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VIR IMSA: Tandy, Pilet win after tense Porsche duel

VIR IMSA: Tandy, Pilet win after tense Porsche duel
Aug 25, 2019, 8:19 PM

Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet won the GT-only round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Virginia International Raceway, winning a tense duel with the sister works Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber.

From pole position, Vanthoor led into Turn 1 with the #911 Porsche of Tandy sprinting from sixth to second thanks to a brave lunge around the outside of the #3 Corvette and both Ford GTs at the first corner.

The first caution period occurred 10 minutes into the race, after the #96 BMW of Robby Foley hit the #48 Lamborghini of Corey Lewis, and a tire carcass came off the M6 after the collision. That sent all the GTLM runners into the pits, where the #911 (Tandy/Pilet) jumped ahead of the #912 despite making a driver change.

The #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin also rejoined ahead of both Fords in fourth, leading to a Porsche-Porsche, Corvette-Corvette, Ford-Ford and BMW-BMW running order at the restart. A brief off from Gavin gifted fourth to Joey Hand’s #66 Ford, and Ryan Briscoe later demoted Gavin a place further in the #67 sister GT to restore the status quo from the opening stint.

The #912 retook the lead in the second round of pitstops at half distance, with Bamber taking over from Vanthoor and Tandy returning to the #911 car after Pilet’s single stint.

Although he was 4s in arrears for a while, Tandy closed the gap before his final stop and then put in an almighty charge after it. When Bamber pitted for his last splash of gas, he rejoined behind Tandy.

A second full-course yellow happened with 20 minutes to go, when Katherine Legge suffered a huge crash at Turn 9, thought to be a tire failure, smashing her Acura NSX into the tire wall – fortunately without injury. Officials scrambled to repair the barriers to get the race restarted, and did a fine job in time for a sprint to the finish.

Tandy got the jump on Bamber at the green flag with eight minutes remaining, but Bamber attacked hard as the clock ticked down to zero. He got the gap under three tenths of a second before Tandy responded, pulling away to a 0.7s win.

“It’s fun when you’re behind, when you’re in front you’d like a team order,” quipped Tandy of Porsche allowing its cars to race to the finish. “The team lets us race, it’s amazing. To comeback with such a strong Sunday after a bad Saturday, it says a lot.”

The battle for third was effectively settled straight after the final pitstop, as although Antonio Garcia (in for Magnussen) beat Dirk Muller (in for Hand) off pitlane, Garcia locked up and ran wide at Turn 1, allowing the Ford past. In his efforts to fight back, Garcia punted Muller into a spin at the Roller Coaster.

This allowed the second Corvette, the #4 of Tommy Milner (in for Gavin), on to Muller’s tail, as the stewards decided to give no penalty for the collision – presumably as Muller had thrown a major block on the preceding straight. As Garcia held third, Milner passed Muller, the latter also being jumped by a late-stopping Richard Westbrook (in for Briscoe) in the second Ford.

The RLL-run BMW M8s rounded out the GTLM field, having struggled to get on terms for pace all weekend.

#33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, GTD: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

#33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, GTD: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

Photo by: Scott R LePage / LAT Images

GTD: Riley Mercedes wins

In GT Daytona, pole winner Zacharie Robichon’s Pfaff Porsche 911 led Trent Hindman (Meyer Shank Acura NSX) and Richard Heistand (AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F), as the sister #12 Lexus of Frankie Montecalvo lost ground by running wide at Turn 1, and then took a rough ride through the Esses that sent him to the pits in the opening five minutes.

Unlike his rivals, Robichon didn’t pit during the first yellow and stopped under green so teammate Hargrove was able to maximise his drive time for the final 105 minutes.

Jack Hawksworth, in for Heistand in the #14 Lexus, grabbed the lead from Hargrove just after the halfway point, making a robust pass into Turn 1. But an electrical issue caused Hawksworth to pit repeatedly, and despite a battery change, the car plunged to last place and, ultimately, retirement.

That meant the battle between Hargrove and Jeroen Bleekemolen, sharing the #33 Riley-run Mercedes with Ben Keating, became key. Following their last pitstops in the final hour, the pair battled hard, with Bleekemolen – on warmer tires having pitted earlier – outdragging Hargrove on the back straight.

Bleekemolen quickly overcame the earlier-stopping Acura of Mario Farnbacher (in for Hindman) to grab the class lead. He kept his cool at the late-race restart too, despite a late scare over some tire pick-up that took time to clear up, winning by 0.6s over Hindman/Farnbacher.

Toni Vilander – sharing the WeatherTech Ferrari with Cooper MacNeil – passed the Robichon/Hargrove Porsche for third in the closing stages.

Race results:

Cla Class Num Driver Chassis Laps Gap
1 GTLM 911 France Patrick Pilet
United Kingdom Nick Tandy
Porsche 911 RSR 88
2 GTLM 912 New Zealand Earl Bamber
Belgium Laurens Vanthoor
Porsche 911 RSR 88 0.737
3 GTLM 3 Denmark Jan Magnussen
Spain Antonio Garcia
Corvette C7.R 88 3.275
4 GTLM 4 United Kingdom Oliver Gavin
United States Tommy Milner
Corvette C7.R 88 3.972
5 GTLM 67 Australia Ryan Briscoe
United Kingdom Richard Westbrook
Ford GT 88 4.396
6 GTLM 66 United States Joey Hand
Germany Dirk Muller
Ford GT 88 9.556
7 GTLM 25 United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist
United States Connor de Phillippi
BMW M8 GTE 88 12.560
8 GTLM 24 Finland Jesse Krohn
United States John Edwards
BMW M8 GTE 87 1 Lap
9 GTD 33 United States Ben Keating
Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
Mercedes-AMG GT3 86 2 Laps
10 GTD 86 Germany Mario Farnbacher
United States Trent Hindman
Acura NSX GT3 86 2 Laps
11 GTD 63 United States Cooper MacNeil
Finland Toni Vilander
Ferrari 488 GT3 86 2 Laps
12 GTD 9 Canada Scott Hargrove
Canada Zacharie Robichon
Porsche 911 GT3 R 86 2 Laps
13 GTD 73 United States Patrick Lindsey
United States Patrick Long
Porsche 911 GT3 R 86 2 Laps
14 GTD 44 United States John Potter
United States Andy Lally
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 86 2 Laps
15 GTD 12 United States Frankie Montecalvo
United States Townsend Bell
Lexus RC F GT3 86 2 Laps
16 GTD 74 United States Gar Robinson
United States Lawson Aschenbach
Mercedes-AMG 86 2 Laps
17 GTD 76 United States Paul Holton
United States Matt Plumb
McLaren 720S GT3 86 2 Laps
18 GTD 48 United States Bryan Sellers
United States Corey Lewis
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 84 4 Laps
19 GTD 96 United States Bill Auberlen
United States Robby Foley
BMW M6 GT3 83 5 Laps
20 GTD 57 United Kingdom Katherine Legge
United Kingdom Alice Powell
Acura NSX GT3 74 14 Laps
21 GTD 14 United States Richard Heistand
United Kingdom Jack Hawksworth
Lexus RC F GT3 63 25 Laps
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Series IMSA
Event VIR
Author Charles Bradley