Porsche 911 Race Cars Dominate IMSA GT Classes at Road America
Racing has been an integral part of the Porsche brand througout its history. The 911 RSR and GT3 R may be fully track-prepped, but their DNA is shared closely with street versions of the Porsche 911. In round eight of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Road America, both racing variants took home the checkered flag in their respective GTLM and GTD classes.
The 911 RSR won GTLM with speed and efficiency
In GTLM, the WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR competes against two Chevrolet Corvette C8.Rs. The cars are fairly well-matched, with very similar best lap times at Road America. However, the Corvette has more displacement with a 5.5-liter V8 engine, versus the 4.2-liter flat-six cylinder in the Porsche. The 911 RSR variant moves the engine slightly forward of the rear axle, for better weight distribution.
Cooper MacNeil started the event for Porsche, behind leader Jordan Taylor and Nick Tandy in the Corvettes. As the race continued, pit stops would become a key factor for all three GTLM cars. MacNeil came in under caution to refuel after about 30 minutes and turned over the wheel to Matt Campbell.
Campbell turned fast laps when needed, but also managed to conserve fuel. When penalties put both of the Corvettes behind, he seized the opportunity to take the lead. The Australian driver stayed in front until the end to earn the GTLM class victory. Interestingly, he ran the final hour of the event on the same tank of fuel.
“The race came down to the strategy and the fuel-saving between us and the Corvettes,” said Campbell. “In the end, the Proton guys made the right decision to stop when we did for fuel. At the time we thought maybe it was the wrong call. But obviously, it all worked out in the end.”
The 911 GT3 R took 1st and 3rd places in GTD
IMSA GTD is a much larger and diverse field of contenders, with the rear-engine Porsche 911 GT3 R against rivals using mid-engine and front-engine rear-wheel-drive layouts. In contrast to the majority, Zacharie Robichon and Trent Hindman both pitted early to refuel their 911 GT3 Rs. This worked out in their favor when the class leader Robby Foley took his BMW M6 into the pits afterward during a caution.
On the restart, Rubichon gained four places and then passed Frankie Montecalvo within a lap to take the lead. Laurens Vanthoor took over the Pfaff Porsche from Robichon with an hour left. Vanthoor maintained a comfortable lead to take the win by nearly 12 seconds. Trent Hindman and Patrick Long placed third in their 911 GT3 R, behind Foley and Bill Auberlen in the Turner BMW M6.
“All in all it was a fantastic race for our team. It started with a perfect strategy call to pit before the yellow, and then I got a good restart and was able to control the race from the front,” said driver Zacharie Robichon. “A few brave passes were necessary but I knew the first two laps after the restart were going to be the key to the race. After this, it was all about saving fuel and getting the car in a good position for Laurens.”
The GTLM cars head to 24 Hours of Le Mans
For the Porsche 911 RSR, as well as the Corvette C8.Rs, next stop is the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. In addition to IMSA regulations, the GTLM cars also meet FIA standards that enable them to compete in Europe. At Le Mans they will face the best in the world, as they contend for one of the most coveted wins in all of racing.
“This gives us some strong momentum going into Le Mans next week and we want to continue this winning streak with Porsche at the 24-hour race,” said MacNeil. “We have the chance to do this if we can stay out of trouble and are in the right place at the end – just like we were today.”
Against rival machines with larger engines, the Porsche 911 again proved to be a formidable weapon on the race track. What it lacks in displacement, it can often make up with the inherent efficiency and simple nature of its rear-engine design.