Porsche score six titles and a class win at the IMSA finale
Porsche and its customer teams have celebrated a perfect end to the 2021 season of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. At the finale at Road Atlanta, Porsche clinched the manufacturers’ title in the GTD class and the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. The Pfaff Motorsports team with regular drivers Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Zacharie Robichon (Canada) secured the team and drivers’ championships with the Porsche 911 GT3 R. Wright Motorsports claimed all three titles in the Endurance Cup, which includes the long-distance races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and the Petit Le Mans in the US state of Georgia. In the GTLM class, WeatherTech Racing achieved a one-two result at the last race with the 911 RSR.
“What a phenomenal end to the season,” said an ecstatic Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Motorsport. “All three titles in the GTD class and the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup for Porsche’s strong customer squads. Another class victory for the 911 RSR at its last outing in the North American racing series. And on Friday, Wright Motorsports won the manufacturers’, drivers’ and team classifications in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. It doesn’t get better than that! Congratulations to the WeatherTech, Wright, Pfaff and Hardpoint teams and to the colleagues from Porsche Motorsport North America. And a huge thank you to everyone who made these tremendous successes possible through their hard work in the Weissach Development Centre.”
In cool temperatures of under ten degrees Celsius, the No. 9 car fielded by Pfaff Motorsports drove a flawless race at Road Atlanta. Works driver Vanthoor and his teammate Robichon avoided all trouble over the ten-hour race and crossed the finish line second in their class – enough to sweep the GTD title pool. For the Petit Le Mans race, the two received reinforcement in the cockpit from Porsche’s development driver Lars Kern from Germany.
Wright Motorsports delivered a tactically impressive and spirited performance. The 500+PS 911 GT3 R (#16) lost two laps early on due to a puncture after a collision with a rival vehicle. Implementing a perfect strategy, the team managed to close the gap in less than three hours. Works driver Patrick Long from the USA, his compatriot Trent Hindman and Belgium’s Jan Heylen took the lead at the four and eight-hour mark, earning enough points to win the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. In the closing phase, the car could no longer maintain the pace of the frontrunners due to a damaged rear and ultimately took the flag fifth in class.
“We couldn’t have wished for a better end to the season,” concluded Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “It was all on from the first lap. We witnessed lots of overtaking, spills and thrills and ten caution phases. This weekend, everyone in the Porsche family provided the best all-round support during the preparation and the race and kept their cool. We got maximum rewards: all titles for the drivers, teams and manufacturers in the GTD class went to Wright, Pfaff and Porsche this weekend!”
Bad luck plagued the American customer crew Hardpoint at the last race of the 2021 season. In the turbulent early phase of Petit Le Mans, the No. 88 Porsche 911 GT3 R sustained significant damage to the radiator after a shunt with a competitor. The replacement of the damaged part cost the car driven by Americans Rob Ferriol and Andrew Davis and Britain’s Katherine Legge 15 laps. The team was unable to close the gap and crossed the finish line eighth in class.
In the GTLM class, the successful Porsche 911 RSR contested its last race in the IMSA series. From 2022, this vehicle category will no longer be contested in the North American racing series. The WeatherTech Racing customer team, which fielded two of the ca. 515 PS vehicles from Weissach at the season finale, achieved the best possible result: positions one and two at Road Atlanta. After a spectacular and heated battle against the manufacturer teams from Corvette and BMW, the No. 79 car crewed by Cooper MacNeil (USA), Matt Campbell (Australia) and Mathieu Jaminet (France) took the chequered flag in first place. Their teammates Kévin Estre, Frédéric Makowiecki (both France) and Michael Christensen from Denmark secured second in class in their No. 97 entry.
“A perfect swansong performance for the 911 RSR in a hotly contested race,” declared Steffen Höllwarth, Head of Operations GTLM. “We were the only team with two irons left in the fire at the end and we opted for different strategies. Overall, we made the fewest mistakes at the finale. It was a banner weekend for Porsche. All titles in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Cup, all titles in the GTD class and a one-two result in the GTLM category. Thanks to all involved.”
For Porsche, the races in the North American sports car series with the 911 RSR were a resounding success, with seven title wins in the IMSA championship, five victories in the North American Endurance Cup, 24 race wins and 62 podium places over a total of eight seasons. Next season, the experienced customer teams will tackle the GTD Pro and GTD classes with the 911 GT3 R, before Porsche returns in 2023 with an LMDh prototype to take on the fight for overall victory at the world’s greatest endurance races.
Drivers’ comments on the race
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “That was awesome! So much happened in this long race. We tried to stay out of trouble at all times and our car was great. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get past the Aston Martin and win our class. I tried at the end but of course, I didn’t want to risk too much. It was all about the championship and we did it. I’m very proud of the team and my teammates!”
Zacharie Robichon (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “I’m lost for words. We achieved this triumph as a team – everyone worked perfectly together. I couldn’t be more proud of my Pfaff Motorsports colleagues. I’m simply thrilled and I’ve shed a tear or two since the race ended. All my dreams came true today. I still can’t believe it!”
Patrick Long (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “There are so many reasons for Porsche and the customer teams to throw a huge party today. It was an extremely turbulent day for me and my teammates in the cockpit and the pits. The fact that we had to pit more often than all the other cars says it all. I’m very proud of the team. We had the ideal strategy to earn the points needed to win the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup: Mission accomplished! That was my last race as a full-time professional for Porsche. But that didn’t play a role in the race today. I’m not going to think about that until tomorrow.”
Cooper MacNeil (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “A great day for Porsche, for our WeatherTech Racing squad and our operations team Proton Competition. To finish the very last race of the GTLM class with a one-two result for the Porsche 911 RSR is simply spectacular. Thanks to all mechanics, engineers and my driver colleagues. The last race of the season couldn’t have ended better.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “What a completely crazy race! We were locked in a tough battle with the Corvette until shortly before the end and a collision with a prototype threw us back. At that point in time, our teammates were in the lead. While we were in second place, the sister car let us pass and handed us the win. Such things are part of motorsport. I would have preferred to have won in a more traditional sporty way out on the track, so I feel a little sorry for my colleagues, but we witnessed a perfect day for Porsche.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “First and second place for WeatherTech Racing is sensational. Heading into the weekend, we’d secretly hoped for such a scenario to happen – and now it’s come true. I want to thank our colleagues in the No. 97 car. Obviously, without their support, we wouldn’t have won. It was perfect teamwork all around. To achieve the maximum success again with the 911 RSR at the last race of the GTLM class is perfect.”
Kevin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #97): “It was a really cool race, which we crowned with a one-two success. Our strategy was ideal and that put me in the lead with our No. 97 car. We were in first place with three laps to go, then I let the sister car pass – no big deal. I’m proud of the team and I’m proud to be part of this perfect farewell for the 911 RSR in the IMSA championship.”
Result GTLM class
1. MacNeil/Campbell/Jaminet (USA/AUS/F), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 390 laps
2. Estre/Christensen/Makowiecki (F/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #97, 390 laps
3. Edwards/Krohn/Farfus (USA/FIN/BR), BMW M8 GTE #24, 389 laps
4. Tandy/Milner/Sims (GB/USA/GB), Chevrolet Corvette #4, 381 laps
5. De Phillippi/Eng/Spengler (USA/A/CDN), BMW M8 GTE #25, 281 laps
6. Garcia/Taylor/Catsburg (E/USA/B), Chevrolet Corvette #3, 150 laps
Result GTD class
1. De Angelis/Gunn/James (CDN/GB/USA), Aston Martin #23, 378 laps
2. Robichon/Vanthoor/Kern (CDN/B/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 378 laps
3. Montecalvo/Veach/Megennis (USA/USA/USA), Lexus #12, 377 laps
5. Long/Hindman/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 376 laps
8. Ferriol/Legge/Davis (USA/GB/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #88, 359 laps
Full results and championship standings: imsa.alkamelsystems.com.