The No. 911 led a race-high 48 laps, including the last 20 after Tandy claimed the lead when Richard Westbrook surrendered it to make his final pit stop of the race in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. After that, it came down to teammates Tandy and Bamber to settle it between themselves.
Earl Bamber knew he had only a lap or two to catch and overhaul leader Nick Tandy in the final seven minutes of Sunday afternoon’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar GTLM feature at Virginia International Raceway. Driving the No. 912 Porsche 911 GT, the Englishman suddenly had new life when a full-course caution bunched the field and brought him within sight of Tandy, one of his Porsche teammates.
Until that moment, Bamber had all but abandoned hope of winning the 2-hour, 40-minutes race that was contested in ideal weather conditions. He was several seconds behind, and Tandy was showing no signs of putting a wheel wrong and throwing away the lead in his No. 911 Porsche 911. But a 12-minute caution to replace a dislodged tire barrier – Katherine Legge, uninjured, hit it a ton in Turn 9 – gave Bamber at least a glimmer of hope as the clock ticked down.
“Just like in NASCAR, cautions breed opportunities,” he said after coming home second to Tandy, giving Porsche GT Team a 1-2 finish that virtually clinched the manufacturers’ championship. “They breed opportunities that are good going forward and opportunities that might send you back. But I was two or three seconds behind (under green), so that caution gave me an opportunity to try to make a move. I had one or maybe two laps to get it done.”
But Tandy executed a flawless restart and wasn’t seriously challenged over the final minutes. (The caution ate away almost 12 minutes of race time). He came home 0.737 seconds ahead of Bamber and 3.275 seconds clear of Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C-7. Pole-winner Laurens Vanthoor was credited with second, along with co-driver Bamber and Antonio Garcia was scored third as Magnussen’s co-driver.
“For sure, the (late) caution was a worry,” said Tandy, who co-drove with Patrick Pilet. “When you’re under caution that long, the tires pick up a lot of rubber. It takes a while to get them cleaned off before the restart, then it takes a lap or two (at speed) to really have them right again. Once the rubber went away and I’d run a lap or two, the car was good again.”
As for Bamber’s bittersweet emotion of running well and losing, but helping his manufacturer clinch the championship. (Only an unfathomable set of circumstances at Laguna Seca or Road Atlanta will keep Porsche from winning the title): “You want to beat your teammates maybe even more,” Bamber said. “Really, you want to beat everybody. But, yes, it’s good for the manufacturer.”
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the penultimate round of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, Sept. 15. The two-hour, 40-minute race with all four classes will be televised live on the NBC network beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
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