Porsche Locks Out First Grid Row at Long Beach
When it comes to acing the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Porsche drivers credit success to ‘maintaining the tires over the distance.’
Three pole positions from three events in the 2019 season: Works drivers Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet have planted their No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR on the first grid spot for round three of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Long Beach.
Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor and New Zealand’s Earl Bamber complete the first grid row in their ca. 510 hp racer with the starting number 912. So far this season, the Porsche GT Team remains unbeaten in the hunt for top qualifying times.
During the 15-minute qualifying session, Tandy advanced closer and closer to the track barriers at the street circuit in California, with the Briton improving on his best time with each lap. In 1:16.313 minutes, Tandy not only set a new qualifying record at Long Beach, but also added to his personal record in the IMSA series. This marks the seventh time that the Porsche works driver from Bedford (Great Britain) has posted the fastest time in the GTLM-class qualifying.
Laurens Vanthoor employed the same strategy as his British teammate. At the end of the qualifying session, the Belgian was just 0.064 seconds adrift of Tandy’s fastest time. Porsche takes off into the 100-minute race at Long Beach with two cars on the front row for the second consecutive time after an ideal qualifying at the twelve-hour in Sebring (USA).
Qualifying result GTLM class:
1. Pilet/Tandy (F/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:16.313 minutes
2. Bamber/Vanthoor (NZ/B), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:16.377 minutes
3. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Corvette C7.R, 1:16.520 minutes
“The fastest lap was really very good,” said Tandy. “I never expected such a great lap time. After free practice, we changed a few minor details on the setup. This meant that I was able to put in a blistering lap early in the session while the tires were still fresh. That was probably the key. In the race, it’s more about maintaining the tires over the distance. That’ll be another challenging task.”
“This is a perfect result for Porsche,” said Vanthoor. “I would very much have liked to post pole, and it was in fact on the cards. During my last flying lap I was on my way to topping the time sheets but then I made a slight mistake in the penultimate corner. Second on the grid is good, of course, but I’m a little disappointed. I’ve often been second over the last two years, but my time will come to be on pole position.”
‘We changed a few minor details on the setup. This meant that I was able to put in a blistering lap early in the session while the tires were still fresh. That was probably the key. In the race, it’s more about maintaining the tires over the distance.’
Steffen Höllwarth, the Program Manager for the IMSA SportsCar Championship, added: “Positions one and two – it simply doesn’t get better than this. We have a perfect record with three pole positions from three events. Today’s pole is probably the most important of the year, since overtaking is very difficult at the short race at Long Beach. We can now start the race from the front and somewhat dictate the strategy to the competition. We can take a moment to enjoy this achievement, but then we have to turn our full attention to preparing for the race.”
The Porsche GT Team tackles round three of the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship season at Long Beach as the leader of the manufacturer and team classifications. After a hard-fought victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, the two ca. 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR start under very different conditions at the Pacific coast. Contested over just 100 minutes, the so-called Sports Car Grand Prix in Long Beach is the shortest race of the season. Five kilometres of fencing and around 1,400 concrete blocks are needed for the construction of the 3.167-kilometre street circuit in the port area of Long Beach, California. The race is regarded as the American equivalent to the Monaco Grand Prix. In fact, the street course, which features only eleven turns, was the venue for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix from 1976 to 1983. A popular photo motif along the racetrack is the decommissioned British passenger ship, the RMS Queen Mary. Today, the ocean liner serves as a floating hotel. A round of the popular IndyCar Series is also contested as part of the Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.
The Porsche Drivers
The winners of the Sebring race, Pilet and Tandy (pictured above) share the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. The pair won the twelve-hour race in Florida with their works driver colleague Frédéric Makowiecki (France). The sister car is driven by Bamber and Vanthoor (Belgium). At last year’s Sebring race, these two led the race for over half of the distance in the No. 912 car. The Porsche 911 GT3 R vehicles fielded by Park Place Motorsports and Pfaff Motorsports will not compete at the Long Beach, however the GTD class will be back on the programme again on 5 May in Mid-Ohio.
The Porsche 911 RSR
For its third racing season in North America, the Porsche 911 RSR has undergone further optimisation primarily in the setup. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the engine, which is positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 375 kW (510 hp). The large rear diffuser combined with a top-mounted rear wing provides aerodynamic efficiency and significant downforce. The vehicle celebrated its debut at the start of the 2017 season and has notched up victories, most notably at the long-distance classic at Le Mans (France) and at the major sports car events in Sebring and at Road Atlanta.