Porsche at Petit Le Mans

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Petit Le Mans Finale. Works Team Targets IMSA Endurance Championship.

The 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship enters its last race of the season, the 20th Running of the Motul Petit Le Mans, contested on the legendary Road Atlanta racetrack on October 7. For the Porsche GT Team the fight is for the first championship title with the new-for-2017 911 RSR. Heading to the final round of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC) – a four-race competition encompassing the long-distance classics of Petit Le Mans, Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Six Hours of Watkins Glen – Porsche is leading both the drivers’ and teams’ championships in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.

The North American Endurance Cup, which Porsche claimed in 2014, is the toughest and most prestigious classification for performance and reliability in GT racing worldwide. Performance and reliability are the key factors in the TPNAEC. Points are distributed at pre-selected intervals over the course of each endurance event – for instance, after four and eight hours of the Petit Le Mans event. Therefore, teams must perform throughout the events, not only lasting to the end.  The Porsche GT Team fields two Porsche 911 RSR in the hotly contested GTLM class at the ten-hour race on the tradition-steeped 2.54-mile (4.087-kilometer) Road Atlanta circuit at Braselton, Georgia. In the GT Daytona (GTD) class, four Porsche customer teams campaign the 911 GT3 R including Rolex 24 At Daytona victors, Alegra Motorsports.

Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta was first contested in 1998 and is one of the greatest sports car races in the United States. As the most successful manufacturer in the history of this race, Porsche has so far celebrated 24 class victories including four class victories in the inaugural year. The highlight, however, was when Nick Tandy (Great Britain), Patrick Pilet (France) and Richard Lietz (Austria) scored the first overall victory in the event for Porsche with the 911 RSR (previous iteration). This also represents the first overall victory for a GT vehicle at the race. The same year Porsche also won the GTD class with the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America with Patrick Lindsey (Santa Barbara, California), Spencer Pumpelly (Atlanta, Georgia) and Madison Snow (Lehi, Utah).

Nine Porsche factory drivers are entered in this year’s Petit Le Mans. The most successful Porsche “works” pilot in the race’s history is Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) with five victories (2003 - ‘07).

The Porsche GT Team has enlisted two outright 24 Hours of Le Mans winners from the Porsche factory squad to help at the decisive race. Nick Tandy (Great Britain) joins forces with Patrick Pilet (France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) in the cockpit of the No. 911 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR. Pilet and Werner clinched the first victory for the 2017 911 RSR at Lime Rock Park in July. Earl Bamber (New Zealand) shares driving duties with Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) in the No. 912 Porsche 911 Porsche 911 RSR.

Four customer squads contest the season finale with the 911 GT3 R. The Rolex 24-winning Alegra Motorsports Porsche sees the return of factory driver Michael Christensen (Denmark) to join fellow Rolex-winners Daniel Morad (Canada) and Michael de Quesada (Tampa, Florida). WeatherTech Racing has brought in North America’s only Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) to join with regulars Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Illinois) and Gunnar Jeanette (Salt Lake City, Utah) in the No. 50 911 GT3 R. Long is a three-time winner of Petit with two GT titles (2005 and 2006) as well as a prototype title in 2007 with the Porsche RS Spyder.

CORE autosport also drafts in a past winner of the race in the form of Nic Jönsson (Buford, Georgia) who won in 2006 with Bergmeister and Long. Jönsson joins Jon Bennett (Charlotte, North Carolina) and Colin Braun (Harrisburg, North Carolina) in the No. 54. The No. 73 Park Place Motorsports 911 GT3 R won the GTD class at Lime Rock with Bergmeister and Lindsey earlier this year. They will be joined by Porsche Young Driver Academy graduate Matt McMurry (Phoenix, Arizona).

The Porsche 911 RSR, which celebrated its maiden victory at Lime Rock on July 22, is a completely new development based on the high-performance 911 GT3 RS sports car. Porsche Motorsport in Weissach, Germany has designed all the suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept, engine and transmission from scratch for this season. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the motor, which is now positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 510 hp. The 911 GT3 R, mounted with the new ultra-modern, four-liter, flat-six engine with direct fuel injection, was designed by Porsche for worldwide GT3 series on the basis of the 911 GT3 RS production sports car. This season, the 500 hp customer sport racer celebrated victories at Daytona and Lime Rock.

Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars.

“Our new 911 RSR not only underlined its huge potential by winning at Lime Rock in its first US season, it also impressed with its reliability and performance at the other long-distance classics in Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen. This now puts us in a strong position to win the North American Endurance Cup at the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta. It’s quite unusual for a newly developed car to show such reliability and perform so well in its first season, particularly at the toughest races and against such renowned and established opponents that are contesting the GTLM class. We’ll do our utmost to bring this prestigious title home again to Weissach and to crown an impressive first season for the 911 RSR with another great success.”

Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports.

“The race at Road Atlanta is a wonderful way to conclude the season in the USA. This circuit has a very special flair. The fact that it suits us was underlined in 2015 with the first overall victory for Porsche. Our tests at Road Atlanta with our new 911 RSR went well, so we’re feeling well prepared and full of confidence to tackle the season finale. Our goal is clear. We want to win the North American Endurance Cup. We’ve laid the foundations for this with our successes at Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen – now only one last step remains.”

Sebastian Golz, Project Manager GT Customer Motorsport.

“For the drivers, Road Atlanta is one of the greatest tracks in the USA. However, a lot is demanded from the engineers. They need to work with the pilots to find a setup that keeps tire deterioration on this circuit at a manageable level, without it having too much of a negative effect on the performance. Still, we’re feeling confident that our customer teams will find the best possible compromise. If they succeed, they can bring home victory.”

Patrick Pilet, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“I have the best memories of Petit Le Mans, especially of 2015 when we clinched overall victory for Porsche there. This year we’re again going for another big triumph for the company: to win the North American Endurance Cup. Dirk and I are leading the drivers’ classification after our performances at Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen and we’ll do everything with our team to retain the lead after this race. If we manage this, then perhaps the team title and possibly even the manufacturers’ classification could go to Porsche. This would be a perfect way to finish the season.”

Dirk Werner, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“Petit Le Mans is the last race of the North American Endurance Cup and therefore it’s very significant for us. Patrick and I will tackle the finale as the points’ leaders. Our new 911 RSR has performed brilliantly this season, particularly at the tough long-distance races, and it’s proved to be very reliable despite the enormous demands. We’re feeling confident that this will again be the case at Petit Le Mans and that we’ll be able to win this important endurance competition for Porsche.”

Nick Tandy, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“Petit Le Mans is one of my favorite racetracks. By returning to the fascinating Road Atlanta circuit with the new 911 RSR, a big wish of mine is fulfilled. After all, I witnessed the first development phase of the car first-hand. I won Petit Le Mans in 2013 and 2015. It’s been two years now – so it’s time for my third win. If winning would give Porsche the North American Endurance Cup, then that would make it all the more special and a great triumph.”

Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“My first time at Road Atlanta was when we tested there several weeks ago. I think it’s one of the most beautiful racetracks in America. The main goal for Porsche at this final round is to win the North American Endurance Cup. The entire team will focus completely on achieving this.”

Gianmaria Bruni, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“I’m looking forward to my first Petit Le Mans race with Porsche. Road Atlanta is a very challenging racetrack. We’ve gone testing there and we saw that it suits our new 911 RSR very well. For Porsche, the season finale is about claiming the North American Endurance Cup. To win this would be a great achievement. I hope that we can play our part in contributing to this success.”

Earl Bamber, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“Contesting Petit Le Mans with the new 911 RSR is a great challenge. I was involved in its basic development and got the chance to test the car recently at Road Atlanta – it was an impressive experience. I’m looking forward to working with the team – I’ve enjoyed a good and successful time with them. It would be wonderful if we could assist Porsche in bringing home the North American Endurance Cup again.”

Michael Christensen, Driver, No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

“Petit Le Mans is always spectacular. I’m pleased to be able to compete there in Alegra Motorsports’ 911 GT3 R. I won the season-opener at Daytona with this team. The squad is young and very ambitious, so it’s huge fun to work with these guys. They’re all super keen to show what they can do at this last race of the season.”

Patrick Long, Driver, No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

“A ten-hour race on such a great track like Road Atlanta is always a very special challenge for the drivers and teams. At the start shortly before midday it’s usually very warm, and after dark it gets noticeably cooler. This change in temperature makes the tire choice even more difficult. I’m driving the 911 GT3 R for the WeatherTech Racing squad for the first time and obviously I’m hoping that I can contribute to a successful conclusion to the season for the team.”

Jörg Bergmeister, Driver, No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

“Petit Le Mans as the season-finale is another real highlight. Despite the enormous challenges, it’s a race we all look forward to. We had a good year with our 911 GT3 R and won the race at Lime Rock. At Road Atlanta we’ll do our very best to ensure it isn’t the only victory.”

Porsche Conti Contender. Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR Enters Finale with Lead.

Entering the final round of the 2017 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC), the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR leads the GS class of the road car-based racing series’ championship. In fact, the 2017 GT4-specification machine (the No. 28 RS1 entry) heads a 2016 GS-class spec variant (the No. 12 Bodymotion Racing car) with only the FOX Factory 120 remaining on the ten-race schedule. Making the final two-hours of competition that much more intriguing is that each car has one previous victory on the 2017 calendar. Porsche comes to the 2.54-mile long Road Atlanta track in Braselton, Georgia with the lead in the CTSCC manufacturer standings, the German marque finished in second-place in the standings in 2016.

In the hands of Dillon Machavern (Burlington, Vermont) and Dylan Murcott (Ancram, New York), the No. 28 RS1 Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR is 16 points ahead of the No. 12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport entry in the team championship proving IMSA’s balance of the two iterations has been successful. Machavern and Murcott have the strongest run of late, with the RS1 car having four second-place finishes in the last five races. Cameron Cassels (Canada) and Trent Hindman (Wayside, New Jersey) opened the year with a victory in the four-hour race at Daytona International Speedway in the No. 12 Bodymotion car that finished third in the championship in 2016. Bodymotion finished in second-place at the most recent round, a four-hour enduro at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca two positions ahead of RS1. RS1 is new to CTSCC in 2017 as is the MR version of the Porsche mid-engine Cayman entry.

Sharing over 80 percent of its components with the road-going Porsche Cayman GT4, the Clubsport was introduced into competition in 2016. At the end of the year, to make it compatible with the international GT4-class specifications, Manthey Racing (MR), an official partner of Porsche Motorsport, created an updated car with minor changes over the 2016 model. IMSA regulations grandfathered and balanced the 2016 Cayman GT4 Clubsport with the new car giving a continued venue for those cars to compete while bringing in GT4-spec machines where they will be solely allowed for the 2018 season.

To-date, Porsche has ten overall CTSCC podiums in 2017 – including the two victories – entering the final round on October 6. Six of the Porsche Motorsport-built cars are entered for Friday’s race. Three Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs are on the entry list with the No. 28 leading the way. The locally operated Team TGM No. 4 of Guy Cosmo (Palm Beach Gardens, Florida) and Hugh Plumb (Unionville, Pennsylvania) as well as the BGB Motorsports No. 38 of James Cox (Nokomis, Florida) and John Tecce (Gladwyne, Pennsylvania) make-up the other two 2017 cars.

Bodymotion – which was the first team to win with the Cayman GT4 Clubsport in 2016 at Sebring International Raceway and added a total of three of the four 2016 race wins for the car – champions the 2016 car with the pair of CJ Wilson Racing run machines filling-out the German marque’s entries. The Nos. 33 and 35 are driven by Till Bechtolsheimer (New York City, New York)/ Marc Miller (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and Russell Ward (Seabrook, Texas)/ Damien Faulkner (Ireland), respectively. The No. 33 was second in Daytona and third at Lime Rock Park while the No. 35 has a season-best result of fourth at Sebring.

The FOX Factory 120 will be the featured event on Friday, October 6 with a green flag at 1:50 p.m. ET.

20th Anniversary Card. Porsche Memories of Petit Le Mans.

The Motul Petit Le Mans is celebrating its 20th year in 2017. In those two decades Porsche has earned 17 class wins, eight more than its closest rival. In 2015, the motorsport world looked upon the final result at Road Atlanta in awe as a GTLM class car, in the form of the Porsche 911 RSR, took overall victory on the 2.54-mile racecourse. It was a remarkable feat accomplished in torrential rainstorm that brought the very best of the Porsche 911 out for all to see.

In all of that time, Porsche has not only secured its place in one more international sports car racing classic, but at the center of thousands of memories of fans and participants. Here are but a few of those recollections.

Alwin Springer, Former President and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America, Founder; ANDIAL and current Consultant to Porsche Motorsport North America.

“I have been attending Petit Le Mans since the inaugural event in 1998 and have been coming to Road Atlanta since it first opened in 1970. Over all of that time, the most outstanding thing I have seen there was Nick Tandy’s performance in the rain in 2015. That was the best performance I have ever seen in the rain. It was an honor to be a part of Porsche’s first overall win at Petit and even more rewarding as it was unexpected in a GT car, the 911 RSR.”

Steffen Höllwarth, Program Manager IMSA SportsCar Championship.  

“I cannot pick just one special memory of Petit Le Mans. I have two. When I started working in the motorsport business, in 2007, as an intern at Porsche Motorsport North America, Petit Le Mans was my last race for them before going back to Germany. Porsche took the top five spots that year. That was very special. Obviously the fantastic result we had in 2015: winning the championship, winning the race and winning Petit Le Mans for the first time overall in Porsche history. It is something very special and will always be something special to me. I really have good memories thinking back on Petit Le Mans.”

Morgan Brady, COO CORE autosport No. 54 Porsche 911 GT3 R and Team Manager, Porsche GT Team, Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche 911 RSR.

“For me, the Petit Le Mans that stands out very clearly is winning overall in 2015. The specific moment would be: when we were circulating under yellow, after the red flag, and we were in the lead, and then we hear on race control ‘checkered flag next time by,’ and at that point our entire pit box erupted in celebration. That’s definitely something that I’ll never forget.”

Patrick Pilet, Porsche Factory Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“Winning Petit Le Mans in 2015 was one of the greatest career moments for all of us. We did not expect to win overall; we were just fighting for the championship and the class victory. The conditions were just unbelievable. It was tough but drivable. You had to keep control all the time. We had to fight against everyone. We had to push at the max without making any mistakes. When the conditions are that extreme it shows the good points of the car, of the team and of the drivers. We wrote a special line in the Porsche story.”

Gianmaria Bruni, Porsche Factory Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“In 2011, I won the race. There was a big battle with the BMW. I really enjoyed it. Now I am looking forward to getting back to Petit Le Mans and this new challenge with Porsche.”

Dirk Werner, Porsche Factory Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

“Petit Le Mans has been rough more times than very good for me. It is a tough race with a lot of cars and with the duration of the race. Conditions can be difficult but in the end it is a fun track to drive. Because it is the last race of the year there is a lot to win and that makes for good excitement. Every year I come to Road Atlanta I am excited.”

Jörg Bergmeister, Porsche Factory Driver, No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.  

“The best memories are always the ones where you win. But my biggest memory was in 2006 when I was taken out in Turn Four, through the ‘Esses’, and I was facing the wrong way and Timo [Bernhard] was coming-up in the RS Spyder. I just saw his big eyes through the visor. He was probably just as scared as me. That was definitely an interesting moment I don’t want to repeat again but we went on to win that race and the championship that year. I’d like to repeat that.

Petit Le Mans is a perfect way to end the season. It has built a great fan base and always has a lot of spectators even if the weather is sometimes a little difficult.”

Patrick Lindsey, Principal/Driver, No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

“Petit has a mixture of feelings for us. We've had high times like in 2015 when we won and survived a torrential downpour of rain. Then we had years like in 2016 where we thought we had second but drive time put us off podium. It always has a lot of emotion because it's the final race of the year. So you're either excited for it to be over or you're fighting for the end. I think we always enjoy it, we're able to look back on the year and be proud of what we accomplished."

Colin Braun, Driver, No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R.

“My most memorable Petit Le Mans moment was in a Porsche, back in 2013 with Patrick Long and Michael Christensen. It was pouring rain for night practice. I hadn’t driven that car very much, just COTA and VIR. We got to Petit and it’s pouring rain and I hadn’t driven the car in the rain at all. Night practice starts and I remember going out in the car with the headlights on and the wipers going and rain tires on and thinking ‘wow, this is quite a way to break myself into this car in the wet!’ There I was at Road Atlanta, already a dicey, exciting track, and then add in the fact that it’s dark and raining… that made it pretty exciting. It was a neat experience to be out there in that car at night, almost by myself — I guess there weren’t many people as smart or as dumb as we were!”

Petit History. Porsche History at Petit Le Mans.

Porsche has participated in every Petit Le Mans held since 1998 and has won as a manufacturer 24-times, including the 2015 overall win by the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR.  

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