Porsche takes championship lead after double victory

Achieving a double victory on the storied Road America race track, Porsche continues its winning streak in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship: In the 470 hp Porsche 911 RSR, which is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car, Le Mans winner Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Patrick Pilet (France) won the GTLM class, repeating their recent feat at Bowmanville, Canada. Their team colleagues Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) scored second place at the wheel of Porsche North America’s second winning racer from Weissach. Thanks to the third straight victory for the 911 RSR after Watkins Glen and Bowmanville, Porsche now leads the hotly-contested North American sports car championship.

The race on the demanding 6.514-kilometre circuit at Elkhart Lake in the state of Wisconsin was one of the most gripping of the year, particularly in the GTLM class. The grid positions of the two 911 RSR sports cars campaigned by Porsche North America could not have been more different: Earl Bamber started from pole position in the number 912 vehicle, with Patrick Pilet taking up the race from the back of the pack in the number 911 car due to a problem in qualifying.

While the Le Mans winner from New Zealand got off the line well and pulled clear of his pursuers, the Frenchman thrilled spectators with his sensational chase through the field: After the first lap he had already overtaken all ten of the GTD class contenders and closed the gap to the more powerful GTLM vehicles. After four laps he had passed four more competitors, and by lap nine he was well on his way to the podium in third place. His teammate Nick Tandy climbed into the cockpit at the first pit stop and continued the stunning performance. After the first half of the 2:40-hour race, both 911 RSR were running at the front: Earl Bamber leading with Nick Tandy in second.

With just 45 minutes to the chequered flag, the final series of pit stops opened the critical phase of the race: Jörg Bergmeister, who scored the last GT victory at Road America for Porsche in 2009 and had taken over driving duties from Earl Bamber by this point, came in to refuel while running in first. The German rejoined the race in third place, but lost several positions in the first lap when his tyres took too long to develop the optimal grip. Patrick Pilet pitted shortly afterwards, with Ferrari inheriting the front spot. When the machine from Maranello pulled in for its last pit stop, the Frenchman retook the lead and proceeded to open the gap.

While Pilet brought home a safe victory for Porsche, Jörg Bergmeister put in a spirited pursuit through the GTLM field to catch the Ferrari running in second. With just metres to go to the flag, Bergmeister made the decisive move to notch up the second double victory for Porsche this season after Watkins Glen.

Comments after the race;
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Manager GT Works Motorsport: “Simply unbelievable. That was a perfect weekend for Porsche and a race that offered truly everything that thrills sports car fans the world over. Tough fights for positions, exciting overtaking manoeuvres, a range of strategies – that was pure motorsport from start to finish. My thanks to everyone who worked virtually day and night towards achieving this joint goal, both at the race track and at Weissach. There is nothing more wonderful than the trust everyone has placed in the team, and this is a way we can repay them.”

Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “I can hardly believe it. To start from the very back and finish at the front of our class is something you don’t experience every day as a race driver.. But our car was perfect and our strategy worked brilliantly. Now we’re back in the championship and anything is possible. Right now we’re enjoying the moment, but from tomorrow on we’ll be focusing on the next round in Virginia.”

Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “What an incredible race. That was a strong performance from the entire team. To make it to the front from the very back of the field goes to show what a great car the 911 RSR is, and what a solid squad we have behind us. I couldn’t be happier today.”

Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “Today was a banner day for Porsche and a fantastic effort from the whole team. This double victory underlines our excellent preparation for the race. The way Jörg overtook the Ferrari in the last corner to move into second was fantastic. Porsche is now leading the championship, but we’re not there yet. We have to carry this momentum with us to the next round at Virginia. Then everything is possible there.”

Jörg Bergmeister (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “A one-two for Porsche – it couldn’t be better. Unfortunately it took a while to get the tyres up to temperature in the first lap after our last pit stop and that cost us the race. In the final lap I did everything I could to make the double victory perfect. And it worked. In doing this, though, Pierre Kaffer and I touched slightly. But he gave me the thumbs up during the cool-down lap to signalise that it was a fair manoeuvre. I would have said the same.”

Porsche Brands Ambassador Angelique Kerber crowned the successful sports weekend for Porsche in the USA with her victory at the WTA tennis tournament in Stanford, California. For the motor racing enthusiast and winner of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, this marks her fourth tournament victory of the year.

Round eight of ten on the Tudor United SportsCar Championship calendar will be contested on 23 August at the VIR Virginia International Raceway in Alton (US state of Virginia).

Race result

GTLM class
1.. Pilet/Tandy (F/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 74 laps
2. Bamber/Bergmeister (NZ/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 74
3. Kaffer/Fisichella (D/I), Ferrari F458 Italia, 74
4. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette, 73
5. Auberlen/Werner (USA/D), BMW Z4 GTE, 73
6. Edwards/Luhr (USA/D), BMW Z4 GTE, 73
7. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 73
8. Henzler/Sellers (D/USA), Porsche 911 RSR, 73

GTD class
1. Keating/Bleekemolen (USA/NL), Dodge Viper SRT, 70 laps
2. Nielsen/Wittmer (DK/CDN), Aston Martin, 70
3. Lindsey/Pumpelly (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT America, 70

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits talkmotorsport.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!


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