Preview, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, round 11 at Road Atlanta/USA
Heading to the final round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Road Atlanta (USA), Porsche is poised to clinch the manufacturer, team and driver titles. The North American factory team of the Stuttgart sports car manufacturer tackles the final ten-hour race, dubbed Petit Le Mans, on 12 October holding a clear lead in all categories. To win the manufacturers’ championship, only one of the two Porsche 911 RSR needs to finish in the points. The fight for the drivers’ classification goes down to the wire between the Porsche works drivers Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) in the number 912 car, and their colleagues in the number 911 vehicle, Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain). The race at Road Atlanta marks the last outing for the two Porsche 911 RSR (2017 model year) decked out in the historic design of Coca-Cola. The customer squad Pfaff Motorsports fields a 911 GT3 R in the GTD category.
The ten-hour race on the 4.088-kilometre circuit in the US state of Georgia marks the conclusion of the 2019 IMSA season. The storied racetrack on the outskirts of the metropolis of Atlanta – the home of Porsche North America and the Coca-Cola beverage company – is a favourite amongst drivers. The so-called “Esses” (turns two to five) are particularly challenging for the drivers. Courage and utmost precision combined with a perfect car setup are required through this high-speed passage. In 21 years, Porsche has notched up a total of 20 class wins at Petit Le Mans. In 2015, the Weissach factory squad even beat all prototypes in the rain to score overall victory. In 2018, Porsche claimed victory in the fiercely competitive GTLM class flying the historic colours of Mobil 1. Petit Le Mans is also the final round of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup (IMEC). In this competition, which includes the endurance races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, the Porsche GT Team currently ranks first and second after two victories.
The Porsche drivers
Regular drivers Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) join forces with their works driver teammate Frédéric Makowiecki in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. This trio won at Road Atlanta in 2018 as well as at Sebring and Watkins Glen in 2019. Pilet and Tandy currently rank second in the drivers’ classification. Their works driver colleagues in the No. 912 sister car, Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), lead the class with a twelve-point advantage after victories at Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Bowmanville, Canada. The pair shares driving duties in the ca. 510 hp 911 RSR with Porsche Young Professional Mathieu Jaminet (France).
In the GTD class, the customer squad Pfaff Motorsports again relies on the services of Porsche development driver Lars Kern (Weissach) for the ten-hour finale. The seasoned German is joined in the cockpit of the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R by the two Canadians Zacharie Robichon and Scott Hargrove. Robichon took home an early title in the Sprint Cup at the previous IMSA round at Laguna Seca (USA). The Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by the Canadian team will contest the event decked out in a special blue livery.
The Porsche vehicles
The Porsche 911 RSR, which is based on the high-performance 911 GT3 RS* road-going sports car, has undergone further optimisation primarily in the suspension setup for its third racing season in North America. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the engine, which is positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 375 kW (510 hp). The large rear diffuser combined with a top-mounted rear wing provides aerodynamic efficiency and significant downforce. The race at Road Atlanta marks the last factory outing for the 2017-spec vehicle. In the World Sports Car Championship, the switch to the ca. 515 hp successor took place in August.
The 911 GT3 R fielded by Porsche customer teams was newly developed for the 2019 season and is also based on the road-legal 911 GT3 RS*. Improvements in the areas of aerodynamics and kinematics were systematically implemented from the insights garnered from the many race outings of its predecessor. The six-cylinder engine in the rear of the GT3 racing vehicle produces over 368 kW (500 hp).
The Petit Le Mans race held at Road Atlanta takes off on Saturday, 12 October, at 12:05pm local time (6:05pm CEST) and can be viewed live outside the USA and Canada on www.imsa.com.
Comments prior to the race
Fritz Enzinger (Vice President): “We are eager to make the final race of the IMSA season a huge celebration for the fans, for Porsche and for our partner Coca-Cola. Last year we won the traditional Petit Le Mans with our Porsche 911 RSR finished in a historic design. That’s our goal again this year. It’ll be the last factory outing for this version of the Porsche 911 RSR. It would be fantastic if we were able to again experience the vehicle in the centre of the winner’s ceremony at Road Atlanta.”
Pascal Zurlinden (Director Factory Motorsport): “The Porsche 911 RSR has given us countless wins since 2017. We’ve won the world championship with this car, and we also won Le Mans and Sebring, among others. It would be a dream come true if we could add further titles at Road Atlanta and repeat last year’s win at this storied racetrack. Our success at the 2018 Petit Le Mans underlined that we’ll be well prepared when we tackle the tough competition of the ten-hour race. We are keen to round out our impressive season in North America with another highlight.”
Steffen Höllwarth (Head of Operations IMSA Championship): “With Petit Le Mans we have a real classic to conclude the season. Road Atlanta has been the venue of major Porsche successes. We have fond memories of our overall win in 2015 and our success last year. The circuit and the Porsche 911 RSR match perfectly. Our aim for the finale is clear: At the end of this year we want to finish first in all championship classifications.”
Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “Petit Le Mans will be the grand finale of a sensational year for Porsche. We hold a convincing lead in the manufacturers’ championship. In the drivers’ championship, Nick and I still have a small chance in the duel against our colleagues. Our aim is to finish first with our beautiful Porsche 911 RSR decked out in the Coca-Cola livery. If we succeed in doing this, we just might clinch the drivers’ title.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “I’m always really excited to go racing at Road Atlanta. The spectacular circuit and the Petit Le Mans event have a very special place in my heart. Our Porsche 911 RSR has always been fast there. Moreover, at the IMSA endurance races we always profit from our strengths as a team. I’m hoping for a great result at the last race of an outstanding season.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “Once again our Porsche 911 RSR will compete in a striking livery. Not only does it look great, it could also be a good omen for us. In 2018 we won in the Mobil 1 colours. We’re eager to repeat this feat in Coca-Cola livery this year – especially since this will be the last factory outing of the 2017-spec 911 RSR. For the swansong of its outstanding career, this car deserves another victory.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “An impressive year in the North American IMSA series comes to an end. At the final round we want to ensure that as many titles as possible go to Porsche. This is the big goal. What’s more, Laurens and I have personal ambitions, of course. We want to claim the drivers’ championship. This certainly won’t be easy. I’m very much looking forward to the race. Just being able to drive for Porsche is great, but to race a Porsche 911 RSR flying the Coca-Cola colours is simply sensational. The car is beautifully finished – and it’ll certainly be fast at Road Atlanta as well.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “We head into the last race of the season holding a solid points’ advantage in the drivers’ championship. For this reason we can tackle the race in a controlled offensive manner. Our colleagues are under a bit more pressure, because Nick and Patrick have to win to stay in the fight. If Earl and I achieve a decent result we should make it. At the same time it’s important to secure the top spots in the manufacturers’ and the team championships. Obviously, the best scenario would be to celebrate the championship titles together with a race win.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “I’m very pleased that I get the chance to drive the Porsche 911 RSR again at the final round of the IMSA season. Until now all the races were exciting and very educational for me. The focus at Road Atlanta is to claim the championship. I will do my utmost to ensure that Earl and Laurens finish in first place and that the entire Porsche GT Team can celebrate with a big party on Saturday evening after the race.”
Lars Kern (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “I’m really looking forward to my next race outing in Pfaff Motorsports’ 911 GT3 R. I’ve come to know the team well, and we work together brilliantly. My colleague Zacharie has celebrated a great success by winning the Sprint Cup. Now we’re eager to see the team finish its first season in the North American series with a top result at Road Atlanta.”
Porsche factory press release
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG