In glorious sunshine and set against the stunning backdrop of the Pacific coast, the IMSA series treated fans to an extremely entertaining show on the narrow street circuit in Long Bach. Hollywood, barely 50 kilometres away, could hardly have staged it better. The two Porsche 963 fielded by Porsche Penske Motorsport had started the race from positions six and eight. In the first lap, the two ca. 500 kW (680 PS) cars benefitted from a collision among the leading pack in the early stages and inherited the second and fifth place.
The first stint drivers, Nick Tandy from the UK and Brazilian Felipe Nasr, fended off fierce attacks from their rivals and brought the two Porsche 963 into the pits midway through the race for a scheduled service and driver change. There, the new Porsche Penske Motorsport works team opted for a daring strategy: Unlike the rest of the competition, instead of changing the wheels on both vehicles, the squad put its trust in the excellent durability of the Michelin tyres. The time gained in the pits propelled the two “Made in Flacht” hybrid prototypes to the front of the field.
While Frenchman Mathieu Jaminet confidently turned his laps, his brand colleague Matt Campbell had his hands full in the final phase. The No. 7 car came under repeated attacks, which the Australian cleverly and resolutely countered or fended off. A minor collision, however, caused slight damage to the rear. Moreover, the tyres deteriorated rapidly over the last ten laps. With nine minutes left on the clock, Campbell lost two positions initially but reclaimed third place after an accident involving the No. 10 Acura in a battle with the leading Jaminet. Ultimately, the race ended behind the safety car.
Spectacle from start to finish
“What an exciting and fantastic race,” says a delighted Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “It was a spectacle from the first to the last lap. Our team chose an optimal strategy and did a perfect job with the pit stops. Our drivers gave their utmost and drove flawlessly without exception despite coming under enormous pressure. This performance was deservedly rewarded with our first victory. Many thanks to everyone in the team, our employees in Weissach and all our partners who made this success possible. I’m sure today’s victory will give our team extra motivation in the FIA WEC as they head into Sunday’s race in Portugal.”
“This day will go down in the history of our team. The first victory with the Porsche 963 is incredibly important to us,” says Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director Porsche Penske Motorsport. “We put in so much energy and work to be able to celebrate such a success. Our strategy was certainly risky, but it paid off. We owe this triumph to every single person in the team. What Matt Campbell did in the battle for second place at the end was awesome. He had the sister car’s back in the important final phase. I’m enormously proud of the entire team!”
Pfaff Motorsports customer team scores podium with the Porsche 911 GT3 R
The GTD-Pro class race was equally as thrilling to the last moment. Thanks to a strong team effort and flawless drives, the Frenchman Patrick Pilet and Klaus Bachler from Austria secured a spot on the podium for Pfaff Motorsports. The No. 9 car fielded by the Canadian team reached the flag in third place. In the GTD class, the identical models campaigned by Wright Motorsports and Kelly-Moss by Riley finished without drama on positions ten, twelve and thirteen.
Thanks to this victory in Long Beach, Tandy and Jaminet have taken the lead in the drivers’ championship. In the GTP-class manufacturer’s classification, Porsche ranks third. Round four of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be contested in Laguna Seca on 14 May. The race on the legendary Californian circuit runs over 2:40 hours. This Sunday, the Porsche Penske Motorsport team faces its next big challenge: At the six-hour race in Portimão, two of the factory squad’s Porsche 963 tackle the Hypercar class. Round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC gets underway on Sunday at noon local time (1:00 pm CEST).
Drivers’ comments after the race
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 963 #6): “What a terrific feeling! We’re all very relieved. When the Acura appeared in my rear-view mirror towards the end, I knew he was going to attack – after all, I was on the back foot with significantly older tyres. He tried to outbrake me in the first corner. I immediately realised he wasn’t going to make the corner and took evasive action while he landed in the tyre barriers. That was some real nail-biting stuff at the end of the race. Now, we’re celebrating the Porsche 963’s first victory!”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 963 #6): “It was clear to us before the start that we couldn’t win the race based on our pace. We didn’t have the fastest car. So, we thought through all possible strategies before race day and agreed not to change the tyres. That’s the beauty of sprint races in the IMSA series: there are always many conceivable scenarios and sometimes a gamble pays off. We didn’t know whether the tyres would last the distance, but it worked out. We also owe our victory to our colleague Matt Campbell, who put in a terrific performance in the battle for second place. That was a super strong effort from him! The first victory for the Porsche 963 feels fantastic. It’s a well-deserved reward for everyone around the world who put an incredible amount of work into this project.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 963 #7): “I’m delighted for my colleagues in the number 6 car. Victory at last for the Porsche 963. That’s just so cool. I gave absolutely everything in the battle for second place, but in the end, I couldn’t quite fend off the competition due to our deteriorating tyres. At least we got over the line in third place. It was a great day.”
Felipe Nasr (Porsche 963 #7): “A super victory for the team, the first success with the Porsche 963 – we couldn’t have dreamed of a better result. We had to start from quite far back and catapulted ourselves to the front of the grid with a perfect strategy. Of course, we also benefitted from the incidents involving the other cars. But still, we were flawless and squeezed the most out of today.”
Klaus Bachler (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “Patrick put in a very strong first stint and handed the car over to me in second place. I managed to withstand the pressure from the Corvette behind me for a long time. However, things turned a bit chaotic in turn six when we were overtaken by a GTP car. My rival took advantage of this opportunity and pulled alongside me. He got past and I didn’t get a chance to attack afterwards. Overtaking is really difficult at Long Beach. I didn’t take any risks and brought the podium result home. Those were important points today in terms of the championship.”
1. Campbell/Nasr (AUS/BR), Porsche 963 #7, 78 laps
2. Yelloly/de Phillippi (UK/USA), BMW #25, 78 laps
3. Tandy/Jaminet (UK/F), Porsche 963 #6, 78 laps
1. Hawksworth/Barnicoat (UK/UK), Lexus #14, 73 laps
2. Garcia/Taylor (E/USA), Corvette #3, 73 laps
3. Bachler/Pilet (A/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 73 laps
1. Sellers/Snow (USA/USA), BMW #1, 73 laps
2. Sörensen/de Angelis (DK/CDN), Aston Martin #27, 73 laps
3. Montecalvo/Telitz (USA/USA), Lexus #12, 73 laps
10. Brynjolfsson/Hindman (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #77, 72 laps
12. Metni/van Berlo (USA/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #91, 71 laps
13. Udell/Bleekemolen (USA/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #92, 71 laps
Full results on http://imsa.alkamelsystems.com.
Edited Porsche Factory Press Release
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG