While the Porsche 911 RSRs finished first and second in the GT Le Mans class of last year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and amassed six victories, the team appeared snakebit in 2020.
This was exemplified last week at a wet Charlotte Roval, when both cars crashed out early from the 100-minute race. Despite setting four pole positions in the first eight races of this season, the two cars between them had landed six podium finishes but no wins.
This changed last night at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta when fulltimers Nick Tandy, Fred Makowiecki and enduro extra Matt Campbell came home first, after Augusto Farfus’ leading BMW M8 ran off course in the closing stages. A necessary pitstop to clean grass and dirt from the air intakes and left front wheel of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run machine allowed the #911 into the lead.
Makowiecki then kept Antonio Garcia in the Corvette C8.R behind him to the checkered flag, surviving a late-race restart, and scored his and Campbell’s first win in the 23-year-old race instituted by the late Don Panoz.
“Petit Le Mans is one of the big races during the season, you really want to get it,” said an exhilarated Makowiecki. “It was a very tough race, tough weekend, and I’m so proud about my team because we did not give up.
“We had some good moments, some bad moments, but we had the right one. It doesn’t count to lead nine hours and 59 [minutes], what counts is the last minute.”
Tandy scored his first Petit Le Mans win in 2013 when he joined forces with Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler at Team Falken Tire, the trio prevailing in a close fight with BMW-RLL. But it was his second PLM win in 2015 – again over BMW-RLL – that appeared to seal his status as Porsche ‘lifer’. Sharing a 911 RSR with Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet, Tandy played a crucial role on a hideously rain-soaked race in taking the car to the front of the field, and setting in place a remarkable overall victory, the nearest Prototype finisher coming home third.
Of his latest success Tandy commented: “We’ve had such a poor season. There’s so many things that have gone wrong.
“In the middle of the race, it looked like we weren’t going to be that competitive. To come out with a win, my fourth at Petit, is amazing.
“This makes up for all the bad times that we’ve had during the season so far.”
The #912 Porsche, driven by defending series GTLM champions Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor, along with third man Mathieu Jaminet, eventually came home fifth, after regularly contending for the lead with its sister car, the #24 BMW, and the Corvettes. The team encountered seatbelt issues, making their pitstops longer, and also served a drive-through penalty for a clash with a Corvette, ultimately hitting pitroad two more times than the #911 car.
The #912 Porsche 911 RSR – 19 of Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Mathieu Jaminet leads #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler.
Photo by: Art Fleischmann