Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet earned Porsche its sixth victory of the season in Sunday’s GT-only IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship contest at VIR.
The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR led home a 1-2 result for the German manufacturer, with Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber consolidating their drivers’ championship lead in second.
Porsche controlled the 2-hour 40-minute Michelin GT Challenge from start to end after Vanthoor put the No. 912 machine on pole on Saturday afternoon.
Tandy made an excellent start to leap from the third row of the grid into second position through the opening sequence of corners, and stayed there until the end of the first stint.
The Porsches swapped places around 20 minutes in when the No. 911, despite performing a driver switch to Pilet, got the jump on its sister car which didn’t change drivers during the first round of stops held under caution.
Momentum then shifted again around halfway, again on pit road, when Bamber came out ahead of the No. 911 having taken the reins from Vanthoor.
But Tandy was confirmed out front for the run to the flag when the Englishman stayed out longer on his penultimate stint, enabling him to sweep around Bamber when the No. 912 exited the pits for the last time.
A late caution period, caused by a heavy accident for the GTD-class Heinricher Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo of Katherine Legge, bunched the field together, with the two Porsches losing around half a minute’s worth of track position to the pair of Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs behind.
However, the order didn’t change, with Tandy holding firm to claim victory by 0.737 seconds from Bamber and Antonio Garcia beating his teammate Tommy Milner to the final podium spot.
It marked Tandy and Pilet’s third win of the season, following on from their successes in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring – along with Fred Makowiecki – and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Corvette and Ford duked it out for a place in the top three, with the battle between the two manufacturers hotting up in the final stint.
Richard Westbrook was the last of the front-runners to pit, sending the No. 67 Ford driver out in third place, but he was quickly swamped by the two Corvettes and the sister Ford GT which had their tires up to temperature.
Westbrook lost a place to Garcia, before Milner made a dramatic sweep around the outside of both Chip Ganassi Racing Fords to snatch fourth place.
Westbrook, who shared with Ryan Briscoe, finished fifth ahead of Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand, while Team RLL’s pair of BMW M8 GTEs struggled all race at the back of the field.
Tom Blomqvist and Connor de Phillippi finished 12.5 seconds off the winner at the end in eighth, while the car driven by Jesse Krohn and John Edwards ended up off the lead lap.
Keating/Bleekemolen Mercedes Wins GTD
Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen won a GT Daytona class contest for the first time this season in their Riley Motorsports-prepared Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Bleekemolen made the move of the race with 50 minutes to go when the Dutchman muscled his way past Mario Farnbacher in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura heading into the Rollercoaster section.
Bleekemolen went on to successfully save fuel in the closing stages to keep ahead of Farnbacher, who along with Trent Hindman extended the No. 86 MSR entry’s advantage in the points.
Toni Vilander made a last-lap pass on Scott Hargrove to move the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 onto the podium at the expense of the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Hargrove and Zach Robichon had been protagonists throughout the race, with Robichon leading the field through the opening stanza before handing over to his Canadian compatriot just before the hour mark.
But Hargrove lost the lead to Jack Hawksworth in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 around the midway point, before dropping further positions later on.
Hawksworth was set for a strong result with Richard Heistand, but the front-running Lexus retired with a persistent battery issue.
Rounding out the GTD top five was the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche of Patrick Long and Patrick Lindsey, while the No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo driven by Andy Lally and John Potter finished sixth.
RESULTS: Michelin GT Challenge at VIR