2014 United SportsCar Championship season review
2014 marked Weissach’s first official foray in US endurance racing with a Porsche 911 for 16 years as the newly-unified United SportsCar Championship (an amalgamation of the previous ALMS and Grand-Am series) proved too tempting to miss.
While most of Europe was still in pre-season testing mode, Porsche North America Racing got their 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship campaign off to the perfect start as January drew to a close.
At the world-famous 24 Hours of Daytona, the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, driven by Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet took a sensational victory in the super-competitive GTLM class.
Pilet, who would join regular drivers Tandy and Lietz for the season’s four longer endurance races, fended off a late challenge from the no. 55 BMW Z4 after a spin in the first hour required the no. 911 crew to work their way back into contention throughout the race’s 24 hours.
With the circus staying in Florida for March’s 12 Hours of Sebring, PNAR continued their auspicious start to the season in the Sunshine State. After half a day’s gruelling racing over the bumpy airfield circuit, Weissach once again emerged on top.
However, this time it was the no. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen, Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister who topped the podium after retiring with an engine failure at Daytona.
While the no. 911 machine was forced out of contention with a mid-race incident, a clever tactical decision from the Porsche team vaulted the no. 912 car from second to first during the final caution period.
After the successes of Daytona and Florida, round three at Long Beach proved a tougher proposition for the two factory RSRs. While the Corvette team showed much improved pace around the Californian streets, the no. 912 and no. 911 Porsches had to settle for fourth and fifth respectively after an uneventful encounter.
Staying in California, the no. 911 Porsche of Tandy and Lietz looked to have returned to the podium at Laguna Seca after an intense late-race battle with the BMW Z4 of points leaders, Bill Auberlen and Andy Priaulx at Mazda Raceway.
Tandy’s driving was judged to have been too aggressive, resulting in a 60-second penalty applied post race, dropping the no. 911 machine to ninth, one place behind the no. 912 sister car of local hero, Long and Christensen.
Round five of the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship saw the series head back to the East coast, where the third major endurance event of the season would see six hours of competitive action around New York State’s iconic Watkins Glen venue.
After their success in the opening two enduros of 2014, Weissach were right to be in a bullish move ahead of the event however, the Corvette and Viper squads continued to dominate, with Tandy and Lietz (joined again by Pilet) leading the Porsche charge in fifth, the first non-US car home.
The Anglo-Austrian duo put on an overtaking masterclass in the opening stages to move from tenth on the grid to sixth however, the Balance of Performance adjustments made after Porsche’s season-opening success continued to stymie the 911s.
The no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR would wind up fifth, just about keeping Tandy and Lietz in contention for the drivers’ and teams’ titles, while Long, Christensen and Bergmeister could only finish eighth after both cars suffered punctures within half an hour of one another.
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (previously known as Mosport) moved the 2014 USCC north of the US border as the series headed into its second half. It was another tough two-hour 45-minute race for Porsche though as the no. 911 came home fifth again, with the no. 912 RSR four places further back.
Porsche’s mid-season struggles had not gone unnoticed by governing body, IMSA. After the trip to Canada, the Porsche 911 RSRs were granted a BoP break to improve the cars’ competitiveness. Unfortunately for Weissach, the changes couldn’t be made in time for round seven at Indianapolis.
Despite this, the Porsches came out fighting at the end of July. After only qualifying ninth, Tandy carved through the field during his opening stint, eventually making his way into the lead as the race entered its second hour.
Lietz continued the good work in the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, continuing the battle with the no. 93 Dodge Viper only to see the team’s genuine hopes of victory go up in smoke with an engine problem ruling them out with just under an hour left to run.
Christensen and Long picked up the baton for Porsche though. Having similarly struggled in qualifying, the no. 912 was proving especially competitive in race trim, eventually taking the chequered flag in third at the Brickyard Grand Prix, their first podium in over four months.
Tandy and Lietz were once again denied a shot at victory in round eight after pitlane contact at the no. 911 duo’s final stop resulted in a 20-second penalty that dropped them to the tail end of the GTLM field.
It was a tough end to a strong performance at Road America, the Porsche North America Racing team’s first race with the new BoP adjustments. Like Indianapolis, qualifying was a struggle but both the no. 911 and no. 912 cars made progress up the order during the race.
After Tandy and Lietz’s misfortune, Long and Christensen got their Porsche 911 RSR as high as third, only to see a lack of straightline speed force them back to fifth during the race’s final 20 minutes.
Thanks to an incredible second-place finish for the Falken Tire 911 RSR at Virginia International Raceway, Porsche left round nine of the Tudor USCC at the head of the manufacturers’ standings.
However, the event at VIR was marred by Lietz’s practice accident, which saw the Austrian break his arm, prematurely ending his America racing season. Tandy would miss qualifying as the no. 911 machine was rebuilt but, despite starting from the rear of the field, soon charged through to second.
The British ace’s bad luck was to continue though as the car ground to a halt with interim co-driver, Christensen at the wheel. The no. 912 entry that the latter shared with Long fared little better, eventually settling for eighth after mid-race contact with the no. 4 Corvette.
The 2014 season’s penultimate race at Circuit of The Americas was once again another near-miss for Porsche. The no. 911 RSR (with Tandy now partnered by Bergmeister) was the pacesetter in Texas all weekend, with the no. 912 machine never far behind.
Come the race, Tandy and Bergmeister worked their way into a healthy lead, aided by a clever strategy and some well-timed caution periods. However, just as the no. 911 crew’s luck looked to be changing, the lead Porsche 911 ground to a halt with just 20 minutes remaining, giving away a certain victory.
The no. 912 team picked up another third place after a race-long battle with the no. 93 Viper, while a third 911 RSR, no. 910 also showed good pace but would eventually finish fifth after penalties hindered the charge of Pilet and fellow Frenchman, Frédéric Makowiecki.
The inaugural USCC season came to a close at Road Atlanta for October’s traditional Petit Le Mans. The Porsche 911s proved fast all weekend, with Tandy taking the no. 911 machine’s first GTLM pole position of the year.
The Briton opened up a strong lead during the opening 60 minutes of the ten-hour event, while the no. 912 RSR of Long, Christensen and Supercup frontrunner, Earl Bamber initially fought it out in the podium positions.
After three hours, the no. 911’s now-traditional bad luck saw it involved in a pitlane crash that would result in serious damage to the front end of the Porsche, leaving Tandy, Pilet and Bergmeister struggling for pace, eventually coming home fifth.
However, the no. 912 was in the thick of the lead battle for the race’s duration, eventually chasing home the similar Porsche 911 RSR of the Falken car after a late-race caution period.
The factory team couldn’t secure a third win of the year, but Falken’s victory helped Porsche to wrap up the 2014 United SportsCar Championship manufacturers’ championship, a remarkable achievement after a testing first season in the USA.
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