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Porsche sets the pace with victory in VIR’s main event

South Boston News
The 911 Porsche team of Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy, took a convincing win at VIR Sunday. / August 26, 2019
The Porsches set the pace at Virginia International Raceway on Sunday.

The 911 Porsche co-driven by Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy overcame a late race full course caution, posting a convincing win in the IMSA Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.

This GTLM team has been extremely potent all season and now has all but sealed the manufacturer’s crown in IMSA for the 2019 campaign. All Porsche has to do now is score points in the final two races of the season.

Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor took second on the podium in the 912 Porsche, with the No. 3 Corvette pairing of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia third overall in GTLM action.

The field tightened after a messy late crash by Katherine Legge, who had major mechanical failure.

Tandy led the last 19 laps and 47 overall in his stint. Pilet earlier led 28 laps.

The key came at the end, when Tandy had to deal with the late caution. He didn’t want to see it, but had no choice. Bamber seemed excited about the possibility of overtaking the 911 driver, but the eventual race winners were able to hold off the 912.

Tandy admitted the team was worried about tire grip issues at this stage of the race.

At the other end of the spectrum, it was a tough day for the all-female IMSA team. Legge finished 20th in the 21-car field. She completed 74 laps.

Meanwhile, Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen prevailed in the GTD class, and finished ninth overall. Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman were second in that class, and Cooper McNeil and Toni Vilander were third in the GTD class, 11th overall.

“Golly, this has been a long time coming. We have had a great car and a great team, great strategy, everything has gone so well from the performance aspect," Keating, said of his team’s GTD win.

“We have had disastrous luck. Today was almost the exact opposite. We qualified seventh, which I was very disappointed with. This track is not a place I would say is uneasy to pass. But there are big sections of this track where it’s single file.”

Keating was good at staying out of trouble, and later gained track position because of misfortune from the no. 14 driven by Richard Heistand and Jack Hacksworth.

Keating’s team also gambled a bit by pitting early against the no. 86, and then hoping the fuel mileage equation would work out.

It was the first win for Mercedes in more than a year.

Lyn St. James served as grand marshal of the event. St. James has had a notable career in motorsports, including seven trips to the Indianapolis 500 and recognition as the 1992 Indy 500 Rookie of the year.

IMSA and its GT-exclusive format are already announced for a return visit to VIR next August.

Tandy made a bold move along the outside to take second overall at turn 2 early, at 1:37 p.m. The race had started a minute earlier.

A full course caution dropped on lap 11, after a tire fell off the 96 car in the GTD class. A VIR track services crew quickly cleaned up this incident. It was the first full course caution in the IMSA series since the visit to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in early July.

It looked like the Porsches might lull the field to sleep, until Legge’s race machine crashed, two hours and 19 minutes into the action. Legge slammed into the tire wall at turn nine, bending the barrier. The tires were scattered with the force of the crash. Legge was able to get out of the car.

The 911 Porsche, driven by Tandy at the end, earned a 0.737-second margin of victory over teammates, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor.

Tandy averaged 116.807 mph.

The race took two hours and 40 minutes to complete.

A crash came with 21 minutes left in the race. VIR track personnel were able to get the race back underway nine minutes later.

The series moves on to Laguna Seca Sept. 13-15. The series finale will be held Oct. 9-12 at Road Atlanta.

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