By IMSA Wire Service
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Sunday was Porsche’s day at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
After the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy went from second to the lead on the race’s opening lap – and subsequently led the race’s first 55 minutes – it was the driver of the No. 912 Porsche entry, Earl Bamber, who later assumed the lead with 90 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute race. With co-driver Laurens Vanthoor, Bamber never looked back, only losing the lead on a series of green flag pit stops to win the Acura Sports Car Challenge by 1.673 seconds.
In total, Porsche led 90 of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class’ 118 laps on the day.
“We had really smart strategy that gave us the lead at the pit stop,” said Vanthoor, who picked up his first career IMSA win. “It gave us a good gap, but I had to try and control it a bit with the tires. I knew the guys behind me wanted to catch me, but I didn’t want to destroy my tires too much, which isn’t easy. It was a very stressful one and a half hours. I was happy when it was done and finally we won.
“I had to wait one-and-a-half years to get my first win. We’ve had some opportunities as well, but it always went wrong for some reason. Finally, it worked out and it’s a huge relief.”
It was Porsche’s second win in four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM class starts this season, with the No. 911 of full-time drivers Tandy and Patrick Pilet joining Frédéric Makowiecki in a victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March.
While Porsche won the race, the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE of Connor De Phillippi certainly made it interesting.
De Phillippi’s team utilized a different pit strategy that saw him lead late, before giving way to Vanthoor for good with 33 minutes remaining. He made a late charge in the closing laps, but ultimately finished second alongside co-driver Alexander Sims, matching the duo’s best finish of the season.
As is typical in the ultra-competitive GTLM class, four different manufacturers made up the top four positions with the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen rounding out the podium, and the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller finishing fourth.
All eight cars in the class finished on the lead lap.
“This was a two-hour, 40-minute race and I think the top six or seven cars were covered by 28 seconds by the end of the race,” said Bamber. “I think that shows how great the BoP is and how great IMSA is doing. You can’t make a little mistake or you’re at the back. But that’s why we’re here, to race the best and make it a tight fight and we love it.”