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With a GTLM Manufacturers’ Championship on the horizon, and anguishing disappointment from August of 2018 in the rear-view, Porsche’s IMSA GT team attacked Virginia International Raceway on a mission. The objective was clear: either capture the championship as early as it could, or at least build on the cushion between them and Ford and Corvette.
The GT-only race weekend would prove to be much closer and more competitive without the prototypes classes weaving their way through the traffic. VIR is a notoriously unforgiving track, with overtaking space at a premium and any off-track mistake resulting in serious time lost. But in 2018, the Porsche 911 RSR proved its pace and easily could have made a case for overall victory had a fire not burned those chances right up. So for 2019, it was about redemption, and reclaiming the momentum from a record-setting stretch earlier in the season which resulted in five consecutive victories for Porsche GT.
From the outset of the weekend, Porsche looked determined to hold true to that narrative. The 911 RSRs outpaced the competition by a comfortable margin through practices in both the dry and soaking wet, and the #912 took the pole position in qualifying despite running three fewer laps than the runner-up Corvette. Once the weather cleared on Sunday afternoon, there was nothing to deter the Porsche GT team from seizing ultimate control of the weekend.
The opening lap had just about the most excitement in GTLM as there would be, as Nick Tandy usurped position on the front row with the #911 Porsche in the very first corner. Tandy qualified sixth after an off-track incident at Oak Tree corner cost him the end of his qualifying session, but he navigated the outside of Turn 1 past Ford and Corvette to pull up behind Laurens Vanthoor in the #912. And for nearly every lap of the race after that, those two ran in tandem.

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An alternating pit strategy eventually swapped positions for the #911 and #912 on lap 69, but the final duration of the race held little contest. Both 911s set fastest laps in the 1:40s, with no other competitor pacing below 1:41, and Earl Bamber nearly matched his teammate’s qualifying session with a best race lap of 1:40.638, 8 thousandths of a second slower than Vanthoor’s pole-setting time.
Despite running the weekend almost entirely to perfection, the Porsche GT team found some uneasiness as the race wound down. With 20 minutes remaining and a cushion of more than 30 seconds between the Porsches and the third-place Corvette, the #57 Acura NSX took a detour through the esses and into the tire wall, careening back into the grass with most of the front clip sheared off. This brought out a full-course yellow and emergency services were required to repair the barrier to a safe standard. VIR’s team did so expeditiously, returning the race to green-flag action with just under 10 minutes to go. But to Corvette’s advantage, it brought them right back to shouting distance of the 911 RSRs.

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But over the first green-flag lap, Porsche didn’t hesitate to expand that lead once again; and after a handful of clean, brisk laps, the #911 took the checkered flag with more than 3 seconds separating it from the nearest Corvette. The #912 finished in its wake, claiming the top two spots on the podium for Porsche and securing the manufacturers’ championship for the GTLM season.
Now, the battle heads to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the penultimate round, where the Porsche driver teams can compete in good faith for the drivers’ title. Then the IMSA season wraps up at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October where the current generation of 911 RSR will be retired and the new model will hit the circuits of America beginning in January.
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