Porsche Motorsport’s Weekend at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta
Mid-engine 911 RSR finishes 2017 IMSA season with two NAEC championship titles.
Last weekend, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta race was 10 hours of nail-biting excitement for Porsche fans. Unfortunately, Porsche didn’t win the race, but it did come home with some championship hardware. We are thankful our friend, photographer Keiron Berndt, was there to capture the whole event in technicolor wonder.
By virtue of a mid-pack-finishing position in last Saturday’s race, Porsche scored enough points across the four endurance rounds of the IMSA championship, namely Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, and Road Atlanta, to bring home the trophies for North American Endurance Team and Driver’s championships. Porsche also finished second in the manufacturer’s championship for the same races, losing out only to Ford. With 52 grueling hours of racing covered by just those four races, Porsche really had to fight to earn this honor.
Being that this was the 911 RSR’s first full season of competition, we’ve continually been blown away by the car’s competitiveness. With a number of rounds falling away from the team due to crash damage or unreliability or just plain poor luck, the fact that they won just a single round this year doesn’t really tell the full story. This was a world-class car from the drop of the flag in January, and continued to be competitive in class all season. Unfortunately for Porsche, any small mistake was quickly capitalized on by the rest of the stout GTLM field. It was a tough season, but one that will easily prepare the team for 2018.
The factory-supported team in the GTLM category ultimately finished 5th and 6th in class behind the winning BMW, a pair of Corvettes, and a ridiculously quick Risi Competizione Ferrari. Porsche started the race from the back foot with a poor-qualifying showing, but with frighteningly terrible driving standards from some of the prototypes, moved up as competitors were taken out of the race. It wasn’t their weekend, but in racing you just have to play with the hand you’ve been dealt.
‘Winning the North American Endurance Cup is a great team effort. I’m thrilled to take this trophy home as a thank you to everyone who has worked on the new 911 RSR.’
— Patrick Pilet
Ultimately it was the #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner, and Nick Tandy that finished in 5th, having fought higher up in the standings for most of the race. For at least some portion of the race, the team was hopeful they could compete for a podium, but it didn’t ultimately shake out that way. The sister car, #912, was piloted by Laurens Vanthoor, Gianmaria Bruni, and Earl Bamber, coming in just behind the #911.
“Winning the North American Endurance Cup is a great team effort,” said Pilet in a press statement. “I’m thrilled to take this trophy home to Weissach as a thank you to everyone who has worked on the new 911 RSR and has supported us this season so brilliantly.”
Porsche also had factory-driver talent in the GTD category, and managed to bring home a pair of podium placings, ending the season strong before heading into the off-season. Michael Christensen teamed with Daniel Morad and Michael de Quesada to finish second in the Alegra Motorsports 911 GT3R. Coming home in third was the Park Place Motorsport entry with Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey, and Matthew McMurry sharing driving duties. In GTD, it was just impossible to catch up to the amazingly fast Land Motorsport Audi R8, though Porsche was right on their tail.
Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, the race was won overall by ex-Porsche LMP1 driver Brendan Hartley, teamed with Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel in the #2 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsports Nissan DPi.
Sadly, we have to wait over 100 days before the 2018 season kicks off at Daytona for the 24-hour race in January. We’re on pins and needles.