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Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr, Nick Tandy und Mathieu Jaminet posing in front of the Porsche 963 #6.

9/21/2023

Striving to the top

The penultimate race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was due to take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – also known as the Brickyard. For Porsche, the starting conditions at the sprint race were promising, and a good thing too. Indianapolis held great meaning for the Porsche Penske Motorsport Team: The team returns to its test track for the Battle on the Bricks.

After a very successful qualifying, Matt Campbell in the #7 Porsche 961 was first and Mathieu Jaminet in the #6 car was second. For the Customer Racing Teams Proton Competition and JDC-Miller Motorsports, Gianmaria Bruni in the #59 started from ninth position and Tijmen van der Helm in the #5 Porsche 963 started from 10th in the GTP class. Meanwhile, Klaus Bachler in the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R was leading the GTD Pro class. In the GTD class, Kelly-Moss with Riley #91 was in eighth position, closely followed by the pink AO Racing #80 911 GT3 R in ninth. The Wright Motorsport #77 was 12th on the grid and the Kelly-Moss with Riley sister car #92 was 15th.

 

Immediately after the start, the GTP cars were unable to get up to full speed, as the first corner required an adapted speed. However, despite the adjustments, a Cadillac car spun behind the Porsche Penske Motorsport cars, causing a commotion in the class. Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet switched spots. Gianmaria Bruni #59 and Tijmen van der Helm #5 also improved their positions onto positions five and eight, respectively.

 

There was also a small incident in the GTD classes in the first corner – fortunately, the Porsche Customer Racing Teams were spared. After 10 minutes of Full Course Yellow, the track was cleared for racing once more. But there were more consequences from the start of the race due: Klaus Bachler in the Pfaff Motorsports #9 Porsche 911 GT3 R had to serve a drive-through penalty for breaking out of the starting formation before the start. He returned to the track in fifth place in his class.

 

The advantageous starting positions of the two Porsche GTP cars allowed the number six and seven cars to gradually gain a lead on the following cars. Meanwhile, Gianmaria Bruni in the Proton Competition #5 Porsche 963 closed in on the Cadillac ahead of him and immediately took fourth place. His goal was clear: a podium finish. But the Cadillac was not about to just give up their spot. In the following laps of the race, a tense battle between Cadillac and Proton Competition ensued – Gianmaria Bruni was forced to drop back to fifth position.

At the start, as expected, it was close and spectacular. I was sandwiched between our sister car and the Cadillac.

Mathieu JaminetDriver Porsche 963 #6

A rough start

In the number five sister car, Tijmen van der Helm was determined to improve his position for JDC-Miller Racing: He moved up to sixth position on the grid, just behind Gianmaria Bruni.

 

Driving the pink #80 Porsche 911 GT3 R for AO Racing, P.J. Hyett came in on seventh. This was the best position of any Porsche in the GTD classes. In the overall standings, he was even ahead of Klaus Bachler in the GTD Pro sister car. Bachler was 30 seconds behind the fourth-placed vehicle in his class.

 

During 40 minutes of the race, several vehicles went off course. The combination of cold tires and a temperature of 19° Celsius proved to be an unforseen additional opponent on the track. The atmosphere was tense as well – it was clear that the teams were fighting for points at Indianapolis. Several cars made contact with each other and between the vehicle classes.

 

Another Full Course Yellow was hard to avoid in such a rough atmosphere. With about two hours left on the clock, a car spun coming out of the last turn. The classes had to be split again, which could prove to be a threat to the two leading Porsche vehicles once the course was cleared. With no additional cars to make passing maneuvers difficult, the third-placed BMW had a clear run to attack Matt Campbell in the #7 Porsche 963.

The pink Porsche 911 GT3 R #80 from AO Racing on the race track in front of another car.
P.J. Hyett in the pink Porsche 911 GT3 R #80 from AO Racing.

Strong comeback

At the same time, the Porsche Customer Racing Teams were battling it out to advance in the GTD class: Sebastian Priaulx pushed his #80 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R up to fourth and was closing in on the third-placed Mercedes-AMG. Trent Hindman in the #77 Porsche was also moving up the field until he got behind the #91 Kelly-Moss with Riley. While dueling for better positions, he got caught up in the one-on-one fight between Nasr in the #7 Porsche 963 and the #31 Cadillac. There were some close calls for both Porsche vehicles as they made their way through the corners until Felipe Nasr deftly maneuvered his car through Trent Hindman and another GTD driver.

 

The last hour and a half of the race was a thriller for Porsche fans. For 30 minutes, the two Porsche Penske Motorsport cars hunted down the Cadillac in first position – with more or less distance. The traffic on the track made their pursuit difficult. But after several laps, something happened that Felipe Nasr and Nick Tandy had hoped for: The Cadillac #31 in first position made a braking mistake before entering the first turn. Felipe Nasr immediately took advantage of this weakness. He passed the Cadillac on the inside of the turn. Nick Tandy seized the moment of surprise and also moved to a strategically ideal line. In the next turn, the Cadillac also lost the race to the #6 Porsche 963. First and second place for Porsche Penske Motorsport!

Felipe Nasr in his Porsche 963 #7 on track.

While both Porsche Penske Motorsport vehicles tried to pull ahead, they did not miss the chance to race against each other for the better position. Nick Tandy signaled his intentions against his team mate several times.

 

There was another dramatic twist made itself known in the GTD Pro class: The drive-through penalty for the #9 Pfaff Motorsports car at the beginning of the race had dropped the team down to the last spot in the class. Now, Patrick Pilet had brought the 911 GT3 R up to first place. But at a high price: The team had yet to make their final pit stop.

I drove our car to the top, but lost that position later during the pit stop.

Felipe NasrDriver Porsche 963 #7

There were still about 45 minutes left on the clock when the GTP vehicles pulled in for their final pit stop. Felipe Nasr pitted first, followed by Nick Tandy a lap later. Both received a new set of tires. Tandy's pit crew managed to get him back on the track ahead of his teammate Felipe Nasr. Position change between #6 and #7.

 

The race calmed down as the gaps between the individual positions became so large that no duels were imminent. Only in the GTD class there were still some close calls: Trent Hindman had his Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R #77 back in sixth place and he was just three seconds behind the car in fifth. Alec Udell in the #92 Kelly-Moss with Riley was also just two seconds behind the car in seventh. In tenth place, Kay van Berlo drove the second Kelly-Moss with Riley some distance from the ninth-placed car, but he was also being pursued by Sebastian Priaulx in the #80 AO Racing.

 

In the end, there were no changes for the Porsche teams at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Roger Penske proudly congratulated his team on the double podium at the Penske Entertainment Group circuit. In one month's time, the Porsche Penske Motorsport Team and the Porsche Customer Racing teams will compete one final time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: On October 14, the 2023 IMSA season will hold its final race – Petit Le Mans.

 

The results of the Battle on the Bricks in Indianapolis:

 

GTP-Class:

1. Tandy/Jaminet (UK/F), Porsche 963 #6, 113 Laps

2. Campbell/Nasr (AUS/BR), Porsche 963 #7, 113 Laps

3. De Phillippi/Yelloly (USA/UK), BMW #25, 113 Laps

8. Rockenfeller/van der Helm (D/NL), Porsche 963 #5, 113 Laps

9. Bruni/Tincknell (I/UK), Porsche 963 #59, 113 Laps

 

GTD-Pro-Class:

1. Gounon/Juncadella (F/E), Mercedes-AMG #79, 104 Laps

2. Gunn/Riberas (UK/E), Aston Martin #23, 104 Laps

3. Hawksworth/Barnicoat (UK/UK), Lexus #14, 104 Laps

4. Bachler/Pilet (A/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 104 Laps

 

GTD-Class:

1. Ward/Ellis (USA/D), Mercedes-AMG #57, 104 Laps

2. Goikhberg/Spinelli (CDN/I), Lamborghini #78, 104 Laps

3. Sellers/Snow (USA/USA), BMW #1, 104 Laps

6. Brynjolfsson/Hindman (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #77, 104 Laps

8. Brule/Udell (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #92, 104 Laps

10. Hyett/Priaulx (USA/UK), Porsche 911 GT3 R #80, 104 Laps

11. Metni/van Berlo (USA/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #91, 103 Laps

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