Porsche Denied Podium At Sebring
The 65th 12 Hours of Sebring, the second long-distance classic of the IMSA SportsCar Championship, was a closely run affair nearly all the way to the flag. Porsche qualified fourth with its No.912 entry driven by Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor and Richard Lietz, the No.911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner and Frédéric Makowiecki recorded a time just two-tenths of a second slower, yet would start the race in seventh spot.
It was however the No.911 RSR which performed best in the race. Pilet made his way through the GTLM field in notable style. As we’ve seen in the past the 911 performs best come the cooler evening hours, and such was the case again in Florida, with Pilet in particular putting in a spectacular charge to come within striking distance of the leaders. But just 33 minutes before the end of the race, Pilet pitted for an unscheduled pit stop forced upon him due to a tyre defect, just the front left tyre was changed but as he pulled away he drove over an impact wrench.
The pit stop earned the No.911 car a drive-through penalty, destroying Porsche’s hopes of clinching a second podium of the 2017 season. Pilet, Werner and Makowiecki had to settle for a seventh place finish. In the second 911 RSR Estre, Vanthoor and Lietz took the flag in eighth place following an issue with a leaking damper, which cost the car to fall three laps down on the leaders. Head of Porsche Motorsport, Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, commented: “We witnessed a very dramatic race and up until 33 minutes before the end everything was looking good. We had a tough fight for first place with the Corvette but then suffered a slow puncture on the front left tyre. We had to pit and change the tyre and after that we could forget about victory. With our number 912 car, the unplanned pit stop due to a leaking damper cost us three laps and all chances of winning. This car was also running very well.”
Pilet added: “Our plan was to have the best car at the end of the race. This meant that it wasn’t so easy driving during the heat of the day. But once it cooled down we were very clearly the fastest on the track. The team did an excellent job. The strategy had been perfect. After the last pit stop we had a good chance to win. The tyre defect was annoying. It wasn’t a pit crew error, it was just bad luck.”
Richard Lietz said: “Sebring is merciless, but we knew this beforehand. We had a good car and I enjoyed driving here with my teammates. We did our very best but unfortunately we had the problem with the rear left damper. Things like this can happen, particularly on a bumpy circuit like this one. We were well prepared, we did a great deal of testing here in Sebring, but sadly it ultimately wasn’t enough for a better result.”
Round three of the IMSA SportsCar Championship is held on the street circuit of Long Beach on 8 April.