car. Our 911 RSR could never match the pace of the sister car, but we still didn’t give up. A one-two at the finale – there’s no better way to bid farewell to a racing series. It’ll remain in our memories forever.”
GTLM Class Results
1. Tandy/Makowiecki/Bamber (GB/F/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR #911, 332 laps
2. Vanthoor/Bamber/Jani (B/NZ/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #912, 332 laps
3. Krohn/Edwards/Farfus (FIN/USA/BR), BMW M8 GTE #24, 331 laps
4. Spengler/De Phillippi/Herta (CDN/USA/USA), BMW M8 GTE #25, 330 laps
5. Garcia/Taylor/Catsburg (E/USA/NL), Corvette C8.R #3, 323 laps
6. Gavin/Milner/Fässler (GB/USA/CH), Corvette C8.R #4, 293 laps
GTD Class Results
1. Long/Hardwick/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 319 laps
2. James/de Angelis/Turner (USA/CDN/GB), Aston Martin Vantage, 319 laps
3. Farnbacher/McMurry/Michimi (D/USA/J), Acura NSX GT3, 319 laps
For the full results and championship standings, please visit www.imsa.com
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photograph courtesy of Porsche AG