Porsche clinches victory and manufacturer championships at Petit Le Mans

On the shoulders of Team Falken Tire’s second-consecutive Petit Le Mans victory, Porsche secured multiple manufacturer championships at Road Atlanta in the inaugural season of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship. Using the seventh-generation Porsche 911 as its base, race versions of the iconic sports car won the GTLM Manufacturer Championship with the Porsche 911 RSR while the Porsche 911 GT America took the same honor in the GTD class. The factory team Porsche North America earned GTLM class pole position for Saturday’s race and finished second and fifth behind the privately entered Falken Tire 911 RSR in the 10-hour endurance classic.

The German marque added to its cadre of endurance accolades by earning the hard-fought Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Championship Manufacturer Trophy as well. Following victories in the first two endurance races of the season at the Daytona 24 Hours and the Twelve Hours of Sebring, Porsche entered the final round of the championship with a slight lead. After the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR led the race at the four-hour mark, and the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche was on point at eight-hours, the GT racing legend was able to lock the Manufacturer award even before the final checkered flag of the season fell.

The race victory and championships were a fitting tribute to longtime Porsche Motorsport head Hartmut Kristen. Kristen passed the baton of overseeing all of Porsche’s GT efforts to Dr. Frank Walliser on October 1.

For the second-consecutive season, Team Falken Tire overcame the odds to win top GT class honors at the Petit Le Mans. The full-season driver pairing of Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Bryan Sellers (USA) were joined by German Marco Holzer for the finale of the inaugural season of the TUDOR Championship. Team Falken Tire, the only customer-run Porsche 911 RSR competing in the North American-based series, was fast throughout the weekend and led much of the day. With less than an hour to go, Sellers turned over the Falken Tire Porsche to Henzler who held the lead against the also fast No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen (Denmark). The battle tightened even further with less that 20-minutes remaining when an accident slowed the field for an extended yellow flag. The green flew again with six minutes to go taking the fight to the end. The works Porsche closed but, threatened by a Dodge Viper SRT from behind, was not able to pass Henzler. The three main players in the Manufacturer’s Championship passed under the checkered flag less than two-seconds apart after ten-hours of racing. The No. 17 Porsche 911 RSR led the No. 912 shared by Christensen, Patrick Long (USA) and GTLM newcomer Earl Bamber (New Zealand) followed by the No. 91 Viper.

The pole-position winning No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy (Great Britain), Patrick Pilet (France) and Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) ran at the front most of the day. However, a pit lane incident, which damaged several of the GTLM leaders to varying degrees, forced the car to make multiple stops for repairs. The Daytona-winning class entry finished fifth as a result.

Wolf Henzler (#17): “It was a great day for Team Falken Tire. The tires just worked awesome today. We came here and tested twice and I think it really paid off. We found a good combination with the Falken tires and the Porsche 911 RSR. Even when we started the weekend we were always competitive and the car got better and better. When Bryan turned the fastest race lap I knew today we could go for it.“

Marco Holzer (#17): “I knew I was following some big footsteps because the team won here last year. It is just unbelievable that we won here again this year. The team won the last ALMS race here and now the first Tudor Championship Petit Le Mans.”

Patrick Long (#912): “The race started off eventful. My first two stints were probably the craziest I’ve had in pit lane. We maintained track position and pushed forward into the second half of the race. The balance of the car was spot on all day.”

Michael Christensen (#912): “It was a good race. Nobody made contact and the car was perfect in the last two hours, which is what we needed. Porsche has been strong all weekend. We managed to pull off the Manufacturer’s Championship with Falken winning and us in second. This is great. We’ve been really fighting the last part of the season for this title”

Earl Bamber (#912): “This has been absolutely amazing. I never expected to be on the podium at my first Petit Le Mans and my first time with the factory team. I have to thank my teammates Michael and Patrick. They did an excellent job. It made it easy for me to join the team and integrate. The car was awesome to drive. I didn’t want to get out.“

Patrick Pilet (#911): “After the pit lane incident we had many issues on the car. The balance was completely different. At the beginning it looked like we were one of the strongest cars. In the end, the most important thing is that we won the manufacturers’ championship. It’s a great result for the team.”

Nick Tandy (#911): “After the car got damaged it was really difficult to drive. We got back into a good position and into the lead of the race even. We made the decision to try and fix the car for the long run, but never got the lap back. The last few hours were probably the toughest driving I’ve done all year.”

Jörg Bergmeister (#911): “We had a good car and good pace, but the performance of the car went down after the pit lane contact and it took quite a while to make repairs. In the end, for the No. 911 it wasn’t meant to be.“

The eight Porsche 911 GT America racecars entered in the GTD class for Road Atlanta contributed in helping Porsche win this Manufacturer Championship as well. The best result took Snow Racing with drivers Madison Snow (USA) and Jan Heylen (USA). They led GTD for most of the first five hours but ended the race in second place. Also finishing on the GTD Petit Le Mans podium was the Magnus Racing Porsche of John Potter (USA), Andy Lally (USA) and Marco Seefried (Germany). It was the team’s fifth podium of the year.

Race results
GTLM class

1. Henzler/Sellers/Holzer (D/USA/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 391 laps
2. Christensen/Long/Bamber (DK/USA/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR, 391
3. Goosens/Wittmer/Hunter-Reay (B/CAN/USA), Dodge SRT Viper, 391
4. Gavin/Milner/Briscoe (GB/USA/AUS), Chevrolet Corvette, 391
5. Bergmeister/Tandy/Pilet (D/GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 390
6. Bomarito/Farnbacher/Bell (USA/D/GB), Dodge SRT Viper, 389

GTD class

1. Haase/Miller/Bell (D/USA/GB), Audi R8 LMS, 376 laps
2. Snow/Heylen (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT America, 376
3. Lally/Potter/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 GT America, 376
4. Cameron/Palttala/Dalla Lana (USA/SF/CAN), BMW Z4, 376
5. James/Farnbacher/Riberas (USA/D/E), Porsche 911 GT America, 375
6. Rugolo/Griffith/Lathouras /I/IRL/xx), Ferrari 458 Italia, 375

The first race of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship 2015 will be the Daytona 24 Hours on January 24/25.