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VIR Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook recapping the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR…

Rick Dole/IMSA

***Porsche claimed its first GT Le Mans 1-2 class finish of the season and its first such result in two years. The last time Porsche 911 RSRs finished first and second in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was at Lime Rock Park in July 2017.

***The German marque all but sealed the GTLM manufacturers’ title with its win and now only needs to score minimum points for starting the final two races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta to secure the crown.

***Patrick Pilet became the most successful GTLM driver in the U.S. sports car racing post-merger era with his 12th career victory.

***The gap at the top of the standings, between the two Porsche crews, was narrowed to 11 points. Championship leaders Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber limited the damage by taking their seventh podium of 2019. View the points here.

***In the GT Daytona championship, Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher left Virginia with a 37-point advantage over Zach Robichon, who leapfrogged Robby Foley for second in the standings. Additionally, Hindman and Farnbacher are now only a point behind Robichon in the Sprint Cup standings with one race left.

***Hindman hailed Meyer Shank Racing’s run to the podium after the team had a tough start to the weekend with off-key results in the three practice sessions.

“Comparing our run at Road America, the struggles that we had there, and the struggles we had here on Friday – the fact that everyone at Meyer Shank Racing pulled together to finish P2 is absolutely unreal,” he said.

***Foley and Bill Auberlen had a fruitless afternoon with their Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, which finished 11th and last of the GTD runners. Foley was turned around in the early stages whilst battling for fourth and picked up a puncture in the incident, while the team’s recovery was compounded by a series of penalties.

***Sunday’s race marked the first time since the start of the WeatherTech Championship format in 2014 that all positions in the GTLM finishing order have been filled out by teammate pairings. Porsche finished 1-2, Corvette finished 3-4, Ford finished 5-6 and BMW finished 7-8.

***The four Porsche drivers set the four fastest laps of the race and were the only ones to record times in the sub 1m 40s range. Earl Bamber topped the pile with a 1:40.638.

***Race lap records fell in both classes, with Toni Vilander setting a new best GTD time around the 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit wiht a 1:44.710 in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3.

***Corvette Racing’s No. 4 car underwent an emergency engine change ahead of qualifying. The Pratt & Miller team performed the switch in less than an hour to get the car ready for the 15-minute timed session, in which Oliver Gavin finished fifth.

***Gavin, who went on to finish the race in fourth with Tommy Milner, summed up the experience: “It was a bit of frantic day for us. It was a great effort by everyone at Corvette Racing to complete that work in just over an hour so we could make qualifying. That was huge.”

***GTD race winner Jeroen Bleekemolen retired from the NASCAR Late Model 100 at South Boston Speedway on Saturday night. Bleekemolen was running in the top 10 when he brushed the wall, resulting in terminal suspension damage to his car.

***The Dutch driver said he was “sore” after the experience, but still went on to make the deciding move of the race on Farnbacher: “Man, I’m so tired,” he exclaimed. “We got a rain delay. I think I was too far away from the steering wheel, my muscles are sore. Today I was pretty tired.”

***Nick Tandy, who was a renowned short oval racer before making his name in GTs, gave an enthusiastic “drivers, start your engines” command before the race, which was won by Lee Pulliam.

***Ryan Briscoe entertained the crowds on Sunday morning by demonstrating a Ford Mustang V8 Supercar from the Virgin Australia Supercars series. Briscoe shared the track with his IMSA co-driver Richard Westbrook, who was in the No. 67 Ford GT, and Jade Buford in a Multimatic Ford Mustang GT4.

***Discussions between Chip Ganassi Racing and Ferrari on a potential two-car GT Le Mans program for next year is understood to have stalled. Sportscar365 understands that the Italian manufacturer is unable to commit to the necessary budget required for a factory-backed full-season GTLM effort.

***It’s understood Ganassi has reached out to other manufacturers inside and outside of the IMSA paddock as well, in the hope of keeping its sports car team alive in the wake of Ford’s exit from factory competition at the end of this year.

***In the pre-race ceremonies, VIR track promoter Connie Nyholm announced a four-year extension of the Michelin GT Challenge event contract through to 2023.

***All four WeatherTech Championship classes will be reunited for the penultimate round of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix – on September 15.

John Dagys contributed to this report.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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