Porsche Motorsports Weekly Event Notes: Monday, April 30, 2018
- Porsche Returns to Ohio. Factory and Customer Teams Return to Mid-Ohio.
- Pfaff Fast. Porsche Customer Team Scores Three Podiums at VIR SprintX.
- World Opener. Porsche Starts the New World Championship Season at Spa.
- Porsche History. Porsche Leads All Manufacturers for Mid-Ohio Wins.
Event Story Lines
Porsche Returns to Ohio. Factory and Customer Teams Return to Mid-Ohio.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will make its first appearance at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, May 6 to contest round four of the 2018 season. It is the first time major North American sports car racing will run at the Lexington, Ohio track since 2012. Sports car racing at Mid-Ohio dates to 1963. The Porsche GT Team will field two Porsche 911 RSR race cars in the manufacturer supported GTLM class on the storied 2.258-miles circuit. Wright Motorsports will represent the German brand in the GTD customer team class campaigning two Porsche 911 GT3 R race cars.
The winners of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain), will contest the GTLM class sharing the cockpit of the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand) share driving duties in the second 911 RSR (No. 912) fielded by the Porsche GT Team.
The GTD class, which did not compete at Long Beach, will be back on the grid at Mid-Ohio. After opening the season with a single entry – the No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital 911 GT3 R for factory driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) and Porsche Selected Driver Christina Nielsen (Denmark) – Wright Motorsports announced a second-entry for the non-endurance races beginning with their home track this weekend. Henzler (Germany) will mark his return to the North American championship co-driving the No. 16 with Michael Schein (New York, New York). Henzler has three victories for Porsche at Mid-Ohio.
Nielsen will leave Lexington immediately following the Sports Car Challenge to travel to Italy where she will take part in a test with Ebimotors where, on May 9, the two-time WeatherTech GTD class Champion will get her first taste of the Porsche 911 RSR she will race in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The official European Le Mans Series one-day test is her debut with Ebimotors, in the most advanced 911 race car ever developed by Porsche. She will share testing duties with Le Mans teammate Fabio Babini (Italy) and a third-driver yet to be officially announced.
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with its 13 corners is one of the most beautiful and time-honored tracks in the United States. Porsche holds the record for the most sports car victories at Mid-Ohio with 17 overall wins and 22 class titles in IMSA races. The two most recent overall wins came in 2006 and 2007 with the Porsche RS Spyder. The last Porsche Mid-Ohio class victory came in 2011 with the 911 GT3 RSR customer entry driven by Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers in the American Le Mans Series.
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars.
“Sports car racing enjoys a great tradition at Mid-Ohio. We’re thrilled to have this demanding circuit back on the calendar after many years. It’s a valuable addition to the championship and a big challenge for drivers and teams. At previous races, Porsche scored many successes at Mid-Ohio, not least thanks to the RS Spyder, which clinched a sensational maiden win there in 2006 against significantly more powerful LMP1 prototypes. With the 911 RSR, we now want to continue this success story. Our strong performance at Long Beach makes us confident that we’ll succeed.”
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport.
“A new track presents teams and drivers with new challenges. That’s why we tested the 911 RSR in Mid-Ohio before the race. The primary goal was to work out a baseline setup for this demanding racetrack and to trial different tire specifications. With the insights we’ve gained, I’m confident that we’re well prepared for the race weekend. We’re looking forward to this new challenge.”
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager 911 GT3 R.
“Mid-Ohio is a very demanding course when it comes to setting up the vehicle. ‘The Esses’ area especially demands a very responsive setup to be able to quickly negotiate the direction changes of the five consecutive corners. With its compact wheelbase and agile handling, the 911 GT3 R will be able to demonstrate its strengths, particularly in these passages. The racetrack is not one of the fastest on the calendar, but it’s very popular with drivers as it allows many different racing lines.”
Patrick Pilet, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“I’ve only driven at Mid-Ohio once and that was in 2008. So, it’s quite a while ago. It’s a great track, especially for GT cars like the 911 RSR. After the race on the narrow city circuit of Long Beach, this classic race track is a new challenge that we’re all looking forward to.”
Nick Tandy, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“I’ve never been to Mid-Ohio. I’ve watched some stock car races there on television and I’ve also tried to familiarize myself with it on a simulator. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven on a new racetrack so I’m really excited about this race. It’ll definitely be an interesting experience.”
Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“It’s always great for a race driver to get to know new circuits. On video, Mid-Ohio looks very interesting. It’s a classic race track with a huge tradition – something that pretty much only exists in the USA. After the Long Beach race we went straight there to do some testing. In practice we now have to substantiate the insights we gained there and turn them into the best possible race result.”
Earl Bamber, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“Our performance at Long Beach was good, although we ultimately weren’t able to use our chance to win. Now I’m looking forward to Mid-Ohio. This is an interesting track, somewhat tight and twisty, which should suit our 911 RSR. The main thing for us is to improve our position in the championship with a good result before the Le Mans break.”
Patrick Long, Driver, No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“When looking for the best setup at Mid-Ohio you need a lot of experience. Overtaking isn’t easy on this classic racetrack with long straights and tight corners, so as well as a perfect setup, a good starting position is one of the keys to success.”
Christina Nielsen, Driver, No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“It’s going to be cool going back to Mid-Ohio, a track I haven’t raced on since my first time there in 2015. Last year, Wright earned a couple of podium finishes in the PWC series at Mid-Ohio, so they truly know how to make a Porsche go quickly around there. I am confident I’m in good hands. We have some busy times coming up. Right after the race, I fly out to Italy, where I’ll have my first run in the car I’ll race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans — Ebimotors’ Porsche 911 RSR. I’m really looking forward to this cool week of racing I have coming up!”
Pfaff Fast. Porsche Customer Team Scores Three Podiums at VIR SprintX.
Pfaff Motorsports continued to lead the four Porsche customer teams of the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) SprintX Championship this weekend at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) scoring twin podiums. In total, three podium finishes were earned by GT-SX class Porsche customers. The Canadian team entered the weekend at the Alton, Virginia-track as the overall points leader with driver Scott Hargrove (Canada) in the No. 96 Porsche 911 GT3 R and, paired with Wolf Henzler (Germany), scored a third-place and second-place finish overall in the two, 60-minute races. The No. 24 Alegra Motorsports GT3 R of Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Spencer Pumpelly (Atlanta, Georgia) followed the Pfaff machine under the checkered flag to finish in third-place in Sunday’s race.
Despite the two podium finishes, Hargrove was unable to hold the overall points lead but sits just two markers behind the Ferrari 488 GT3 he has fought with in the first seven combined (Sprint and SprintX) races of the season. The Porsche Young Driver Academy graduate and two-time IMSA Porsche Ultra 94 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Champion entered the weekend with a two-point lead.
Porsche performance on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course has always been strong and this weekend showed the rear-engine, 500-horsepower 911 GT3 R continues to grow the tradition. In Saturday’s race – Round Three of the SprintX Championship – Hargrove/Henzler’s third-place overall, second-place in the GT-SX Pro/Pro class, finish was followed by Alec Udell (The Woodlands, Texas) and Corey Lewis (Nazareth, Pennsylvania) in the No. 41 GMG-prepared Porsche 911 GT3 R in fifth-place overall. Christensen/Pumpelly finished fifth-overall and the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Tim Pappas (Boston, Massachusetts) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (Belgium) took ninth overall, fourth-place in the GT-SX Pro-Am class.
Race 2, Round Four in the Championship, was even more successful. The No. 96 Pfaff car earned the second-place overall finish while Christensen brought the Alegra Porsche across the finish line in third-place overall after taking the ride over at the mid-point from Pumpelly. The GMG-entered 911 GT3 R of Lewis and Udell was fifth in class, sixth-place overall, while the Black Swan machine of Pappas/Bleekemolen earned a fifth-place in Pro-Am class, eleventh-overall.
The Pirelli World Challenge returns to the single-driver Sprint Championship on May 18 – 20 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. The Bowmanville, Ontario-track is another hallmark event on the PWC schedule and the home track for Pfaff. The IMSA Porsche Ultra 94 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama championship will share the weekend at the ultra-fast 2.549-mile, 10-turn track with the PWC cars.
World Opener. Porsche Starts the New World Championship Season at Spa.
The six-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps on May 5, 2018, kicks off the 15-month Super Season of the FIA Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC). On the time-honored racetrack in the Ardennes region of Belgium, six 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR race cars go up against strong opposition from Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari and Ford in the LMGTE-Pro and LMGTE-Am classes.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which is approximately 12-miles from the German border, sets motorsport fans’ hearts racing. The 4.35-mile circuit is an electrifying mix of high-speed passages such as the famous Eau Rouge and slower sections. An altitude difference greater than 300 feet makes the season-opening round into a rollercoaster ride. One unpredictable factor in the Ardennes is the weather: The sun can be shining in the “Bus Stop” chicane, while in Le Combes it’s raining.
Sharing the cockpit of the No. 91 car in the LMGTE-Pro class, the new driver pairing of Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Richard Lietz (Austria) tackles a world sports car championship race for the first time together. Bruni, a two-time series champion, has contested the second half of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech Championship in North America and is thus well acquainted with the 911 RSR. Like last year, Kévin Estre (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) share the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR.
In the LMGTE-Am class, three Porsche customer teams run a total of four 911 RSR racers. Porsche works driver Jörg Bergmeister (Germany), his longtime IMSA WeatherTech GTD class teammate Patrick Lindsey (Santa Barbara, California) and Norwegian Egidio Perfetti drive for the Project 1 team. The British pilots Michael Wainwright and Ben Barker join forces with Australian Alex Davison to compete for Gulf Racing. Dempsey Proton Racing competes with two GT racers from Weissach. Sharing the wheel of the No. 77 car for the Super Season are the Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia), Christian Ried (Germany) and Porsche-Junior Julien Andlauer (France). Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy), Khaled Al Qubaisi (United Arab Emirates) and Giorgio Roda (Italy) pilot the second 911 RSR of the squad supported by actor Patrick Dempsey.
After securing runner-up in the driver’s championship thanks to Lietz and Makowiecki in 2017, the Porsche GT Team has now set its sights on the driver’s and manufacturer’s title in the world sports car championship. The Porsche 911 RSR celebrated its premiere in international long-distance racing in 2017 and is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car. Depending on the restrictor, the water-cooled four-liter flat-six engine puts out approximately 510 hp.
The six-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps begins on Saturday, May 5, 2018, at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars.
“Our Porsche GT Team is facing a long and exciting season. The Prologue in Le Castellet underlined that we’re ready for this task. Together with the three customer teams, the fans can look forward to seeing six Porsche 911 RSR in action at the first race in the Ardennes. For all the drivers and motorsport enthusiasts, the racetrack is a very special place. This huge interest motivates us even more to fight for victory in both categories and to show them what potential our 911 RSR has. It’s important for us to make a good start into the Super Season before we tackle Le Mans with ten of our 911 RSR.”
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport.
“The Spa circuit stands for top-league motor racing and throws very special challenges at drivers and the 911 RSR. You can only fight for victory on this diverse racetrack with the right setup. The entire team knows the importance of the season-opener and is perfectly prepared.”
Gianmaria Bruni, Driver, No. 91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“I can hardly wait to return to the WEC after a year’s break. The Spa racetrack is one of the most beautiful in the world. We’d like to hit the ground running at the first race and start with a good performance. The competition we want to win against is fierce.”
Richard Lietz, Driver, No. 91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“A new driver pairing always takes a bit of getting used to. But this went really quickly with Gianmaria at the test. Our work together has been very promising so far and we complement each other excellently. 2017 wasn’t so great for us with fifth and sixth place. This year we have our sights set on the podium. For the new season, we’ve put a great deal of emphasis on developing and choosing the tire compounds in conjunction with Michelin so that we’re well prepared for the changing weather conditions. The weather and the temperatures are known to change very quickly in Spa.”
Kévin Estre, Driver, No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“The weather always plays a major role at Spa. Plus, it’s the only race before the 24 Hours of Le Mans. So it’s even more important to start the season successfully. I like the racetrack very much and I’m looking forward to the adrenalin rush in Eau Rouge.”
Michael Christensen, Driver, No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“The last few years didn’t go so well for us at Spa, so we’re keen to change that this year. We’re well prepared and we can’t wait for the season to begin. In 2017, Kévin and I were in great shape at the last races but we were plagued by a lot of bad luck. We’re well prepared and we want to attack.”
Jörg Bergmeister, Driver, No. 56 Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR.
“Spa is my home track, which always makes the race something very special. It’s really exciting for Project 1 because it’s the first WEC race for the team. I’m in daily contact with the decision-makers and I try to support the crew with my experience. We’ve worked meticulously on preparing for this challenge. I’m looking forward to the new season.”
Porsche History. Porsche Leads All Manufacturers for Mid-Ohio Wins.
Porsche holds the all-time record for manufacturer victories at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with 17 overall wins. The German marque also holds the record for most IMSA class wins at 22 since 2000.
The first overall title came in 1972 when Bob Beasley and Michael Keyser drove a Porsche 911 S to victory lane in the Camel GT six-hour race. Porsche then swept the top-step of the podium the next four years and 15 of the next 20 races (events held between 1972 and 1988).
The most recent overall victories for Porsche came in 2006 and 2007 when Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) paired in the RS Spyder. Each year the LMP2 class car bettered the more powerful LMP1 entries to take back-to-back surprise victories on the 2.258-miles, 13-turn race course.
Legendary Porsche racer and the first president of Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) Al Holbert holds the record for wins by a driver at Mid-Ohio. Holbert earned the first of his six overall wins co-driving a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR in a five-hour race with Peter Gregg. He’d follow with victories in 1974 (solo in a 100-mile race driving a 911 Carrera RSR) and ’75 with the Carrera RSR co-driving with current IMSA official Elliott Forbes Robinson in a six-hour race. He would return to victory lane nearly a decade later winning three consecutive 500-mile races in a Porsche 962 (1984 – 1986) with Derek Bell.
While 1986 was Holbert’s last title as a driver, a by-product of his efforts as PMNA president came in 1989 when the Porsche-powered March factory Indy car won its only race. The Mid-Ohio win, with driver Teo Fabi, came a year after Holbert was killed in a private plane crash.
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