Porsche wins both classes!

Lime Rock Park’s tight nature makes it perfect for an all-GT contest, and that’s exactly what we had on the plate for last weekend’s IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Race at the Lakeville track. Akin to the old days of the IMSA GT Championship, the two-hours-and-40-minutes sprint around the 2.459-mile-long circuit was open only to the GT-LM and GT-D contenders which made for great racing between the two “cores” of action.

The seventh round of the 2017 season came as a lot of news was coming out of the Prototype camp which will return at Road America. For starters, Mazda announced they will cut their season short as they begin a new relationship with Joest Racing which will take over the Japanese manufacturer’s program in IMSA over from SpeedSource. The team that previously ran Audi Sport’s LMP1 program (and has a rich history even before that, with Porsche) will begin testing with the Riley/Mutimatic-based RT24-P immediately which is why we won’t see the car back on track until its debut under the new Mazda Team Joest banner at Daytona in 2018.

Continue reading for the full story.

Qualifying

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The shift was caused, most likely, by the number of near-misses scored by SpeedSource since moving up to the Prototype class after a fruitful tenure in Grand-Am with the Mazda RX-8. The team has been fighting for overall honors since 2015 and was close to victory on multiple occasions, scoring poles and podiums, but victory has eluded them, not always through no fault of their own. The return of Team Joest, which took a hiatus after the end of Audi Sport’s P1 program, comes at the same time as Team Penske’s announcement that they will commit to a DPi program alongside Honda for 2018.

Porsche again showed its strength, being the quickest in practice and qualifying.

Staying with the prototypes, it’s worth mentioning that VisitFlorida.com Racing’s time with the Riley Mk.XXX prototype has come to an end as the Troy Flis-led organization will bring a new chassis to Road America after a troublesome first half of 2017 with the Gibson-powered car. The choice for the new car is still between P2-spec racers, although VisitFlorida.com Racing is also looking at a move to DPi with Cadillac in the future, although the rules on privateers running DPi machinery are unclear.

Going back to matters of the recent past, Porsche again showed its strength, being the quickest in practice and qualifying. Gianmaria Bruni in his first ever qualifying session for the German brand proved quickest, giving car No. 912 its first pole of the season thanks to a storming 00:50.404, quicker run than both Richard Westbrook and teammate Dirk Werner. BMW’s Martin Tomczyk was fourth with Corvette’s Tommy Milner filling up the top five, all within 0.316-seconds.

Paul Miller Racing’s Madison Snow was the class of the GT-D field in the team’s No. 48 Huracan.

Paul Miller Racing’s Madison Snow was the class of the GT-D field in the team’s No. 48 Huracan which was little over two seconds behind the overall pole position. After a dismal season since the move from PC to GT-D, CORE Autosport’s Colin Braun put the No. 540 Porsche on P2, ahead of Patrick Long’s Alegra Motorsport Porsche and Jack Hawksworth in the No. 15 Lexus. Long’s appearance in DeQuesada’s car was a last-minute deal as the American made his second IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship start in 2017.

The Race

Saturday’s race got underway nice and clean and, not before long, it was a Porsche 1-2 at the sharp end of the field.

Saturday’s race got underway nice and clean and, not before long, it was a Porsche 1-2 at the sharp end of the field after the No. 911 Porsche made its way past the No. 67 Ford. A bit behind, however, things weren’t going too well. With just 25 minutes gone, Tommy Milner tried to pass Dirk Mueller braking for the Uphill corner but clipped the grass on the inside with the rear-right tire, spun around and crashed into Mueller. The incident did not cause a safety car period but did send both cars to the pits for repairs.

Towards the end of the first hour, Bruni and Vanthoor’s luck ran out again, with the car pitting early with front-end damage which gave the lead to their sister-car. Knowing they can’t beat the Porsches on speed, Ford Team Chip Ganassi again tasked Richard Westbrook for his wizardry in an attempt to do the race on just one stop. It seemed to pay off as Westbrook did lead but the only stop was sluggish and the No. 911 moved back up to P1. Adding insult to injury, the No. 67 was then forced to do a splash-and-dash with just five minutes left on the clock which meant Westbrook and Briscoe had to settle for fifth.

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Porsche’s No. 911 of Pilet and Werner won right ahead of Bruni and Vanthoor.

This meant that Porsche’s No. 911 of Pilet and Werner won, right ahead of Bruni and Vanthoor who rebounded to make Porsche’s first IMSA win with the mid-engined 991 a 1-2. It was Tomczyk and John Edwards on third for BMW while Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, the championship leaders coming into this round, finished fourth.

Beyond the finishing order, the race proved very intense, especially when the GT-LM cars had to go through the not-that-slow GT-D traffic. The track’s flowing but tight nature also meant that a lot of bumper-to-bumper action went on, in both classes.

Top 5 GT-LM Class Standings

Pos No. Class Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 911 GTLM Pilet/Werner Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR 181
2 912 GTLM Vanthoor/Bruni Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR 181
3 24 GTLM Edwards/Tomczyk BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM 181
4 3 GTLM Magnussen/Garcia Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R 181
5 67 GTLM Briscoe/Westbrook Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT 181
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Madison Snow led the way in GT-D for about 40 minutes until Patrick Long passed him.

Madison Snow led the way in GT-D for about 40 minutes until Patrick Long passed him, making the best out of slower lapped cars. However, the No. 48 rebounded and was back at the front of the field during the middle stint as the Alegra car was taken over by Daniel Morad.

Porsche was back in P1 after the final stop, though it was the Park Place No. 73 car. Jorg Bergmeister went out just ahead of Bryan Sellers and managed to keep ahead of the ex-Falken driver until the end, crossing the finish line over three seconds ahead of the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini. Another Porsche topped off a perfect weekend for the Stuttgart-based brand with Alegra Motorsport coming home third.

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Lally and Legge got back up through the field despite earning two drive-through penalties.

Stevenson Motorsport’s win at Mosport was followed by a P4 at Lime Rock just ahead of the No. 93 MSR Acura whose story was that of a ‘what might have been? Lally and Legge got back up through the field despite earning two drive-through penalties during the event. Sixth in class were Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan who continue to lead the championship as the No. 33 Riley Mercedes suffered from suspension failure following a contact with the “Tacos” (Turner) Motorsport BMW M6 GT3. CORE Autosport was unlucky again in the race, as were championship returnees TRG who were close to a Top 5 finish with their Aston-Martin before James Davison stopped at the side of the road with less than ten minutes left to run.

That crew was one of just four which were on the retirement list. It was also the first caution-free IMSA race since the VIR round in 2015.

Top 5 GT-D Class Standings

Pos No. Class Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 73 GTD Lindsey/Bergmeister Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R 175
2 48 GTD Sellers/Snow Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 175
3 28 GTD Long/Morad Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R 175
4 57 GTD Aschenbach/Davis Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 174
5 93 GTD Lally/Legge Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 174

Full Results

Check out the full results here.

What’s Next?

Following the Northeast Grand Prix is the Elkhart Lake-based round in the first weekend of August.

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