By IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s been a great couple of months for Belgian driver Laurens Vanthoor, who co-drove to the GTE Pro class victory in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans with Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR.
Vanthoor picked up his first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory on May 6 in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, taking the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class win with co-driver Earl Bamber – a two-time overall Le Mans winner – in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR. Less than a week later, Vanthoor set a new qualifying record en route to the pole position in qualifying for the prestigious Nürburgring 24 Hours in Germany.
And when he returns to the WeatherTech Championship for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 1, he’ll do it for the first time as a reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans winner.
While there was a spirited battle for second place in the GTE Pro class, the No. 92 “Pink Pig” Porsche shared by Vanthoor, Estre and Christensen – who won the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona – scored a dominant victory, winning by a lap over its team car, the No. 91 Porsche, after gaining an insurmountable advantage during a safety car period early in the race.
“It’s crazy,” Vanthoor said. “I’ve been doing a lot of races with Kevin and at the Nürburgring we were leading, and we dropped out. Last year, we had the pace to win, and something went wrong. Now, it just worked out and we won Le Mans. It’s amazing. For me personally, it’s a big 24-hour race and it’s crazy.”
Fred Makowiecki, who helped Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet win the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March, joined co-drivers Gimmi Bruni and Richard Lietz in a runner-up performance aboard the German-based No. 91 Porsche.
The No. 91 Porsche came home in second, prevailing in a thrilling battle with the No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team USA Ford GT trio of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. The No. 68 trio wound up third for its second podium in the last three races at Le Mans after winning in 2016.
Another group of WeatherTech Championship regulars celebrated on the podium in the GTE Am class. Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen – who normally co-drive the No. 33 Mercedes AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class – joined with their 2018 endurance racing teammate, Luca Stolz, to finish third in the No. 85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari 488 GTE fielded in cooperation with Texas-based Risi Competizione.
They came home a lap behind the GTE Am-winning No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR co-driven by Matt Campbell, Christian Reid and Julien Andlauer. The car is co-owned by former longtime IMSA driver and Hollywood superstar Patrick Dempsey.
The overall at Le Mans went to the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050-Hybrid co-driven by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, who competed in his first 24-hour race with United Autosports in January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
IMSA NewsWire will have a detailed rundown of the 26 full-time drivers in the 2018 Le Mans field on Monday.
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 1. The race also marks the third round of the four-race Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. Tickets are on sale now at TheGlen.com.
The race will be televised live in its entirety on FS1 beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET, with live IMSA Radio coverage available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.