2016 WeatherTech USCC: Lone Star Le Mans race report
After beginning their United SportsCar Championship partnership at the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona, Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki finally took their first IMSA victory at the penultimate round of the 2016 series, the Lone Star Le Mans event.
In the searing heat of Austin, Texas, the Porsche North America Racing 911 RSRs enjoyed their most competitive weekend of the season, locking out the second row in qualifying as Patrick Pilet in the no. 911 car bested his countryman, Makowiecki by under two tenths of a second.
At the start of the two-hour 40-minute race, the factory Porsche pairing immediately found a way passed the pole-sitting Ford GT, Pilet slotting into second behind the lead Ferrari 488 as Makowiecki occupied third.
This trio immediately began gapping the rest of the GTLM field around the 3.43-mile circuit, working out a comfortable advantage over the no. 3 Corvette by the time of the first round of fuel stops.
In the pits, Pilet handed over to Nick Tandy as the Briton’s 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning teammate, Bamber took control of the no. 912 machine, the duo maintaining their podium places behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari.
As the ambient temperature rose to 35 degrees Celsius, the action on track also began to heat up. Just before the hour mark, Tandy made his move on lap 27, taking the lead from Giancarlo Fisichella in the Ferrari as Bamber watched on from a small distance in third.
However, just after the hour mark, Tandy was delayed in traffic as Fisichella fought back aggressively, nerfing the lead Porsche 911 RSR out of the way before stretching out a slender advantage over the chasing duo.
It was the factory Porsche team that would have the last laugh though when an electrical issue forced the Ferrari in for an unscheduled stop with just 25 minutes on the clock, handing the top two positions back to the Weissach cars.
In the intervening period, Bamber had been working on closing the gap to teammate, Tandy, the no. 912 RSR’s race pace improving as the clock ticked down and the Porsche duo assumed control at the head of the field.
With a chance of defending its USCC titles still a slim possibility, Porsche chose to swap its two cars, Tandy slowing to allow Bamber into a lead the Kiwi would convert into his first Stateside victory.
Behind, the no. 911 car was just able to fend off a resurgent no. 3 Corvette in the final stages to secure a Porsche one-two for the first time since last year’s meeting at VIR.
The result reduces the no. 912 crew’s deficit to the championship-leading no. 4 Corvette from 37 to 28 points, with a total of 36 available at the final race of the year, Petit Le Mans, in two weeks’ time.
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