If IMSA is not planning to create another set of Balance of Performance adjustments prior to either of the final two events of the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the rivals of Porsche North America in the GT Le Mans division will have to find more pace on their own to challenge for victories and the series title. On Sunday at Virginia International Raceway, the factory pair of 911 RSRs outclassed the competition to finish 1-2 in the Oak Tree Grand Prix, their third victory in succession and in turn securing enough points to vault driver Patrick Pilet to the top of the championship standings.
Pilet and co-driver Nick Tandy started from the pole position in their No. 911 Porsche when the green flag fell on the two hour, forty minute timed event and were seldom challenged by any of the remaining seven GTLM runners in the paddock, in a race that went caution free. Behind them however, Porsche North America had to fight hard to secure the other half of the 1-2 result.
Risi Competizione Ferrari’s Pierre Kaffer got the jump on the No. 912 Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister at the start, with both cars holding sway through the first half of the distance. Once co-drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Earl Bamber took over, the battle for P2 was decided by an aggressive overtake by the New Zealander at the end of the long VIR back straight. The two vehicles made contact during the maneuver, but IMSA elected not to penalize either driver for avoidable contact.
Once through Bamber steadily drove away from the Risi Ferrari to claim the top two positions for the CORE autosport-run operation, while Fisichella and Kaffer settled for best of the rest honors for the second straight event.
While Ferrari once again appeared capable of running with the factory Porsche 911s, BMW and Corvette were left behind and for the second straight race were left to battle each other for placement on the championship points table. After losing points for two straight races, the No. 25 Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW Z4 of Dirk Werner and Bill Auburlen were able to finish ahead of longtime championship leaders Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen of Corvette Racing on Sunday at VIR. Auburlen and Werner came home in fifth, just behind their sister entry of Lucas Luhr and John Edwards in fourth, a team that used a three pit stop strategy to their benefit outside of the other GTLM squads who only pitted twice.
The sixth place finish for Magnussen and Garcia relegates them out of the points lead for the first time all season. The C7-R driving duo had held the top spot since winning the season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona and following it up with a second win at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
In the lower GT Daytona division, Scuderia Corsa got a little closer to TRG-Aston Martin Racing’s series point lead by claiming their first win of 2015, but not without a strong challenge from Paul Miller Racing’s Audi R8 LMS for the first three-quarters of the event. Starting from pole, PMR’s Dion Von Moltke held a tenuous margin on Scuderia Corsa’s Bill Sweedler, a duel that eventually went in favor of the American amateur just prior to the first pit stop for both teams, when the fight shifted to Townsend Bell in the Ferrari and Christopher Haase in the Audi.
After holding tight to Bell for over an hour, the bad luck eventually fell upon Haase, who spun out and was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop after flat spotting his Continental Tires during the error. The move dropped the Audi runners to fifth place at the finish, their third straight finish of fifth or worse.
With the Audi out of the mix, Bell cruised to the checkered flag to secure the victory for himself and Sweedler. The result moves them to second in the championship with two races to go, gaining three points on TRG-Aston Martin Racing’s Christina Nielsen, who alongside Kuno Wittmer quietly finished a solid runner-up Sunday at VIR, their third straight podium finish. Nielsen holds a six point lead in the GTD championship race with two events to go at Circuit of the Americas in Texas and Road Atlanta respectively.
Finishing up the top five in GTD were the Team Seattle Porsche GT America of Mario Farnbacher and Ian James, while Lime Rock Park GTD winners Turner Motorsport came home in fourth with Markus Palttala and Michael Marsal.