Tudor USCC: Virginia International Raceway race report

Porsche leaves the latest round of the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship – the Oak Tree Grand Prix, held at Virginia International Raceway – at the head of the manufacturers’ standings. However, it was far from a straightforward weekend for the German manufacturer.

The drama started in Saturday morning’s final practice session where Richard Lietz (driving the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR he shares with Porsche North America Racing teammate, Nick Tandy) was fired into the barriers as part of a multi-car accident.

Moments later, he was joined by Jan Magnussen in the no. 3 Corvette C7.R who heavily impacted with the driver’s side of Lietz’s Porsche. The collision required a hospital visit for the Austrian where he was diagnosed with a fractured upper arm.

Richard Lietz (centre) was in good spirits a day after breaking his arm.
Richard Lietz (centre) was in good spirits a day after breaking his arm.

With Lietz ruled out of the meeting, Michael Christensen was drafted in to double up in both the no. 911 and his regular no. 912 entries however, the Porsche North America Racing mechanics were in a race against time to get the a spare chassis readied for Sunday’s race.

While Tandy and no. 911 RSR was forced to miss qualifying, Brian Sellers qualified the Team Falken Porsche 911 RSR in seventh, with Christensen achieving eighth in the no. 912 machine. Tandy would have to start at the rear of the GT-only field, leaving him with around 25 cars between the Briton and the head of the field.

As Sunday’s race got underway, Tandy was adjudged to have jumped the rolling start requiring a trip to the pits to serve a penalty. After that, the Total 911 columnist ran off track while pushing hard to make up the lost time.

Contact early on ruined any hopes Patrick Long or Michael Christensen had for the no. 912 Porsche 911 RSR.
Contact early on ruined any hopes Patrick Long or Michael Christensen had for a good result in the no. 912 Porsche 911 RSR.

Despite the grassy excursion, Tandy’s speed was paying off. The Porsches have looked increasingly competitive since Indianapolis and the RSR’s new found speed was put to good use as Tandy gradually moved into the thick of the lead battle in second.

Unfortunately, after handing over to Christensen (the Dane scheduled to take the chequered flag) the no. 911 car ground to a halt with a terminal engine problem just 19 minutes before the end of the race.

The car’s recovery necessitated a full course caution that played into the hands of the Team Falken Porsche 911 RSR. After a solid opening stint by Sellers, the team had switched to an alternative fuel strategy in the hope of a final caution period.

Nick Tandy worked miracles after a jump-start penalty and an off-track excursion but mechanical problems would eventually rule him and Christensen out.
Nick Tandy worked miracles after a jump-start penalty and an off-track excursion but mechanical problems would eventually rule him and Christensen out.

With Wolf Henzler now at the wheel, there was now no need for fuel conservation, as the Teal-and-blue RSR leapt into the lead, albeit with the Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 of Giancarlo Fisichella bearing down hard.

It looked as if the Falken squad were to taste victory for the first time in 2014 but, on the final lap, Fisichella swept by to snatch the win as Henzler crossed the line just 0.492 seconds in arrears.

The no. 912 Porsche North America Racing entry would eventually be classified eighth in GTLM after contact with the no. 4 Corvette during Patrick Long’s opening stint left the car with a puncture and suspension damage that the team could never truly recover from.

While the tough weekend for PNAR saw Porsche’s factory squad loose ground in the drivers’ and teams’ standings, Falken’s admirable performance, saw Porsche move to the head of a tight manfucturers’ battle ahead of the final two rounds.

A first podium of 2014 for Brian Sellers (left) and Wolf Henzler (right) showed Team Falken is improving.
A first podium of 2014 for Brian Sellers (left) and Wolf Henzler (right) showed Team Falken is improving.

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