In only his third year as a Porsche factory driver, Nick Tandy compiled arguably one of the most incredible years in the modern era of sports car racing.
The 31-year-old Englishman was both versatile and successful across three different ACO-recognized categories, and two different championships, which is no easy task to complete.
Tandy’s dream year arguably started midseason, when he combined with Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenberg to pull off an unlikely, but ultimately dominant, overall triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the third Porsche 919 Hybrid.
The win came as each of them was only in their second start in the car, and in Bamber and Hulkenberg’s case, their respective Le Mans debuts.
It vaulted Tandy into a summer of storming to victory, with three wins in a row with Patrick Pilet in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July through the end of August at Virginia International Raceway.
For good measure, he added a win co-driving with Matt Howson and Richard Bradley in KCMG’s Oreca 05 Nissan at the Nürburgring in LMP2, giving him wins in three different classes this season.
As Tandy explained during annual Porsche’s Night of Champions event in Weissach, it was only with time to reflect that the magnitude of what he achieved began to sink in.
“Looking back on it now, actually, I think you realize at the end of the year what’s been accomplished,” Tandy told Sportscar365.
“And then, you wonder how to make it better in the future. That becomes a very tough task for any sports car driver. But a year like this doesn’t usually happen anymore.”
Tandy’s determination and ascendance within the ranks of Porsche – this year saw him reach accolades that many of his works contemporaries haven’t in longer time periods – showcased an innate desire to work harder and jump at every single opportunity presented to him.
Le Mans was always going to be the highlight of the year, whether he won or not, because 12 months ago the prospect of three LMP1 rookies in a manufacturer entry seemed a surprise choice.
Clearly though, Porsche knew what it was doing, and when it came for Tandy’s magical midnight stint, he hunkered down and delivered arguably the three-hour drive of his career.
Funnily enough, Tandy admitted coming from the GT ranks, he wasn’t a fan of night driving.
“I was quite relaxed, and actually, it’s quite a really nice time to be in the car,” he explained. “I don’t generally like driving at night because the vision is down. But the lights are so much better in the P1 than the GT!
“When you’re inside the car, you don’t really know what’s happening around you. At Le Mans, you don’t see all cars, all the time. You rely on constant updates from the pits for your position. Over three hours in the car is a long time to be on your own.
“But it came down to watching Nico drive his stint before. He was catching up with the rest of them, the 9 (Audi) and the 17 (Porsche) I think. I was watching on the screens as I was getting ready to get in, and it was an inspiration.
“This was our chance, this was our time, let’s see what we’re capable of. I’m sure Earl thought the same.
“If your teammates do the max they can, it really inspires you to really do everything you can. That was the mindset.”
By morning, the No. 19 Porsche had a commanding lead courtesy of Tandy’s overnight stint, even if he was modest about his own role to play in the proceedings.
The overall win there was at least possible given it was with an LMP1 car. The overall win to cap off the IMSA season at Petit Le Mans, however, was an even bigger surprise.
The rain threw havoc into the proceedings of course, and the Michelin wet weather tires had an edge. Even so, with wave-bys coming when they did and a high rate of full-course cautions, nearly everything needed to break right for the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR to win overall.
“I thought it was possible, yeah, but only if it stayed wet,” Tandy said. “It came down to a little bit of luck between classes, but we knew the regulations.
“Still, at the end of the day, we never really considered it. Even when it was first red flagged, we didn’t know when it would be stopped. We were fighting the BMW and trying to pull the gap on that. Where we overtook others overall, it didn’t really matter.
“But the checkered flag dropped, and I came out of 10 and 11, and my race engineer Gary came on the radio and said, ‘They’re throwing the checker and this was it,’ that’s when it sunk in.
“It was like, ‘We’re in the lead overall … we didn’t just win the class and the championship, but we won the race! We won Petit Le Mans overall!!’
“People were excited or surprised it was a GT car, but it makes no difference to me. We won outright. It doesn’t matter whether it was a P or a GT car.”
Tandy now has three key endurance race victories in his career resume, added to his class win at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona. All that’s missing is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, as Tandy looks for something close to an encore in 2016.
“It’s great to win the big races,” he said. “You always want to tick off the big races first, because they live with you forever.”