Porsche scores maiden worldwide win in Long Beach GTP Thriller

Porsche scores maiden worldwide win in Long Beach GTP Thriller

Tandy, Jaminet Hold off Charging No. 10 Acura to Make History for German Marque

The first sprint race of the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship produced intense competition between multiple manufacturers, daring strategy, a thrilling finish and a historical first victory in the category for Porsche Penske Motorsport.

Nick Tandy kept the No. 6 Porsche 963 within striking distance of pole winner Filipe Albuquerque (No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06) in the opening stint of Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Acura made its only scheduled pit stop just over 40 minutes into the 1-hour, 40-minute timed race, changing to a fresh set of Michelin tires for co-driver Ricky Taylor.

The Porsche stopped a lap later, and crucially, did not take on new tires. That left Mathieu Jaminet, who took over for Tandy, and Porsche Penske Motorsport’s No. 7 car shared by Felipe Nasr and Matt Campbell running 1-2. They enjoyed a comfortable cushion but were entering uncharted territory in terms of tire degradation and wear.

Still, it was worth the gamble because the Porsche drivers didn’t believe they had the ability to win the race on pure speed.

“We kind of knew from practice and qualifying that our pace was probably not going to win us a race,” Tandy related. “We wanted to try something different, and one of our options was to try and negate the tire warm-up issue that many teams have had in GTP this year, so we went with no tires.

“What we didn’t know was how the tire was going to end up over the last 40 minutes because nobody had run the tire that long.”

Sure enough, the Porsches began experiencing significant rear tire wear in the closing laps. Campbell cleanly defended second place, at one point losing the left rear wing endplate after contact from Taylor’s Acura. He got a slight reprieve when Taylor brushed the Turn 8 wall with 13 minutes remaining, but Taylor recovered and passed Campbell for second place with nine minutes to go and a seven-second deficit to the leader.

Jaminet got caught in traffic with under three minutes remaining, allowing Taylor to close right up. Time for two dramatic laps.

The Acura drafted the Porsche down Shoreline Drive, drawing level under braking into Turn 1. But Taylor misjudged the maneuver and skidded wide into a tire barrier while third-place runner Connor de Phillippi in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 just squeaked past.

With the No. 10 Acura embedded in the tires, the race ended under caution, Jaminet and Tandy celebrating a monumental first win for the Porsche 963. De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly claimed second place in the No. 25 BMW, with Campbell and Nasr completing the podium third in the No. 7.

The win was the eighth in WeatherTech Championship competition for Jaminet and the 19th for Tandy. It was also the 33rd IMSA triumph for the Penske team, the first since WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in late 2020.

“(Taylor) had fresher tires and after I got caught in traffic with two laps to go, it made sense that he went for it,” Jaminet said. “I braked really late, and I saw him going past. I thought, ‘If he can make it stop, I’ll be impressed.’ I saw him lock up and he went straight in the fence.

“I knew it was going to be very close,” he added. “I just tried to make no mistakes with the traffic. As a team, you need to figure out the opportunities and take what’s there when it’s in front of you. Today was a real team effort, in the pits and with car No. 7. Everybody can be proud today.”

The Porsche strategy worked well because prior to the finish under yellow, the race featured only one other full-course caution, right at the start when Sebastien Bourdais experienced a braking issue just before Turn 1, spun and contacted the outside wall. Yelloly’s BMW tapped Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 into a spin, putting the outside front row qualifier a lap down.

Albuquerque led the first 30 laps before Jaminet took over at the front for the final 43 tours.

Like the No. 10 Acura, the No. 25 BMW executed a four-tire pit stop and De Phillippi looked racy at the end as he closed on Jaminet and Taylor prior to Taylor’s crash. The No. 24 BMW driven by Philipp Eng and Augusto Farfus finished fourth.

“Nick drove a brilliant first stint and it was clear we had the pace,” De Phillippi said after the No. 25 car’s second consecutive runner-up finish. “We ran a little longer than everyone else to see what they were doing with the tires. We were hoping to have a little better tires at the end – which we did. I’m really proud of the team.”

The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N, May 12-14 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

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