Porsche is lamenting its run in Saturday’s Michelin GT Challenge, in what its head of IMSA operations has described as a “bitterly disappointing” race that should have resulted in the manufacturer’s first WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory of the season.
The pair of Porsche 911 RSR-19s, which locked out the front row for the GT-only race at Virginia International Raceway, encountered multiple issues in the two-hour and 40-minute contest.
While pole-sitter Fred Makowiecki jumped out into an early lead, a left-rear puncture forced the Frenchman into the pits on Lap 10.
The off-sequence pit stop, however, ended up play into the No. 911 car’s hand as Makowiecki retook the lead through courtesy of a full-course caution and round of pit stops for the GT Le Mans class leaders.
The Porsches ran 1-2 again on the restart, although contact between Earl Bamber and the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GTE of Connor De Phillippi resulted in a broken diffuser for the No. 912 car, which was forced to replace the unit twice under green flag conditions.
A sure-fire win for the No. 911 car of Makowieci and Nick Tandy was unraveled with just 18 minutes to go when the car sustained a second tire issue to the left-rear, forcing a late-race stop.
Corvette Racing benefited again to claim its fourth consecutive GTLM victory, in a race that saw nearly every car in the class hit trouble at one point.
“Both cars started the race from the first grid row, we were leading with both vehicles and ultimately finished [in] third and fifth,” said Porsche’s head of IMSA operations Steffen Hoellwarth. “That’s bitterly disappointing.
“Two punctures on our number 911 car, extensive repairs on 912 – that was the end of our winning chances.
“Our pace was great, and the team worked perfectly.”
Makowiecki said he was “absolutely gutted” post-race after going through a range of emotions over the course of the incident-filled race.
“To be honest, this third place is the saddest podium of my career,” he said.
“We were so strong this weekend. In fact, our team dominated the weekend. It’s just terrible that third was the best we could do.
“This result is so unjust for the team, the car and us drivers. And it also makes me sad that we’re falling further and further down the rankings in the championship. We really don’t deserve that.”
The third and fifth place results has seen Porsche lose further ground in the GTLM manufacturers’ championship as it now trails Chevrolet by 14 points.
Bamber and Vanthoor, meanwhile, are now 19 points behind class leaders Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia, who picked up their third class win in the last four races on Saturday.
“We were looking good in the race and our pace was really strong,” Bamber said. “Then suddenly a BMW drove into the rear of my car after the restart.
“The diffuser was so badly damaged that the entire rear section had to be replaced. That threw us so far back that we lost all contact to the lead.
“It’s just sad because we really deserved to win today.”