The two-car Porsche GT Team has come on strong since returning from the traditional midseason break for IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and both cars delivered on Saturday afternoon at Lime Rock Park. The team finished 1-2 in the two-hour and 40-minute Northeast Grand Prix in Connecticut.
Leading the way in a race that featured the WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes were 2015 WeatherTech Championship GTLM champion Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR.
Pilet crossed the stripe 14.5 seconds ahead of Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche that Gianmaria “Gimmi” Bruni started from the pole position. It was the first victory for the revolutionary new Porsche 911 RSR, the first one to be configured with the engine in front of the rear axle.
The No. 911 Porsche ran inside the top three positions throughout the race. Werner qualified third, but jumped to second at the start of the race and ran behind Bruni for the first 49 minutes before taking the lead when Bruni came in for his first pit stop.
Werner pitted two laps later to turn the car over to Pilet, who rejoined the race in third place, but one spot ahead of Vanthoor in the No. 912. Pilet took the lead for the first time an hour and 17 minutes into the race once the first pit-stop cycle was completed.
Pilet lost the lead when he made his second and final pit stop, but reclaimed the top spot for the final time when Antonio Garcia pitted the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R from the lead. He would not be challenged the rest of the way en route to his eighth IMSA race victory.
“It means a lot,” Pilet said. “Since the first race of the season, we’ve fought for the victory but never achieved that. It was great because everybody worked so hard. It went smooth all weekend since first practice. Both cars were really quick, especially the 912. We managed to get a really good pace during the long runs and we knew it was a key here to be strong during the long runs and it went perfectly.”
Laurens Vanthoor finished second in the No. 912 Porsche that Gianmaria “Gimmi” Bruni started from the pole position.
It was Werner’s ninth career victory in IMSA history -- including previous wins in both the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series -- and his third in the WeatherTech Championship. Werner joined the Porsche GT Team this season after spending the past several seasons with BMW Team RLL.
“For me personally, it’s a great day,” Werner said. “I just joined Porsche as a factory driver and to be the first together with Patrick, yeah, it’s a very good feeling. But it’s for the team and it feels good because they put in all the work, especially developing the car for such a long time; I think it’s over a year now.
“The car has been driven and tested and it's sweet because the last couple of races I think we were already good enough to win, but we always had a little something go wrong. So now I am very happy, especially a 1-2 for Porsche, and in GTD also to have two podiums. It’s a perfect day.”
It was the first win for the Porsche GT Team since last September’s race at Circuit of The Americas, which also was the last time the team swept the top two spots in GTLM.
A fierce battle for the final podium spot between Martin Tomczyk in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM and Garcia in the Corvette went to Tomczyk and his co-driver, John Edwards, by a slim margin. Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen wound up fourth in the No. 3 entry ahead of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, who rounded out the top five in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
The No. 67 Ford GT also claimed the DEKRA Green Award. The award was developed in a partnership between IMSA, the Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International. It recognizes the cleanest, fastest and most efficient GTLM car in each race.
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on Sunday, Aug. 6. The two-hour and 40-minute race will include all four WeatherTech Championship classes.