2016 WeatherTech USCC: Petit Le Mans preview
It seems only moments ago that the 2016 United SportsCar Championship was kicking off at the 24 Hours of Daytona however, this weekend, the year’s action reaches its climax at Petit Le Mans.
The traditional finale to the US sports car season, the ten-hour race around the Road Atlanta circuit in Braselton, Georgia marks the final race for the current generation Porsche 911 RSR in the hands of the factory squad, Porsche North America Racing.
From next season, the Type 991 RSR will be replaced in the USCC’s GTLM class by a new 911-shaped racer (expected to the feature a turbocharged flat six engine and a mid-engined drivetrain layout).
Since its introduction to international GT competition in 2013, the 991 RSR has been one of Porsche’s most successful racing cars ever, wracking up 21 wins, including ten triumphs in the WeatherTech USCC.
Perhaps the most extraordinary of those victories came last year at Petit Le Mans where Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz guided the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR to the top step of the overall podium as atrocious conditions saw the ten-hour spectacular shortened to just eight hours of racing.
Aided by their superior Michelin tyres, the no. 911 RSR was consistently faster than the prototype machinery on the sodden Road Atlanta tarmac, Tandy taking the lead out on track before the red flags brought proceedings to a premature end.
The win ensured that Porsche not only defended its 2014 USCC manufacturers’ title but it also secured the drivers’ and teams’ titles for Pilet and the no. 911 crew respectively. 2016, however, has not been as successful for the factory Porsche squad with a single win for the no. 911 and no. 912 cars apiece.
Despite this, the latter – with Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki (joined by Michael Christensen for Petit Le Mans) – still has an outside chance of retaining the titles Porsche fought so hard to secure last season.
In the drivers’ and teams’ standings, Bamber and Makowiecki sit 28 points behind the leading no. 4 Corvette crew, with a total of 36 points to play for around the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta track this weekend.
In the North American Endurance Cup (contested across the Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans rounds), Porsche’s chance of success is even greater though, sitting just a single point from the top of the table in the drivers’ and teams’ categories, and tied with Chevrolet for manufacturers’ honours.
Porsche North America Racing heads into this weekend’s season climax hot off of its second win of the season at COTA where its two Porsche 911 RSRs were the class of the GTLM field across the race distance.
Combined with the ever-present threat of unpredictable weather and Porsche’s previous form at Road Atlanta, more success could well be on the cards. GTLM qualifying gets underway today at 3:55pm EDT with the ten-hour race green-flagged away at 11:10am tomorrow morning.
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