Richard Westbrook said Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s three-stop strategy was key to their breakthrough win in Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix.
Westbrook and co-driver Ryan Briscoe claimed their first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory in nearly a year, following a thrilling finish that saw the Englishman pass the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber for the lead with less than ten minutes remaining.
It came as the Porsches, which were on two-stop strategies, faded in the closing stages of the caution-free race.
“I had to pick my moment,” Westbrook said. “There were a lot of marbles off line. I just got it right.
“It was an amazing race to be a part of. Fighting the two Porsches and my teammate [Joey Hand], it was really close out there. I just had to be patient with the 912 and when the opportunity came, it was the matter of taking it.”
The GT Le Mans class win not only snapped Porsche’s five-race win streak but also a nearly one-year draught for the Blue Oval in IMSA competiton, dating back to Westbrook and Briscoe’s win at Road America in August 2018.
“It’s been a tough year for us,” Westbrook said. “We had to throw the dice today and the three-stop strategy just worked.
“There’s no point in having a plan if you can’t execute and our pit stops were just amazing, the driver change was good. It just ran flawlessly for us.
“It was difficult to pass here but we had the advantage of fresh rubber. It’s tough to beat a Porsche this year so I think we can all give ourselves a pat on the back.”
Bamber: “We Tried Our Hardest”
Porsche’s Bamber admitted they knew they were in trouble the moment it became apparent the No. 67 Ford GT was on a three-stop race.
Westbrook pitted from the lead with 42 minutes to go for fresh Michelin tires, which made the difference in the end of the two-hour and 40-minute contest.
“It was a really, really tough race, tough with strategy and tough with tire [degradation],” Bamber said.
“I knew when Westy came out with 11 laps fresher tires and they tried the three-stop that we’d be in a bit of trouble at the end of the stint.
“We managed to get to the lead and pulled a bit of a gap but then he hunted us down. Then I was just trying to hold on and keep the elbows up.”
Bamber and co-driver Laurens Vanthoor, who scored his first career WeatherTech Championship pole earlier in the day, however, have extended their lead in the GTLM drivers’ championship to 8 points over teammates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, who finished fourth on Saturday.
“It was great racing,” Bamber said. “[Ford] deserves it. They did a great strategy and had a great car today. We need to think about that and work on the next one.
“Even though we finished second, it was really, really enjoyable to have some good hard racing.”