Porsche's IMSA Bad Luck Continues With Poor Showing In Watkins Glen 6-hour Race
Pit stop issues sideline the 911 car and the 912 car suffered a punctured tire while chasing the podium with just minutes remaining.
The 6 Hours Of The Glen is a long standing famed race in North American sports car circles, and one that would be an honor to win. Porsche has won here before, most recently in 2015 with the now-defunct Team Falken Racing duo of Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers. It's been since 2003 that Porsche won this race overall, but they have 12 such wins historically. It's safe to say, then, that Porsche knows how to race at Watkins Glen. Both GTLM classed 911 RSR teams looked damn good during the race this weekend, as well, only to have everything unravel around them.
Porsche's race in the GTLM Class -
With factory-backed competition from Ford, Chevrolet, and BMW (The Ferrari team was absent from Sunday's race due to their car having been damaged irreparably at Le Mans), this was never going to be an easy race for Porsche to win. The field was strong in qualifying, with the time delta being just a few tenths of a second across the 8-car field. This race was a rough one, as tire punctures were the name of the game from the drop of the green flag. The curbing at Watkins Glen is particularly hard on cars, and numerous teams experienced tire failures. Both the 911 and 912 cars experienced tire failure while chasing the head of the field, and had the strategy to beat. With the competition set up as well as they are, there's no denying that a simple puncture is enough to knock out an otherwise race-winning bid.
The #911 car started the race from fifth on the grid with Patrick Pilet at the wheel. During his first stint at the wheel, Pilet had climbed to second in class before handing off to Dirk Werner. With multiple yellow flag stoppages, Werner was still sitting in second place at about the half way point of the race. While chasing after the leading car, Werner spun the car in the "esses" by taking just a bit too much of the kerb and puncturing one of his rear tires. The car just barely tapped the wall at the exit. Nearly immediately the track went to yellow flag conditions due to debris on the racing line. Werner got the car back to the pits and was given a new tire in short order, but stalled the car two times on his way out of the pit box, which delayed his exit from pit lane just long enough for the field to come back around and set him a lap down. The team was never able to recover that lap, and finished a lap down in 7th position in class.
The #912 car started the race with Laurens Vanthoor aboard the second 911 RSR, and after 34 laps of uneventful positive forward motion, he traded the driver's seat off to Gianmaria Bruni for his first in-race stint in a Porsche. Bruni managed to haul his Porsche up to 4th in class before handing the car back to Vanthoor. Laurens then moved the car up into third behind the sister 911 at about the halfway point of the race, then inherited second place when the #911 had its puncture/spin. Just after the four hour mark, the Belgian driver slid his 911 RSR up into the lead of the class. Bruni got back in the car for the final stint of the race with two Fords and one BMW ahead of him. All three of those cars had pitted prior to Bruni, and were tenuous on their fuel stint, possibly needing a 'splash-and-dash' fuel stop in the closing minutes of the race. Unfortunately for Bruni, a lengthy caution came out, giving the competition enough of a cushion on fuel that they were able to make it to the end. After making up one spot to third with a mega pass on one of the Fords, Bruni settled into a rhythm chasing down the leaders, just a second or so ahead. Late in the race, Bruni was forced to serve a drive-through penalty for passing a GTD car under a local yellow flag, which is a major no-no. The Italian driver's hopes of scoring a podium on his Porsche debut were dashed when his tire deflated with just 2 laps remaining in the race, when he was sitting in third. Heartbreak.
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports:
“The 911 RSR was set up very well for the race. We had banked on the temperature being hot, and that worked out superbly. We were very competitive today. However, we then made a mistake as a team and were also unlucky with tire damage. You cannot do much about that, but the combination of factors was simply too much to win such a difficult race against such strong opposition. The pace was there. That was not the issue today. We will build on that and push hard again next week in Canada.”
Patrick Pilet, Driver, 911 RSR #911:
“That was not our weekend. We were running second when the puncture cost us the race. We were unable to make up the laps we lost. Maybe we might have had a chance of doing so if it had rained harder at the end. Despite this, we will look ahead, as the pace was good. We will drive in Canada in a week’s time. That circuit is very well suited to the 911 RSR. We saw that during testing.”
Dirk Werner, Driver, 911 RSR #911:
“I span in the chicane, after which the rear-left tyre was damaged. It is a shame that the race had to end like that for us. It was very unfortunate. The 911 RSR was running very well and the team worked hard to support us, as it always does. Everyone deserved a better result than that.”
Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, 911 RSR #912:
“We should really have been challenging for the win at the end. The 911 RSR had the necessary pace. However, everything suddenly went against us. We will now try to do better in Canada.”
Gianmaria Bruni, Driver, 911 RSR #912:
“I am both disappointed and happy at the same time. Disappointed because we had a lot of bad luck and did not get the result we deserved, despite a good performance. I am happy because we showed today what great potential we have as a team. It is a shame that two punctures and a drive-through penalty cost us what would almost certainly have been a podium. I overtook a GTD car, when I was suddenly shown the yellow flag. However, I was already past. I dropped straight back in behind it, but the stewards took a hard line. That was my first race for Porsche, and my first race after an eight-month break. I cannot tell you how much I have missed this feeling.”
GTLM class results
1. Auberlen/Sims (USA/GB), BMW M6, 192 laps
2. Westbrook/Briscoe (GB/USA), Ford GT, 192
3. Garcia/Magnussen (E/DK), Corvette, 192
4. Hand/Müller (USA/D), Ford GT, 192
5. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Corvette, 192
6. Vanthoor/Bruni (B/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 192
7. Pilet/Werner (F/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 191
8. Edwards/Tomczyk (USA/D), BMW M6, 161