Laurens Vanthoor said he and Zach Robichon’s come-from-behind GT Daytona class victory in Saturday’s Michelin GT Challenge was their most satisfying yet after overcoming dramas from the day before.
The Pfaff Motorsports duo extended their points lead with their fourth class win of the season and third in the last four races after starting 13th on the grid due to an infraction in qualifying.
Robichon’s seventh place qualifying run was disallowed due to the crew touching the car between qualifying sessions, which also invalidated Vanthoor’s points-earning Q2 run that could have helped pad their championship lead.
A storming opening stint by Robichon, who gained six positions on the first four laps, coupled with quick pit work by the Canadian squad put the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R in position to win.
“This is probably the one I’m happiest about so far because yesterday was just our mistake. It was a stupid mistake,” Vanthoor said.
“Today, the guys made up for it like triple the time. What got us in front was the pit stop. It was just amazing what they did.
“Zach [too]… The overtakes he did at the start and how quickly he got by and got up to the front, those two things gave us the race.”
Vanthoor’s biggest threat came from the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Bill Auberlen, who ran second until jumping into the class lead courtesy of a fuel-only final stop.
Auberlen’s race, however, turned upside down with less than 12 minutes to go after contact with the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia that resulted in a right-rear puncture to the class-leading BMW, handing the win to the Belgian.
“In all honesty when I was in front of the BMW, I wasn’t very optimistic that I was going to be able to stay there,” Vanthoor said.
“He was very quick and I had to push harder than I wanted because we know we have a bit of a rear tire issue at this track.
“I was worried and had to push qualifying laps every lap not knowing what was to come. In the end I managed to stay out front.
“I’m sorry for what happened to [Turner]. I haven’t seen it yet but they didn’t do tires, we did and we were catching them.
“We would have seen the battle in the end but it went the way it went.
“This moment really feels important with one race to go. But it’s far from over.”
Vanthoor and Robichon will enter next month’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans with a 50-point lead over Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, who finished second on Saturday.
“I think we showed resilience,” Robichon added. “We got kicked down yesterday but we fought back.
“If I’m honest [did I think] we could have won today? No. I really didn’t think we’d be in this situation.
“That being said, after my pit stop and we came out third and handed the car off to Larry, the guys did such a good pit stop, at that point I knew we were in a good position.
“It’s when you’re down that a championship [caliber] team steps up and shows why they deserve to be fighting for the championship.”