MONTEREY, Calif. – The Porsche GT Team is not going gently into that good night, but the No. 3 Corvette won’t be denied.
For the second straight IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, Porsche claimed victory in the GT Le Mans class. On Sunday, it was the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19 with drivers Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber. Yet by finishing second in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia wrapped up the driver and team championships with a race remaining.
Ending a victory drought of 483 days, 2019 GTLM champions Vanthoor and Bamber took class honors at the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship on WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s 2.238-mile permanent road course. The triumph followed one two weeks ago at Motul Petit Le Mans by No. 911 Porsche teammates Nick Tandy, Fred Makowiecki and Matt Campbell.
Bamber held off Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette by 0.981 seconds at the finish, concluding a close battle over the final 19 minutes after the only full-course caution during the 2-hour, 40-minute race. The winning drivers were quick to credit their pit crew for lightning-quick stops, including the first one that vaulted the No. 912 ahead of the pole-sitting No. 3.
“Today we didn’t have the quickest car but it was definitely one of those tremendous team victories,” Bamber said after winning for the first time since July 2019 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“Almost everybody did a three-stop in our class,” added Vanthoor, who started the race but turned over the wheel to Bamber on the second stop. “To make that work, the guys doing the tire changing have to be quick because the refueling time is short. And they did every time perfectly. That was, I think, the key to the race.”
With the runner-up finish, however, Garcia and Taylor pushed their points lead to 35 over No. 4 Corvette teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, who initially finished third on Sunday but were moved to last in GTLM (sixth place) after a rear diffuser height infraction was discovered in post-race technical inspection. Garcia now has won five IMSA championships, three in the past four years, while Taylor collected his third title.
The No. 911 Porsche made a two-stop strategy work to finish in third place on Sunday – the third time this season that both Porsches have reached the podium. Bamber, Vanthoor and Makowiecki also combined a week ago to win the 24 Hours of Spa, in another Porsche. With the manufacturer set to exit WeatherTech Championship GTLM competition after this season, the sudden turnaround has provided some solace.
“We had such a great year last year and then no wins and you struggle (this year), it starts to be a bit depressing,” Vanthoor admitted. “To get some success back and see the joy in all the mechanics and the crew really means a lot. It’s an important victory. I think everybody will sleep a bit better at night.”
In the GT Daytona race on Sunday, No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 drivers Matt McMurry and Mario Farnbacher reversed a troubling trend, dominating the day to win at WeatherTech Raceway and reclaim the season-long championship lead.
Pacing the class for nearly the entire race, Farnbacher brought the No. 86 Acura home more than 10 seconds ahead of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.
“We made some changes to the car (after qualifying) that made some really, really big improvements, and handling the tire degradation was the other thing,” McMurry said. “We were able to keep much more consistent lap times over the whole stint, so I think that was big for us winning today.”
McMurry won the Motul Pole Award in qualifying Sunday morning and built a lead of more than six seconds before turning the car over to Farnbacher for the final two hours. Bill Auberlen closed the No. 96 BMW to within the back of Farnbacher’s bumper on a couple occasions, but the German never wavered and drove away on the final restart.
After finishing fifth, seventh and 10th in the past three races, the victory was a welcomed change.
“We had three frustrating races, so coming back like this means a lot,” Farnbacher said. “We never were gone but it put a lot of pressure on us, to say the least. I said to Matt and my team guys that we need to execute this weekend; we need to perform well. And we did.”
Farnbacher is looking to repeat as the GTD driving champion. With the win, he and McMurry – who won the 2019 WeatherTech Championship LMP2 title – recaptured the lead by seven points over No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche drivers Patrick Long and Ryan Hardwick, who finished sixth on Sunday.
Aaron Telitz entered the day as the GTD points leader, but an 11th-place finish in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 on Sunday dropped him into third in points, eight behind the leaders. No. 14 co-driver Jack Hawksworth is 10 points back heading to the Sebring finale.
However, the No. 14 squad did wrap up the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup title, which consisted of the seven GTD races two-hours and 40-minutes or shorter. Telitz and Hawksworth took the Sprint Cup drivers’ title, with the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan scoring the team title and Lexus earning the manufacturer title.