• Where We Left Off. Porsche and IMSA Look Toward Sebring for Third WeatherTech Round. • Real Life. Porsche Takes Five Wins in SRO America Return to Racing at VIR. • Hollywood Porsche. Actor Fassbender to Contest ELMS in Porsche. • Porsche Podcast. Formula E Factory Drivers Discuss Upcoming Return to Racing. Super
Event Story Lines.
Where We Left Off. Porsche and IMSA Look Toward Sebring for Third WeatherTech Round.
In March, the Porsche GT Team, the North American factory racing arm for the German marque, and privateer Porsche entrants were ready to “respect the bumps” of Sebring International Raceway at the annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. However, the COVID-19 crisis struck and forced the teams to remain locked-down and wondering what was next. What was next was a five-month wait for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to return to Florida for its second race of the 2020 season – rescheduled to Daytona Beach, Florida where the sport had also opened its season in January. On July 18, three Porsche-built race cars will finally get their chance to unload at the 3.74-mile, 17-turn facility and challenge for multiple class victories. The Grand Prix of Sebring is a two-hour, 40-minute race taking the green flag at 5:35 p.m. ET/2:35 p.m. PT on Saturday. The 68th Running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring has been rescheduled as the WeatherTech Championship season-finale on November 12 – 14.
Currently leading the GTLM class Drivers and Team Championship standings, the No. 912 driver pairing of Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) will attempt to move one position ahead of where they have placed the ca. 515 HP Porsche 911 RSR-19 race car in the last two events – up to first-place after second-place runs in both the 24-Hour and two-hour, 40-minute races at Daytona. The No. 911 Porsche GT Team factory entry shared by Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) currently sits fourth in the Driver and Team competitions. Tandy has won the last two IMSA WeatherTech events at Sebring – both at the 12 Hours – and he and “Fred Mako” have finished in third-place in both events held this season. A win by either pairing would move the sports car maker from third-place in the Manufacturers’ standings into the championship lead. Porsche currently trails BMW and Chevrolet by one marker.
Wright Motorsports will continue to carry the Porsche banner in the customer-focused GTD category. The John Wright-lead organization is looking for a victory with Porsche factory driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) and Ryan Hardwick (Atlanta, Georgia).
Practice for the third race of the North American sports car season begins Friday, July 17. A second practice and a qualifying session will build the intensity throughout the day to Saturday evening’s green flag. The race will be shown live on NBCSN beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET/ 2:30 p.m. PT
Real Life. Porsche Takes Five Wins in SRO America Return to Racing at VIR.
SRO America returned to real life racing at a real serious race track over the weekend. There was no easing back into competition for the top sprint format GT race series in North America as the teams of its four major championship – GT World Challenge America, GT Sports Club (GTSC), GT4 America Sprint and GT4 America SprintX – took on the venerable VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) with ten races between July 10 – 12. Porsche privateer entrants added five victories to the German marque’s lifetime worldwide total of over 30,000 wins. In total, Porsche teams had 19 podium finishes during the visit to the Alton, Virginia facility.
The weekend – the first event for SRO since the early March races at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas – saw the series debut of the GT Sports Club (GTSC) class for GT2-spec race cars. Porsche added another footnote in the sport’s history books as the inaugural winner of the new championship with the 911 GT2 RS Clubsport, a race car directly based on the road-going Porsche 911 GT2. Not only did the sports car manufacturer win both races (held Saturday, July 11 and Sunday July 12) with 311RS Motorsport driver Ryan Gates taking the top step of the podium both days, but also swept the podium with the 700 HP (before series controlled balance of performance restrictions) debutant. The wins came not only in the series’ and the car’s premiere but also in the team’s first weekend of SRO competition. Additionally, Porsche swept the podium in both 40-minute races which ran within the 90-minute GT World Challenge America events.
In the headliner events – 90-minute, two-driver format GT World Challenge America races for GT3-spec machines – Wright Motorsports drivers Fred Poordad and Max Root drove the No. 20 Porsche 911 GT3 R to the second step of the podium both rounds. Each day Root set the race’s fastest race lap.
The GT4-spec Sprint and SprintX championships accounted for six races over the weekend with two rounds acting as replacements for events (St. Petersburg and Long Beach) canceled as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. The mid-engine Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, which shares 80 percent of its components with its road-going sibling, continued where it left off at COTA. In the 60-minute, two-driver per car SprintX races, Porsche scored a total of ten podium finishes including two victories. Twin class wins for NOLASPORT in Sunday’s Race Three echoed the team’s complete lockout of the top-step of the podium in Austin. In the Pro/Am class, Matt Travis and Jason Hart drove the No. 47 machine to victory lane while the win in the all amateur class known as “Am” went to Zac Anderson and Sean Gibbons in the No. 7 out of New Orleans.
Spencer Pumpelly continued to lead the way early in the GT4 America Sprint championship piloting the No. 66 TRG Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport to the win in Race One. The veteran Porsche racer took second-place overall in the final two races of the weekend.
Ryan Gates, Driver, No. 311 311RS Motorsport Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport.
“We would like to thank Porsche Motorsport for their support during our team’s winning debut at VIR with SRO GT Sports Club America. Porsche’s reliable 911 GT2 RS Clubsport platform coupled with on-site factory support was key to executing our plan of attack for the weekend. It was great to see the passion and enthusiasm we have for Porsche shared by the folks from PMNA at the track - Mike, Jeremy, Chris and Derrick.”
Zac Anderson, Driver, No. 7 NOLASPORT Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
“This weekend was a roller coaster. Friday’s Race One was going to plan for the number seven Porsche until deep into the back straightaway I felt and heard the first signs of fuel starvation. Thankfully, we were at the top of the roller coaster so I could roll across the line P3. Big disappointment with a win seconds away. Race Two, P2 would have to do. My stint was sandwiched between an ABS-less Kozarov backing me into the TRG 718 of Derek Deboer. It was hot and spicy all race! Race Three came together well from all angles. Good pace, a good driver change and good communication. We climbed a step of the podium each day we raced at VIR, and to me that’s such a cool first racing experience to have had here. Thanks to Jason Hart and Matt Travis for being such strong teammates to sponge from. My thanks to my teammate Sean Gibbons and Sam Owens from OGH Motorsports for trusting me in their machinery. Hope to see y’all at Sonoma!”
Hollywood Porsche. Actor Fassbender to Contest ELMS in Porsche.
Later this month, motion picture star Michael Fassbender will make his debut in a major sports car racing championship when he premiers in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS). The German-Irish actor will campaign a 2017-spec Porsche 911 RSR race car fielded by veteran Porsche-entrant Proton Competition beginning with an official ELMS test session at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, Var, near Marseille, France, on July 15. The star of movies such as the X-Men franchise and 12 Years a Slave, will make his first race start in the full-competition Porsche 911 RSR machine on July 19.
Supported by Porsche, Fassbender takes the next step on his personal “Road to Le Mans” journey in this year’s endurance series.
Fassbender took his first steps toward a racing career at the Porsche Driving Experience. The entry-level program for racing enthusiasts includes training sessions with a 485 hp Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car. After completing this, the native of Heidelberg, Germany advanced to the Porsche Racing Experience. Fassbender received full-service support, which was specifically adapted to his requirements with three consecutive levels and races as part of the Porsche Sports Cup in Europe.
In 2019, the 42-year-old completed Level 2 of the Porsche training program. For this, Fassbender contested an entire season of the Porsche Sports Cup Deutschland. The German one-make series – similar to the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama – uses the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car to showcase driver talent. Fans can follow his journey in the YouTube series “Road to Le Mans” at www.porsche.com/roadtolemans.
With the switch to the European Le Mans Series, Fassbender is now advancing to the next level in his motorsport career. The popular actor is doing it with a team that has charted the waters before, Proton Competition. Team owner Christian Ried and the German-based program have worked with another notable Hollywood celebrity and Porsche racing enthusiast: Patrick Dempsey at Le Mans. Porsche also shares this step towards Le Mans and will release the second season of the “Road to Le Mans” documentary at the end of 2020.
Fassbender shares the cockpit of the No. 93 Porsche 911 RSR with Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz (Austria) and Felipe Fernández Laser (Germany).
The 2020 season of the European Le Mans Series is comprised of six events, starting with the test day at Paul Ricard (France), followed by the first race at the same venue on July 19. Next up is Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on August 9, then Barcelona, Spain (August 29), Monza in Italy (October 11) and the season closes at Portugal’s scenic Portimão circuit on November 1. Each event features a four-hour, multi-driver race. Fassbender competes for Proton Competition in the LM GTE class – the GT category of the long-distance series.
Michael Fassbender, Driver, No. 93 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR.
“Even before I started acting, I had a big dream to go racing. It was clear to me at a young age. My father was an avid driver and he taught me a lot.”
Christian Ried, Owner, Proton Competition.
“It’s always wonderful to be able to tackle new projects. This is a very special one. “It’ll be interesting to see how Michael progresses. As a team, we’re delighted to be able to accompany him on his ‘Road to Le Mans’.”
Richard Lietz, Driver, No. 93 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR.
“Porsche offers vehicles ranging from the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport to the 911 RSR to customers who want to make their dreams come true. Michael Fassbender dreams of Le Mans. It’s exciting to be part of this and I aim to help him a bit in his quest by offering my contribution.”
Porsche Podcast. Formula E Factory Drivers Discuss Upcoming Return to Racing.
The ABB FIA Formula E Championship finale in Berlin, Germany will see the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team report back in early August, after a break from racing of more than five months. In the tenth episode of the “Inside E” podcast, Porsche factory drivers Neel Jani (Switzerland) and André Lotterer (Germany) talk about their excitement over the upcoming six races, all of which will take place on the streets of the German capital. They also look back at the period of the coronavirus lockdown and report on their experiences in the ABB Formula E “Race at Home Challenge” and in the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The two Porsche “works" drivers had very different experiences over the past few months – Lotterer was at his holiday home in France while Jani was with his family in Switzerland. Despite the difficult time overall, they both gained positive experiences. “Usually, we are hardly at home. It was great to have more time in one place and enjoy the little things,” said Lotterer. Jani also described the recent months as a “unique opportunity” to do things that there just isn’t time for usually. “In normal circumstances, we are on the go the whole time and have to prepare for the next races. I was able to spend more time with my family and focus on other projects, such as working in the garden,” said the Swiss driver.
Jani and Lotterer didn’t get bored during the coronavirus lockdown. After the disruption to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the works drivers went from real-world racing to sim racing. In the “Race at Home Challenge”, Formula E collected donations in aid of the child welfare organization UNICEF with the virtual 24-hour race at Le Mans as a further sim racing highlight. “I have great respect for what sim racers achieve in this kind of endurance race from a mental perspective,” said Jani. Lotterer also makes comparisons with the real-world endurance classic. “There are definitely elements that you can use in real-world endurance races. For example, the traffic management,” added the German.
Now, the long wait for the return to the real-world cockpit is over. With six Formula E races in nine days, August 5 – 15, the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team faces a tight sporting schedule. On the track at Berlin-Tempelhof, there will be two double-header races on each of the three different track configurations. “It will be an intensive period, but I am really looking forward to it,” said Jani. “The simulator work is different because we prepare for three track layouts for one venue,” said Lotterer. There is great motivation and excitement for the return.
The Porsche Formula E podcast is in English and is available in the Porsche Newsroom. “Inside E” is also available on other platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.
Porsche GT Team (North America). @PorscheNARacing
Porsche Motorsport – GT Cars. @PorscheRaces
Porsche Racing. @PorscheTeam
Porsche Motorsport North America. @PorscheMotorsportNorthAmerica (Instagram)
Porsche Formula E. @PorscheFormulaE (Twitter)
@porsche.formulae (Instagram) Porsche Newsroom. @PorscheNewsroom (Twitter)
Porsche 99X Electric. #99XElectric
Porsche 911 RSR. #911RSR
Porsche 911 GT3 R. #911GT3R
Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. #911Cup
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. #GT4Clubsport
Porsche 935. #Porsche935
Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport. #GT2RSClubsport
Series Hashtags and Handles.
GT3 Cup Challenge USA. #GT3USA
GT3 Cup Challenge Canada. #GT3Canada
Porsche Sprint Trophy USA West. @PirelliTrophyWestUSA (Instagram)
SRO America @SROAmerica
SRO GT4 America #GT4America
FIA World Endurance Championship. @FIAWEC
Intercontinental GT Challenge. @IntercontGTC
FIA ABB Formula E Championship. @FIAFormulaE
- Image courtesey of Porsche Cars North America