Set for the top.
The next stop of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship brought the Porsche Customer Racing GT teams to the state of Connecticut and onto the racetrack of Lime Rock Park. The track itself is set in a popular hiking area of the Appalachian mouintains and one of the shortest of the season.
At a pleasant 24 degrees Celsius and a humidity above 50 percent, the GTD and GTD Pro classes entered the seventh race of the season. The starting grid in Lime Rock Park saw Pfaff Motorsports with the starting number nine as the first Porsche on fifth position. The first Porsche 911 GT3 R of the GTD class on the grid was the Kellymoss with Riley #92 on 13th position. Not ideal starting conditions, but in the following two hours and forty minutes proved the spirit of the Customer Racing Teams.
As usual, the race began with a flying start. Seeing as only GT vehicles were permitted for the race, a bulk of only 20 vehicles bundled up behind the safety car. Said safety car went off the track at 06.10 p.m. CEST and the green flag was flown beside the starting line. In the first few curves, the GT vehicles huddled together – in a packed field and obscured by braking clouds the drivers fought for every single spot. The Pfaff Motorsports Porsche just barely escaped the loss of a position and even managed to improve by one spot in the first few minutes – position four for driver Patrick Pilet. The Kellymoss with Riley #92 sadly dropped behind by two spots and came up just a few meters shy of the Project 1 AO Porsche 911 GT3 R #80 shortly after the start.
Within the first 20 minutes, the Porsche Customer Racing Teams were on hot pursuit: Particularly the Wright Motorsports #77 fought hard to move forward from 20th position, while the Kellymoss with Riley #92 steered by mit Alec Udell closed in on the Mercedes AMG ahead of it. Close behind: #80 "Rexy" with PJ Hyett in the cockpit. As the first 20 minutes came to a close, Alan Brynjolfsson in the #77 had managed to bridge the distance to the Acura ahead so much that he could indicate regular passing maneuvers.
Alan Metni in the Kellymoss with Riley #91 had also closed in on his opponent ahead. He even managed to attempt passing in a curve, but the Aston Martin countered his move. For Metni, this should be his last attempt in this phase of the race: Roughly 30 minutes after the start, the first GTD Pro vehicles entered pitlane. Due to the shortness of the racetrack, a pit stop could mean a massive loss of positions. This moved the Pfaff Motorsports #9 car into the lead. The following hours would prove if the late pit stop strategy would prove to be right.
The GTD class also was affected by changes: The Kellymoss with Riley #92 car came in on tenth position, with the sister car #91 of the same team following on 12th spot, and directly behind it the Project 1 AO number 80. The Wright Motorsports #77 had moved up to 15th position and remained a threat to the Acura #66 ahead of it.
Setbacks, not obstacles.
The battle for 12th position was the undoing of the #91 Porsche from Kellymoss with Riley: Alan Metni tried to pass the Aston Martin ahead of him on the inner curve. Behind him: Patrick Pilet in the Pfaff Motorsports car #9. The three vehicles raced closely around a tight corner, the Aston Martin attempted to counter. This is when the front of the number 91 came in contact with the rear of the Aston Martin. That was enough to send both vehicles off the track into the grassy run-off area. Unlike the Aston Martin, Metni was able to continue driving, but his hood blocked his view during the ensuing safety car period. Patrick Pilet lost his time advantage.
The safety car phase was utilized by a few to take their pit stops. Among them: Pfaff Motorsports, who switched in Klaus Bachler. Meanwhile, Julien Andlauer entered the #92, Sebastian Priaulx switched into the cockpit of "Rexy", and in #77, Trent Hindman took up the wheel. The yellow phase also allowed a look at the current placings: Ten minutes after the final two hours began, number nine was on fifth of the overall ranking, #77 on 14th spot, followed by #92, which in turn was hunted by the #80. The Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R #91 was removed from the race due to the previous accident.
Particularly the Porsche trio of Kellymoss with Riley #92, Wright Motorsports #77 and #80 of AO Racing were tightly packed and beside hunting each other, they were tailing a McLaren. 15 minutes after the final two hours had begun, Julien Andlauer in the Porsche 911 GT3 R #92 and Trent Hinman in #77 passed the McLaren. This placed them on positions eight and nine of the GTD class. Rexy also followed a few rounds later, landing on position 10.
One and a half hours before the race was due to end, the grid had settled again. In the meantime, Klaus Bachler was back on fourth position for Pfaff Motorsports in the GTD Pro class, while Julien Andlauer (Kellymoss with Riley #92), Trent Hindman (Wright Motorsports #77) and Sebastian Priaulx (Project 1 AO #80) were on positions six through eight in the GTD class. Andlauer and Hindman would also catch up to the Lexus ahead of them in the following minutes, and secure places five and six of their class.
In the GTD Pro class, the distance between the spots two through four was shrinking, allowing Klaus Bachler in the Pfaff Motorsports #9 to close in on the battle for second position. Julien Andlauer, on the other hand, had moved up to third spot in the GTD class before the final pit stop phase begun.
This is this is my first IMSA podium. We had a little bit of a dry spell, but we've broken that.
Thrilling down to the last second.
The pit phase had not concluded fully, when another Full Course Yellow phase was announced. At that moment, Klaus Bachler was on third place of the overall ranking, Julien Andlauer on sixth, Trent Hindman on seventh position and Sebastian Priaulx on 15th. With that, Andlauer and Hindman were on second and third position of the GTD class.
With just 48 minutes remaining in the race, the race was restarted. During the restart, the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R #9 displayed a loosened fender on the right side. Still, he managed to drive the fastest lap while the fender fluttered in the wind.
A battle for the podium broke out in the GTD class in the final 40 minutes: the top three were driving close to each other. In the midst of it: the Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R #92 on second position and the Wright Motorsports vehicle #77 close behind it. The GTD Pro class was also embroiled in a battle for milliseconds. Klaus Bachler, despite his loose fender, reduced the distance to the car on second position with every lap, and in turn, the second-placed car displayed just as little distance to the car on first position.
In the final rounds of the race, Pfaff Motorsports was pursuing a better spot on the GTD Pro podium, while Kellymoss with Riley and Wright Motorsports attempted to do the same in the GTD class, aiming to improve their second and third spot.
But it became a contest for the remaining robustness of the tires, and the driving skills of the drivers. In the end, the distances between the vehicles remained constant and the Porsche GT Customer Racing Teams completed the race on the following positions:
3. Pfaff Motorsports #9
6. Kellymoss with Riley #92 (2nd position GTD class)
7. Wright Motorsports #77 (3rd position GTD class)
11. Project 1 AO #80 (7th position GTD class)
19. Kellymoss with Riley #91 (retired)
The next race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will unite the GT vehicles with the GTP class in Elkhart Lake on August 6.