Kuno Wittmer (GT Le Mans) and Dane Cameron (GT Daytona) have taken inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship driver’s championships, while Team Falken Tire and Paul Miller Racing won the two classes in the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda season finale.
Falken has repeated its race win, albeit with a slightly different lineup and a new car. The team won in 2013 with Bryan Sellers, Wolf Henzler and Nick Tandy in a 2010 model year, but updated aero-spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
Now, Sellers, Henzler and third driver Marco Holzer have captured the win with the new 991-spec Porsche 911 RSR after a flawless drive on Sellers’ home soil.
After leading a majority of the race, Henzler held on by 0.937 of a second over the sister Porsche 911 RSR, the factory No. 912 effort driven by Patrick Long, Michael Christensen and Earl Bamber.
It marks the first win by a customer Porsche 911 RSR in North America as it’s Falken’s first win of the season, and fifth overall as a program going back to its first at Mid-Ohio in 2011, then with a 911 GT3 RSR.
Porsche was also able to take the GTLM Manufacturer’s Championship over Dodge, thanks to the 1-2 finish. The two manufacturers entered the race tied.
Dodge ended third in the race with the No. 91 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R, with Wittmer moving over to the car with Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay had a brief off in the fourth hour at the exit of Turn 12, which kicked up some grass and dirt and required an unscheduled pit stop, but otherwise the race ran smoothly for the No. 91 car.
Still, with the sister No. 93 car driven by Wittmer’s full season co-driver Jonathan Bomarito ending sixth, and the No. 3 Corvette C7.R’s hopes ending in the third hour, that was enough to deliver the Canadian the title.
The No. 3 Corvette’s race was affected by the third hour pit lane contact between it, the polesitting No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR then driven by Nick Tandy, and the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia then driven by Pierre Kaffer. The chain reaction, accordion effect accident left both the Corvette and Porsche with moderate damage, and forced the Ferrari behind the wall and eventually out of the race.
Corvette was able to salvage a fourth for the No. 4 Corvette C7.R, following a trouble-free drive for Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Ryan Briscoe. The No. 911 Porsche of Tandy, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet recovered to fifth after making two extra stops due to the pit lane fracas.
The No. 93 Viper ended sixth, with fluid leaking from the rear of the car in the fifth hour effectively the damaging blow to Bomarito’s title hopes. He shared the car with Dominik Farnbacher and Rob Bell.
BMW Team RLL ended seventh and 10th. The No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE lost time with a suspension issue and the sister No. 55 had an apparent clutch issue, then an unspecified mechanical failure that caused the fifth yellow flag of the race.
GTD nearly saw the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup-only Spirit of Race No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 driven by Matt Griffin, Michele Rugolo and Pasin Lathouras pull an upset victory, but the plans were shelved following Rugolo’s late-race splash for fuel with just over 20 minutes to go. That dropped them to an eventual sixth place finish.
It handed the win over to Paul Miller Racing, the team’s first in the TUDOR Championship and additionally the first for the Audi R8 LMS this season, after an up-and-down battle with several other cars. Bryce Miller, Christopher Haase and English driver Matt Bell shared the No. 48 car, which took its fourth podium finish of the year but first since finishing second at Indianapolis in July.
While the PMR Audi took the win, it wasn’t without a bit of last lap drama. Haase was battling with Alex Riberas for the win, but the two made contact on the backstraight and it sent Riberas spinning out of control.
Riberas’ No. 23 Team Seattle-AJR Porsche 911 GT America, which he shared with Ian James and Mario Farnbacher, had recovered to second anyway following two unscheduled pit stops. The second unscheduled stop, which occurred in the ninth hour, dropped the car 51 seconds back. But the team rebounded to be side-by-side on the final lap before ending a hard-luck fifth.
The No. 58 Snow Racing/Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America was promoted to second, 3.121 seconds back of the Audi, following a solid drive from Jan Heylen and Madison Snow. Patrick Dempsey was listed, but did not drive that car.
The No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche ended third, driven by Andy Lally, John Potter and Marco Seefried. Lally had two near misses, including one when Rusty Mitchell’s wayward No. 08 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 restarted exiting Turn 5 and nearly collected him.
Those two podium finishes were enough to deliver Porsche the GTD Manufacturer’s Championship, as well.
Cameron, who shared the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3 with Markus Palttala and Christoffer Nygaard, came home fourth. There was a first hour drive-through penalty issued and a later instance of contact with the No. 01 Riley-Ford in the eighth hour, but the car survived in both cases.
Turner’s title rivals, the No. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 (Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Conrad Grunewald) and No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America (Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil, Craig Stanton) ended seventh and eighth, respectively. They each had sniffs of the lead, but were unable to pose a consistent threat over the course of the 10-hour enduro.
Flying Lizard’s No. 45 Audi R8 LMS had a nightmarish race that ended with one of the heavier incidents during the race, Spencer Pumpelly’s at Turn 12 in the eighth hour. But Pumpelly was OK after the impact. It put a period on a frustrating, and rare, winless season for Seth Neiman’s team.
RESULTS: Petit Le Mans