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In a gripping and dynamic race under at times very difficult conditions, Le Mans winner Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) scored third place in the GTLM class with the #911rsr fielded by #porsche North America. In the drivers’ championship of the most important sports car series in North America, they moved up the rankings to now sit second. In the manufacturers’ classification, #porsche maintains second position. Patrick Pilet (France), Nick Tandy(Great Britain) and Kévin Estre (France) did not make it to the flag. While running in the lead, a collision resulted in them having to park their #911rsr.
Race had to be stopped for more than two hours
The 64th edition of the oldest and toughest sports car race in the United States will not be forgotten quickly by the 140,000 fans who visited the racetrack. When severe weather with torrential rain, thunder and lightning broke out over the storied race track three hours after the start, the long distance classic in the heart of Florida had to be stopped for more than two hours. In the history of the race, rain has fallen only six times before – most recently in 1997.
Before rain began to flood large stretches of the circuit, the Porsche 911 RSR made the most of the situation. As conditions worsened, Le Mans winners Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber were in their element at the wheel of the winning racer from Weissach, which had received modifications to the aerodynamics to comply with the new regulations. Nick Tandy took over the wheel of the 911 racer from the reigning #imsa GT champion Patrick Pilet, and in deteriorating conditions had moved into the lead after 56 laps.
Earl Bamber battled his way up the order to second place in the number 912 contender with which he had secured third at the season-opening round at Daytona. After 66 laps, the race was red-flagged due to the weather turmoil and the flooded racetrack, and the field was directed back to the pits. At this time, the two #porsche held positions one and two.
The leading #911rsr was out
Even as the track dried, after the enforced interruption the #911rsr turned consistently quick lap times amongst the strong GTLM frontrunners. Kévin Estre, the teammate of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, held the lead after seven hours, with Michael Christensen running in third in the sister car. But shortly afterwards, after 116 laps, the leading #911rsr was out: While fighting for the lead, Kévin Estre had collided with a Corvette in Turn 13, ended up in a tyre barrier and retired.
Michael Christensen inherited the lead spot, but under dry conditions was unable to maintain the lead. Frédéric Makowiecki took the wheel of the #911rsr at the next pit stop while running fourth. The Frenchman quickly made up a position, and Earl Bamber did the rest: Until shortly before the flag he was running in second place, but was ultimately flagged off in third just five seconds off the leader.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of #porsche Motorsport: “We can be very pleased with third place today. The race was tumultuous with many caution phases and a break of more than two hours – it was difficult for everyone. Unfortunately we too were a victim of the rain. We lost our leading #911rsr – that’s a real shame. The race was tough to the finish. To finish five seconds down on the leader is not bad at all. The entire team did everything they could under the most difficult conditions. Our pit stops were good and so was our strategy. But sadly it still wasn’t quite enough in the end.”
Nick Tandy (911 RSR 911): “I drove my whole stint in the rain and we were leading for most of it. Our car was really good. It’s a pity that we couldn’t turn it into a fitting outcome.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR 911): “The start was difficult, but we were able to match the pace of our opponents, especially towards the end of my stint. We changed the tyres at the right point in time, and Nick underlined what might have been possible today with the #911rsr.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR 911): “I battled against the Corvette for the lead spot. We both overtook a GTD vehicle and I was determined to stay in the front. That proved to be the wrong decision at that moment. There was water in the corner on my #racing line and I spotted it too late. I should have braked earlier and let the Corvette pass. I’m sorry for my team, which had worked so hard, and for my teammates who drove fantastically so that I could take the #911rsr out on the track and continue the race in the lead.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR 912): “We did our very best from start to finish and we were rewarded for this. Although we had to start from the back of the field, we improved over the course of the race. We can be proud of this achievement. To climb the podium at Daytona and Sebring is a great way to start this very competitive championship and it opens up our chances for the rest of the season.”
Earl Bamber (911 RSR 912): “Our race was good and we really deserved the podium result. Our #911rsr was very well prepared and the team had developed a great strategy, which enabled us to fight to the flag. Unfortunately our opponents were a little faster, but still it was a good result for #porsche.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR # 912): “Those were twelve exciting hours. None of us made a mistake and the team supported us with a super strategy. Our vehicle had a great setup that worked perfectly on a wet and dry track. In the end it wasn’t quite enough, but we can live with that. The season has only just begun.”
Frederic Makowiecki, Earl Bamber, Michael Christensen (l-r)Race result
1. Gavin/Fässler/Milner (GB/CH/USA) Chevrolet Corvette, 235 laps
2. Auberlen/Spengler/Werner (USA/CDN/D), BMW M6, 235
3. Makowiecki/Bamber/Christensen (F/NZ/DK), #porsche #911rsr, 235
4. Fisichella/Rigon/Vilander (I/I/SF), Ferrari 488, 235
5. Briscoe/Dixon/Westbrook (AUS/USA/GB), Ford GT, 235
6. Edwards/Luhr/Wittmer (USA/D/CH), BMW M6, 235
10. Tandy/Pilet/Estre (GB/F/F), #porsche #911rsr, 116
1. Segal/Nielsen/Balzan (USA/DK/S), Ferrari 488, 229 laps
2. Klingmann/Curtis/Freiberg (D/USA/USA), BMW M6, 229
3. Potter/Seefried/Lally (USA/D/USA), Audi R8, 229
4. Farnbacher/James/Riberas (D/GB/E), #porsche 911 GT3 R, 229
5. McNeil/Keen/Jeannette (USA/USA/USA), #porsche 911 GT3 R, 229
6. Miller/Sellers/Snow (USA/USA/USA), Lamborghini, 229
1. Millner, Fässler, Gavin, Corvette, 72 points
2. Bamber, Christensen, Makowiecki, #porsche, 62
3. Auberlen, Spengler, Werner, BMW, 60
4. Magnussen, Garcia, Rockenfeller, Chevrolet, 56
5. Fisichella, Rigon, Vilander, Ferrari, 55
6. Pier Guidi, Serra, 54
7. Briscoe, Westbrook, Ford, 50
8. Bourdais, Hand, Müller, Ford, 49
9. Estre, Pilet, Tandy, #porsche, 46
1. Chevrolet, 70 points
2. #porsche, 62
3. BMW, 60
4. Ferrari, 58
5. Ford, 52
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