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United SportsCar Championship

2016 United SportsCar Championship season review

In 2015, Porsche North America Racing captured all three GTLM class titles in the WeatherTech United SportsCar Championship, the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet capturing four victories along the way, including a famous outright triumph at the season-ending Petit Le Mans.

For this year though, new GTLM technical regulations were introduced, leading to newly developed entries from Ferrari (in the shape of its 488 GTE) and the radical Ford GT. Porsche, meanwhile, choosing to focus on creating an all-new racer for 2017, brought along an updated version of its 2015 car.

Despite this, at the 24 Hours of Daytona, the traditional curtain raiser for the American sports car season, the factory Porsche 911 RSRs were able to lock out the front row in qualifying, converting this position into a solid one-two during the first half of the race.

sebring

As the daylight hours returned on Sunday morning, the Porsches’ pace advantage began to wain but still the two cars circulated at the head of the field until, with five hours to go, disaster struck the no. 911 entry of Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Kévin Estre, a driveshaft failing on the high-speed banking.

This left Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki and Michael Christensen in the no. 912 RSR to fight the two Chevrolet Corvettes but, despite taking the lead after the final round of pitstops, Porsche had to settle for a solid third place at the end of a day’s racing.

The 12 Hours of Sebring brought a similar result for the two factory 911s, the no. 912 car battling through the rain and red flags to secure another third place while the no. 911 retired at half distance when Estre made a failed passing attempt while defending the lead and cannoned into the barriers at turn one.

2016 - Long Beach Grand Prix

After the two longest races on the calendar, round three at Long Beach provided the shortest encounter of the year with just 100 minutes of race action around the Californian street circuit.

Unsurprisingly, it also made for one of the most frenetic races of the year, with the result – Porsche’s first victory of the year only decided in the final few laps when Makowiecki missed his braking point and punted into the back of the no. 4 Corvette.

Spinning the erstwhile leader (and forcing the no. 912 car into retirement), the Frenchman’s mistake allowed teammate Tandy in the no. 911 RSR into a lead the British ace duly converted to victory.

2016 - IMSA - Laguna Seca

Round four at Laguna Seca saw Bamber and Makowiecki take another third place finish for the no. 912 crew however, the Pilet and Tandy’s hopes were dashed early on when one of the Corvettes hit the back of the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, knocking the car down the order. The Anglo-French duo would eventually finish ninth.

After four races, Porsche was just three points behind Chevrolet in the manufacturer standings, while Bamber and Makowiecki sat similarly placed in the drivers’ table (albeit 12 points off the top thanks to their Long Beach DNF).

If Weissach was still in with a chance of retaining its titles now, the same couldn’t be said after the conclusion of the next four races: Watkins Glen, Mosport, Lime Rock and Road America (circuits that, in 2015, saw Porsche North America Racing kick-start their championship challenge).

2016 - IMSA - Watkins Glen

Both factory 911 RSRs failed to make the podium through the middle of the season, hamstrung by changes to the Balance of Performance and a general lack of pace compared to the newly developed Fords and Ferraris.

At ‘The Glen’ the two RSRs brought up the tail end of the GTLM pack, improving slightly during the trip north of the border to Mosport. Lime Rock Park – a new addition to the USCC calendar – was similar fruitless before Bamber and Makowiecki managed to salvage a little bit of honour with fourth at Road America.

It wouldn’t be until round nine at Virginia International Raceway that one of the works Porsche 911 RSRs would be back on the podium, Bamber and Makowiecki battling hard in extreme heat to finish third (while Tandy and Pilet came home sixth after an off-track excursion).

2016 IMSA - Circuit of The Americas

With some momentum behind them, Porsche enjoyed its most competitive outing of the year at Circuit of the Americas. The two works 911 RSRs were the class of the field during the Lone Star Le Mans event, taking a much-needed one-two.

Tandy and Pilet in the no. 911 car were originally on course for victory but, with a slim chance of retaining their trio of titles, Porsche choose to swap the two cars’ positions, handing the lead to the no. 912 RSR, a move that gave Bamber his first USCC win.

At Petit Le Mans neither Porsche 911 was ever really in contention though. The no. 911 car again suffered with reliability issues while Bamber and Makowiecki struggled for pace on the way to fifth, a result that saw Porsche finish third in the final manufacturers’ standings.

For more of the latest Porsche 911 race new and reports, check out our dedicated motorsport section now.

2016 IMSA - Petit Le Mans

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2016 WeatherTech USCC: Petit Le Mans race report

After four seasons of competition, the Porsche 911 RSR bowed out of factory action this weekend, with the US works squad, Porsche North America Racing unable to give the 991-generation racer a successful send-off at the season closing Petit Le Mans.

The final round of the 2016 WeatherTech United SportsCar Championship saw the IMSA circus once again arrive at Road Atlanta near Braselton, Georgia for a ten-hour spectacular into the night.

One year on from a sensational overall triumph at Petit Le Mans, the factory Porsche 911 RSRs were unable to repeat their 2015 success as the no. 912 machine of Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki and Michael Christensen came home fifth after the sister no. 911 RSR was knocked out of podium contention.

2016 IMSA - Petit Le Mans

The four free practice sessions at Road Atlanta suggested it would be a difficult final weekend for the factory Porsche 911 RSRs as both cars struggled in the bottom half of the GTLM time sheets, unable to match the pace-setting Ferrari 488 GTB and the championship-leading Corvette C7.Rs.

Qualifying only compounded Porsche’s woes, the no. 912 entry setting the eighth fastest time while the no. 912 machine could only bring up the rear of the class in tenth, 0.7 seconds away from the pole-sitting Ford GT in a tight session where the top four were separated by under two tenths of a second.

As has become common this season, the two Porsche 911 RSRs showed better in the race, working their way into fifth and sixth by the end of the third hour, the no. 912 entry (an outside bet for retaining Porsche’s trio of IMSA titles) ahead of the no. 911 RSR.

porsche-911-rsr-plm-2016

In the fourth hour, the no. 912 Porsche 911 RSR was delayed by a 60-second penalty for the crew working on the car in a closed pitlane however, by the fifth hour, slick pitwork and strategy for the no. 911 had moved Richard Lietz into third, just a few seconds behind the leading Ferrari and Corvette.

An extended safety car period to repair the track at Turn Three kept last year’s GTLM champions in the podium places when disaster struck in the sixth hour. Exiting the pits, Nick Tandy (back at the wheel) was nerfed into the barriers by a prototype, the no. 911 entry suffering heavy rear end damage.

The sister car’s demise elevated the no. 912 Porsche 911 RSR into sixth as the crew fought back from their earlier penalty. However, combined with the 911’s lack of pace, Bamber, Makowiecki and Christensen would only be able to rise as high as fifth as the no. 4 Corvette C7.R finished third to secure all three USCC titles.

2016 IMSA - Petit Le Mans

Behind the pit wall though, the Porsche North America Racing squad was working frantically to repair the no. 911, loathe to let one of the 991 RSRs finish its last factory race on the sidelines.

After an incredible effort repairing the suspension, replacing the rear windscreen and fitting new bodywork (among a litany of other jobs), Tandy was able to fire up the no. 911 entry once darkness had enveloped Road Atlanta, the Briton completing the final few laps of the race and taking the chequered flag.

“It is simply part of the sporting spirit to repair the car,” explained Porsche’s Head of GT Motorsport, Marco Ujhasi. “The season was not easy for us but we’ll be back next year with our new car to take up the challenge.”

For all the latest Porsche race news and reports, make sure you check out our dedicated motorsport section now.

2016 IMSA - Petit Le Mans

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2016 WeatherTech USCC: Petit Le Mans preview

It seems only moments ago that the 2016 United SportsCar Championship was kicking off at the 24 Hours of Daytona however, this weekend, the year’s action reaches its climax at Petit Le Mans.

The traditional finale to the US sports car season, the ten-hour race around the Road Atlanta circuit in Braselton, Georgia marks the final race for the current generation Porsche 911 RSR in the hands of the factory squad, Porsche North America Racing.

From next season, the Type 991 RSR will be replaced in the USCC’s GTLM class by a new 911-shaped racer (expected to the feature a turbocharged flat six engine and a mid-engined drivetrain layout).

2016-petit-le-mans-porsche-pits

Since its introduction to international GT competition in 2013, the 991 RSR has been one of Porsche’s most successful racing cars ever, wracking up 21 wins, including ten triumphs in the WeatherTech USCC.

Perhaps the most extraordinary of those victories came last year at Petit Le Mans where Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz guided the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR to the top step of the overall podium as atrocious conditions saw the ten-hour spectacular shortened to just eight hours of racing.

Aided by their superior Michelin tyres, the no. 911 RSR was consistently faster than the prototype machinery on the sodden Road Atlanta tarmac, Tandy taking the lead out on track before the red flags brought proceedings to a premature end.

2015 - United SportsCar Championship - Petit Le Mans

The win ensured that Porsche not only defended its 2014 USCC manufacturers’ title but it also secured the drivers’ and teams’ titles for Pilet and the no. 911 crew respectively. 2016, however, has not been as successful for the factory Porsche squad with a single win for the no. 911 and no. 912 cars apiece.

Despite this, the latter – with Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki (joined by Michael Christensen for Petit Le Mans) – still has an outside chance of retaining the titles Porsche fought so hard to secure last season.

In the drivers’ and teams’ standings, Bamber and Makowiecki sit 28 points behind the leading no. 4 Corvette crew, with a total of 36 points to play for around the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta track this weekend.

2016-porsche-cota

In the North American Endurance Cup (contested across the Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans rounds), Porsche’s chance of success is even greater though, sitting just a single point from the top of the table in the drivers’ and teams’ categories, and tied with Chevrolet for manufacturers’ honours.

Porsche North America Racing heads into this weekend’s season climax hot off of its second win of the season at COTA where its two Porsche 911 RSRs were the class of the GTLM field across the race distance.

Combined with the ever-present threat of unpredictable weather and Porsche’s previous form at Road Atlanta, more success could well be on the cards. GTLM qualifying gets underway today at 3:55pm EDT with the ten-hour race green-flagged away at 11:10am tomorrow morning.

To keep up to date with all the latest Porsche race news and reports, make sure you check out our dedicated motorsport section now.

2016-porsche-plm-practice

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2016 WeatherTech USSC: Lone Star Le Mans race report

After beginning their United SportsCar Championship partnership at the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona, Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki finally took their first IMSA victory at the penultimate round of the 2016 series, the Lone Star Le Mans event.

In the searing heat of Austin, Texas, the Porsche North America Racing 911 RSRs enjoyed their most competitive weekend of the season, locking out the second row in qualifying as Patrick Pilet in the no. 911 car bested his countryman, Makowiecki by under two tenths of a second.

At the start of the two-hour 40-minute race, the factory Porsche pairing immediately found a way passed the pole-sitting Ford GT, Pilet slotting into second behind the lead Ferrari 488 as Makowiecki occupied third.

2016 IMSA - Circuit of The Americas

This trio immediately began gapping the rest of the GTLM field around the 3.43-mile circuit, working out a comfortable advantage over the no. 3 Corvette by the time of the first round of fuel stops.

In the pits, Pilet handed over to Nick Tandy as the Briton’s 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning teammate, Bamber took control of the no. 912 machine, the duo maintaining their podium places behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari.

As the ambient temperature rose to 35 degrees Celsius, the action on track also began to heat up. Just before the hour mark, Tandy made his move on lap 27, taking the lead from Giancarlo Fisichella in the Ferrari as Bamber watched on from a small distance in third.

2016 IMSA - Circuit of The Americas

However, just after the hour mark, Tandy was delayed in traffic as Fisichella fought back aggressively, nerfing the lead Porsche 911 RSR out of the way before stretching out a slender advantage over the chasing duo.

It was the factory Porsche team that would have the last laugh though when an electrical issue forced the Ferrari in for an unscheduled stop with just 25 minutes on the clock, handing the top two positions back to the Weissach cars.

In the intervening period, Bamber had been working on closing the gap to teammate, Tandy, the no. 912 RSR’s race pace improving as the clock ticked down and the Porsche duo assumed control at the head of the field.

2016 IMSA - Circuit of The Americas

With a chance of defending its USCC titles still a slim possibility, Porsche chose to swap its two cars, Tandy slowing to allow Bamber into a lead the Kiwi would convert into his first Stateside victory.

Behind, the no. 911 car was just able to fend off a resurgent no. 3 Corvette in the final stages to secure a Porsche one-two for the first time since last year’s meeting at VIR.

The result reduces the no. 912 crew’s deficit to the championship-leading no. 4 Corvette from 37 to 28 points, with a total of 36 available at the final race of the year, Petit Le Mans, in two weeks’ time.

For all the latest Porsche race news and reports, make sure you check out our dedicated motorsport section now.

porsche-911-cota-victory

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2016 WeatherTech USCC: Road America race report

With five minutes to go, the no. 911 Porsche North America Racing 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy looked to be in the catbird seat during round eight of the 2016 WeatherTech United SportsCar Championship at Road America.

A full-course caution with 12 minutes remaining culminated in a three-lap sprint to decide the podium places, with Tandy behind the wheel of the no. 911 Porsche sitting in third, the car having run up the sharp end of the GTLM field all day at Elkhart Lake.

On the run down to turn five after the restart, Tandy swung to the outside as the leader, the no. 67 Ford GT was tapped from behind by the no. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE, forcing both wide of the apex.

Porsche 911 RSR No 912

Sensing a golden opportunity to give Porsche it’s first win on US soil since April (when Pilet and Tandy triumphed at Long Beach), the Briton cut back to the inside on the exit, looking to get the run on them both up to turn six.

A nudge from the Toni Vilander in the Ferrari was enough to destabilise the Porsche and, when Richard Westbrook in the Ford took a similary heavy-handed sideswipe at Tandy (with more contact made), the no. 911 RSR spun down the order.

The 2015 Le Mans winner was able to get back going but, with the field closed up by the caution period, the no. 911 was only able to finish in seventh, a result that didn’t do justice to the car’s much-improved competitiveness throughout the race (after Pilet had qualified the car on the front row on Saturday).

Porsche 911 RSR Road America pits

The no. 912 sister car of Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki fared little better during the three-lap sprint for the flag (despite running up the front, just behind the no. 911 machine, in the race’s early stages).

Makowiecki restarted from fourth but, having been promoted onto the provisional podium twice (by spins for Tandy and the no. 62 Ferrari respectively), the Frenchman was powerless to stop the no. 4 Corvette (the eventual race winner) and the no. 100 BMW M6 from find a way through.

The result leaves Porsche third on 234 point in the battle for the manufacturers’ crown, 25 points behind leaders, Chevrolet and just three points ahead of BMW ahead of the series’ visit to VIR at the end of the month.

For all the latest Porsche race news and reports, make sure you check out our dedicated motorsport section now.

Porsche 911 RSR Carousel

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