LONG BEACH, Calif. – Porsche’s stellar start to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season continued Saturday afternoon at the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix.
The No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor took the checkered flag at the end of a chaotic 100-minute sprint race one day after the team’s sister car, the No. 911 Porsche of Nick Tandy, scored the GT Le Mans pole at the iconic Long Beach street course.
Bamber made the winning pass with 45 minutes remaining when race-leader Dirk Mueller accidentally hit the pit road speed limiter button in his No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Mueller was able to close the deficit at times throughout the race’s final stint, but was unable to regain the lead.
On the race’s final lap, Mueller’s car stumbled coming out of turn eight and was turned into the wall by the No. 3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and ultimately finished fourth.
“The Ford, I think hit the pit limiter one time and we got around,” said Bamber. “It was just a matter of controlling the race from there and just hoping the parts didn’t fall off, like the exhaust was falling off and a few bits here and there. We were really strong in Sebring and here in this race. It’s really tight between all of the manufacturers and the winner comes down to who makes the least number of mistakes.”
“I think this is very positive for us and for the whole crew,” added Vanthoor. “It was a big boost of extra motivation. I hope it’s the start of a big successful journey now and we can carry it on all the way to Road Atlanta.”
Through three races, Porsche has combined to win two of the three to date and also won all three class poles. Tandy earned the pole at Daytona in addition to Long Beach, and his co-driver Patrick Pilet grabbed the top spot at Sebring. Tandy, Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki also combined to win the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts one race ago.
With the win, Bamber and Vanthoor moved into the GTLM class points lead, 91-87, over their No. 911 Porsche teammates and the defending champion duo of the No. 3 Corvette Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.
The last-lap contact between Mueller and Magnussen moved the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R to second, despite limping to the finish with significant damage to the front bumper. The team’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin made it through the incident to finish third.
Corvette Racing entered the weekend as the winningest IMSA team on the streets of Long Beach with seven victories, including wins each of the past two years. The team now heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on May 5 in search of its elusive 100th career IMSA win more than one year after earning its 99th at Long Beach.
“The end was pretty crazy with the (No.) 66 running out of fuel ahead of me,” said Magnussen. “I thought I was going to get stuck behind him, so I had to get on the throttle full to push him out of the way to get that last half-lap back to the checkered flag. Corvette Racing did a fantastic job setting the car up and thinking about what we needed at the end of the race. I don’t know if we had the best car, but it was close. I’m super happy today. For sure we’d like to get a win soon. We’ve caught up in the championship so it’s a good day.”