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Race report
IMSA VIR

VIR IMSA: Pfaff Porsche and Winward Mercedes claim victories

Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell scored Pfaff Motorsports’ fifth GTD Pro victory of the year at VIR, as Philip Ellis and Russell Ward claimed a strong win for the Winward Racing Mercedes AMG GT3, in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship's Michelin GT Challenge.

#9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R: Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet

GTD Pro

Polesitter Ross Gunn in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage took the lead from the start of the race, and Matt Campbell had no trouble slotting the Pfaff Porsche 911 GT3 R up the inside of Antonio Garcia’s Corvette C8.R to claim second. Connor De Phillippi’s BMW M4 and Jack Hawksworth’s Lexus RC F took fourth and fifth.

Over the opening five laps, this class quintet remained covered by only 2sec, Garcia pressuring Campbell hard, but it was Hawksworth who made the first move, gliding past De Phillippi to claim fourth on Lap 7. Next time by, the Lexus driver set the fastest lap of the race so far, as he started to chip away at the gap to himself and Garcia. In the process, he stretched away from De Phillippi, but with everyone running very conservatively, the BMW was able to close back up when the driver chose. At Lap 22, only 3.3sec covered the top five.

Corvette Racing pitted Garcia so Jordan Taylor could take over on Lap 26, while Hawksworth stayed onboard the Lexus when he pitted. By the time the remaining runners pitted, the yellow C8.R was out front by 10sec, ahead of Matthieu Jaminet who had taken over the Pfaff Porsche which had also jumped Gunn’s HoR Aston. De Phillippi, who was the last to pit and hand over to John Edwards, was now 21sec off the lead and nine behind fourth place – a dramatic demonstration of the benefits of an early stop over a late stop.

Under the yellow with 75 minutes remaining, all five cars stopped, but now the Corvette needed more fuel as it had pitted early last time, so Taylor rejoined fourth in class, and it was Jaminet’s Porsche and Edwards’ BMW up front, ahead of Ben Barnicoat who had taken over the #14 Lexus. HoR’s second stop was disastrous and with Alex Riberas now in the car, it was now 14th overall, and it would receive a drive through for pit work outside its pitbox.

Following the restart Jaminet lost time behind off-strategy GTD cars, but with just under one hour remaining, he passed Andy Lally’s Magnus Racing Aston to claim the overall lead. That seemed to spur Taylor to cut loose in the Corvette, and passed both Barnicoat’s Lexus and Edwards’ BMW to claim second, now three seconds behind the Pfaff Porsche. However, just as he passed Lally’s GTD Aston Martin car, Taylor pitted but with no change of tires, and a recent stop, it was a swift one. Edwards and Barnicoat also stopped a lap later but while Edwards took four new tires, Lexus went for fuel only, like Corvette.

A lap after that, Jaminet pitted and Pfaff fitted rear tires only, and he emerged still ahead of Taylor, but they were behind the penalized HoR Aston Martin although Riberas would need to make a third fuel stop.

Jaminet and Taylor, three seconds apart, passed the Aston in the final 16mins, and sure enough Pfaff Porsche led home Taylor by a mere 0.823sec. Riberas’ late stop allowed Barnicoat to claim third, while Riberas came home 11sec ahead of Edwards’ BMW.

GTD

#57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: Russell Ward, Philip Ellis

#57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: Russell Ward, Philip Ellis

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Russell Ward converted his pole into a class lead from the start of the race, his Mercedes AMG GT3 leading Aidan Read’s Rick Ware Racing Acura NSX ahead of Madison Snow’s Paul Miller Racing BMW M4, who by starting the race won the IMSA Michelin Sprint Cup. Behind Snow ran Robert Megennis in the Carbahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracan, Mike Skeen’s Team Korthoff Motorsports, Robby Foley’s Turner Motorsports BMW and Roman de Angelis in the Pro-Am Aston Martin.

Sadly Jaden Conwright had to pit and paddock the NTE/SSR Lamborghini Huracan when his engine blew on the opening lap.

These seven had pulled 4sec on Frankie Montecalvo’s Lexus and 18sec on the rest of the field by Lap 15, while up front Ward had a 1.8sec margin over Read.

Once the minimum drive time was completed (45mins) on Lap 23, Turner Motorsport immediately pitted its M4, but in fact Foley stayed aboard. Being one of the fastest Am drivers and on fresh tires and in clean air, the team had high hopes of jumping several cars he had been pursuing who were all still running on the Michelins on which they had qualified.

It was a great strategy, with WeatherTech Racing, Wright Motorsports and Team Hardpoint all pitting their cars, following suit to get their Pro drivers installed, with Jules Gounon, Jan Heylen and Katherine Legge heading out on new tires. However, the latter spun on her out lap.

This of course triggered a slew of stops, but Winward Racing had a possible wheelgun failure so the Mercedes tumbled down the order.

Turner’s tactics and Foley’s driving had both proven perfect, and so the #96 BMW had leapt from sixth into the lead ahead of Read’s RWR Acura, Stevan McAleer who was now piloting the Team Korthoff Mercedes, Bryan Sellers who had replaced Snow in the PMR BMW, Jeff Westphal now in the Carbahn Peregrine Lambo, Maxime Martin now in the second HoR Aston and Philip Ellis now in the Winward Benz.

Sadly for Team Korthoff, McAleer had to bring the Mercedes into the pits barely five laps after he’d taken over from Skeen. The problem was diagnosed as a loose right-rear wheel.

The second stint was enlivened by the battle between Read and Sellers for second, eventually resolved in the BMW driver’s favor with a little nudge into Turn 1 that moved the Acura wide. Sellers pulled away to try and close down fellow BMW driver Foley, who had pulled a 7sec lead. Read was left to try and fend off Westphal, Martin, Ellis and Aaron Telitz in the second Lexus.

Right behind Westphal muscling past Read to claim third, Ellis tried to pass Martin’s Aston Martin through the Esses, ran wide and collected a WeatherTech banner, dragging debris back onto the track. Ellis would only lead one spot, to Telitz’s Lexus.

The debris caused the first full course yellow, and Turner would suffer for the same reason as Corvette in GTD Pro – the early first stop meant the M4 needed more fuel, and so Bill Auberlen who had replaced Foley was now sixth in class. Off-strategy Andy Lally (Magnus Racing) and Legge (Hardpoint), were up front – ahead of the GTD Pro cars – but ‘net’ it was Sellers ahead of Telitz, Martin, Westphal and Ellis.

On the restart, Ellis ran into Westphal’s Lambo, pushing its right rear bodywork onto its tire, causing the Carbahn Peregrine car to suffer a puncture. Ryan Eversley had to serve a drive-through in the RWR Acura after the car was served by too many people over the pitwall.

Sellers and Telitz ran one second apart at the head of the pack (and at the front overall) with 30mins to go, while Ellis had demoted Auberlen, then Martin, to push the Winward Racing Mercedes into third, and try and close down the seven-second gap to the leaders.

Sellers pitted with 21mins to go, receiving left-side tires only but came behind Jan Heylen in the Wright Motorsports Porsche which had made its third stop back with the GTD Pro cars.

Telitz was in next time and Vasser Sullivan fueled him for barely more than three seconds, and he emerged ahead of Heylen but only just ahead, and backing the Porsche toward Sellers. Auberlen passed Martin for second with 14mins to go, but pitted two minutes later.

With nine minutes to go, Ellis pitted the Mercedes from the lead for a splash of fuel, leaving Martin up front, but the Winward car emerged well ahead of the Telitz vs Heylen vs Sellers battle, in which Sellers leaned hard on his fresh right-side tires to get a run on Heylen with under five minutes to go and then swiftly demote Telitz, too.

Up front, Martin was clearly trying to eke his HoR Aston’s fuel to the flag, but he had to cede the lead to the charging Ellis. However, such was his margin over Sellers that Martin was able to salvage a remarkable second, although he inevitably ran out of fuel on the slowdown lap.

Cla Class Num Driver Chassis Laps Gap Pits
1 GTD PRO 9 Australia Matt Campbell
France Mathieu Jaminet
Porsche 911 GT3 R 86 4
2 GTD PRO 3 Spain Antonio Garcia
United States Jordan Taylor
Corvette C8.R GTD 86 4
3 GTD 57 United States Russell Ward
Switzerland Philip Ellis
Mercedes AMG GT3 86 4
4 GTD 27 Canada Roman De Angelis
Belgium Maxime Martin
Aston Martin Vantage GT3 86 3
5 GTD 1 United States Bryan Sellers
United States Madison Snow
BMW M4 GT3 86 4
6 GTD 12 United States Frankie Montecalvo
United States Aaron Telitz
Lexus RC F GT3 86 4
7 GTD 16 United States Ryan Hardwick
Belgium Jan Heylen
Porsche 911 GT3 R 86 4
8 GTD 79 United States Cooper MacNeil
France Jules Gounon
Mercedes AMG GT3 86 4
9 GTD PRO 14 United Kingdom Jack Hawksworth
United Kingdom Ben Barnicoat
Lexus RC F GT3 86 4
10 GTD 96 United States Robby Foley
United States Bill Auberlen
BMW M4 GT3 86 4
11 GTD PRO 23 United Kingdom Ross Gunn
Spain Alex Riberas
Aston Martin Vantage GT3 86 5
12 GTD 32 United States Mike Skeen
United Kingdom Stevan McAleer
Mercedes AMG GT3 86 4
13 GTD PRO 25 United States Connor de Phillippi
United States John Edwards
BMW M4 GT3 86 4
14 GTD 51 United States Ryan Eversley
Australia Aidan Read
Acura NSX GT3 86 4
15 GTD 99 United States Rob Ferriol
United Kingdom Katherine Legge
Porsche 911 GT3 R 86 3
16 GTD 39 United States Robert Megennis
United States Jeff Westphal
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 86 5
17 GTD 44 United States John Potter
United States Andy Lally
Aston Martin Vantage GT3 85 4
18 GTD 42 United States Jaden Conwright
Marco Holzer
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 1 1

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