Pfaff captures third place at Petit Le Mans, finishes inaugural season third in IMSA GTD championship
TORONTO-BASED PORSCHE TEAM OVERCOMES ADVERSITY IN IMSA SEASON FINALE, TAKING HONOURS IN CONSTRUCTOR, TEAM AND DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIPS
In a weekend that seemed out of reach for many reasons, Pfaff Motorsports was able to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale to take its first endurance podium of the season at the Motul Petit Le Mans 10-hour enduro.
The result placed the Canadian squad third in the overall GTD championship and helped Porsche secure the same result in the manufacturers’ championship, on top of being instrumental in helping Canadian driver and rookie Zach Robichon and Porsche secure top spot in the GTD Sprint driver and manufacturer titles, locked up at the previous round at Laguna Seca.
Pfaff entered the weekend with Robichon, Porsche Selected Driver Scott Hargrove (CAN), and endurance driver Lars Kern (GER) behind the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 R, which was dressed in a special blue plaid livery in partnership with Life Storage, the team’s title sponsor for the race.
Visiting the legendary Road Atlanta circuit for the first time, the team used the practice sessions to familiarize themselves with the 4.088-km (2.54 mile) track and optimize the setup of the GT3 R ahead of Friday’s qualifying.
The team entered qualifying at the tail end of the charts, but an improved setup and a determined Robichon placed the plaid-liveried Porsche in sixth position ahead of Saturday’s 10-hour race.
When the green flag dropped, Robichon quickly saw himself pushed down to eighth, then 10th by lap four, but a well-executed pit stop by the Pfaff Motorsports crew saw the Canadian vault back into fourth on lap 40. Robichon held steady before handing the car off to Kern on lap 66, and the German continued the pursuit, moving into third until an off-track excursion dropped him to eighth on lap 124. By lap 148, Kern had regained two positions before pitting and handing the car off to Hargrove.
From there the Canadian hustled the plaid Porsche, diving into the pits under caution for a quick fuel stop on lap 192 and jumping to third position just under the halfway point at lap 206.
The Pfaff team continued to race within the top four for the remainder of the race, flying as high as first on an alternate strategy and settling into fourth for the final stint with a podium in sight.
With Hargrove at the wheel, an extended caution period from lap 392 to 398 of 418 seemed to quell the hopes of the rookie team, but as the flag went green, the Porsche Selected driver placed himself in an opportune position as the leading AMG ran out of fuel on the final lap, ultimately giving Pfaff Motorsports its first endurance podium of the season, and its hardest-fought result of the year.
“What an incredible way to end the season,” Hargrove said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team and the race with Zach and Lars. Everyone poured their heart and soul into this result – it was non- stop action for 10 straight hours and to have it come down to the final lap is just incredible.”
“This weekend really showed how we have come together as a team,” Robichon added.
“Never once were we the fastest car on track this weekend, but through the entire race, thanks to some great pit stops and excellent strategy, we never found ourselves in a bad position. Collectively, I think this was our strongest race of the year and I couldn’t be more proud and thankful to each and every member of the team to get us here.”
For Kern, having never been to the Road Atlanta, much of his kudos go to the team as well for their execution and ability to gain positions in the pits.
“Jumping into the race with basically 20 laps under my belt definitely wasn’t easy, but we had some of the best pit stops of the entire grid, so we really, really have to thank the crew for that,” he said. “The car was battered and bruised, but the GT3 R held strong, and we have the entire team and all the drivers to thank for such an incredible performance.”
The third place result was a feather in the cap on a season that exceeded expectations for the team and for team manager Steve Bortolotti as well.
“This was a challenging but very rewarding season for us,” Bortolotti said. ”Porsche Motorsport North America provided incredible support all season long, and the Pfaff Motorsports team members did a great job of staying motivated when times were tough at the beginning of the year, and stayed humble when we found success. A big part of that is our partnership with Castrol as well, who I want to thank for 10 years of partnership and helping us grow through the IMSA ranks.”
Engineer Andrew Marangoni echoed those successes, citing the challenges and determination of the team all season long.
“I think you have to consider the entire 2019 IMSA WeatherTech campaign a massive success for Pfaff Motorsports,” he said. “We not only met the goals we set out for ourselves at the onset of the season, but we surpassed all of them – we won two races back to back, which is not a small feat, and surpassed our goal of fifth overall in the GTD championship with a third place finish. And with the help of Park Place Motorsports, we helped secure a GTD driver and manufacturer sprint championship for [Zach] Robichon and Porsche.”
“The bar is definitely higher and we have our sights set on a lot more next year,” he continued. “We realize the work that entails and how difficult that is – we still have a lot to learn, but ultimately we can’t help but look back on the early part of the year and wonder what could’ve been. Understandably, it’s not going to be easy to repeat the feats we achieved– we’ll need to earn it once again, but with all that we’ve learned, we feel as though we’re well situated for a good run in 2020. Rest assured we’re going to be putting in the work in the offseason to be as prepared as possible to tackle the grueling calendar that’s waiting for us next season.”
Content and images: Pfaff Motorsports / Lenssen Photo