#9 PORSCHE SHOWED PACE ON SATURDAY DESPITE A BALANCE OF PERFORMANCE TWEEK FROM THEIR SEBRING PERFORMANCE
“It was definitely a gutsy weekend – I think that would be the best way to put it. We had a technical issue during qualifying that meant we started from the back. We had great strategy, but an unfortunate yellow at the wrong time just basically ruined our race,” summerized team manager Steve Bortolotti.
Mid-Ohio being the first Sprint Cup championship race of the season, the team certainly had high hopes for the race as for the two Saturday practices, Laurens Vanthoor (1:20.944) and Zach Robichon (1:20.27) placed the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in fourth and second respectively. And this, despite IMSA officials imposing a 20kg weight increase due to the Porsche’s performance at Sebring.
The new qualifying format where the first 15 minutes determines the starting grid and the second 15 minutes is all about points had Zach Robichon place the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche in sixth place with a 1:20.952, four tenths away from pole. Laurens Vanthoor was at the wheel for the points qualifying 15 minutes session and managed a third place finish with a time of 1:20.250 (0.167s from best time).
It is during the post qualifying technical inspection that the weekend took a turn as the car was deemed to have broken the technical regulation for minimum ride height. This meant starting from the rear of the GTD field.
“From the beginning of the weekend we worked really hard to get the car where we wanted. We struggled a little with the setup, but the team did a great job in qualifying. We had a decent car – not perfect, but with the limited track time, we got it in the ballpark,” commented Zach Robichon. “And unfortunately with qualifying, we were hit with that disqualification, which put us at the back and was really just a freak thing – but we knew with the right strategy and execution, we could put up a good fight during the race.”
Robichon was behind the wheel at the green flag on Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute sprint, and decisively vaulted four positions by the second corner. He extended his first stint through fuel and tire management, and also pushed the pace of his competitors, entering the pits in second before handing the GT3 R to Vanthoor at the one-hour, five-minute mark.
The Belgian driver exited the pits in eighth, and continued to chip away at the leaders, until an untimely caution three laps later forced a pit lane closure with the GT3 R still on track, forcing Vanthoor to fight from the back of the pack once again.
When the race returned to green on lap 58, Vanthoor wasted no time pushing through the field, climbing back into sixth and clocking the team’s fastest lap of the race on lap 87, where the team would hold steady before crossing the finish on lap 111.
Zach Robichon’s race start showed good pace: “We had a really good race start and were looking great on strategy. Being able to go long, we were looking at a top-five at the least, but getting caught out by the yellow, the cars that were behind us that we had a fuel advantage on, they were able to pit and we couldn’t, so basically we got stuck at the back of the line again. Larry (Laurens) was able to jump us back up into sixth position, so all in all, given our initial goals and not much going our way, it was really all we could ask for.”
For Laurens Vanthoor the disapointement with what could have been a good result but halted because of a caution that came out at the wrong time is easily felt in his comment: “In the three weekends we’ve raced, I think this is the one we struggled with most. Obviously with the disqualification in qualifying, we had to do something with strategy which was working great until the yellow came out.
“From there, I just tried to make my way back up, but it was just very difficult to find more pace or room to pass. I’m a bit disappointed, I’m not going to lie, but we’ll have a look back and see where we can improve and do better next time.”
Steve Bortolotti praised the work the entire team accomplished during this rather tough weekend: “We did well as a team to dig our heels in, and salvage what we could from what could’ve been a pretty detrimental day in the overall championship. What’s important is we made up some ground on some of our competitors and we’ll continue to fight hard at Watkins Glen.”
Pfaff currently sits fourth in the GTD team and drivers’ championships, just two points out of third and 48 points from first. The team will return to championship action on June 24-26 at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International, where endurance driver Lars Kern (GER) will rejoin the squad for the third of four North American Endurance Championship rounds.
With excerpt form Pfaff Motorsports
Image credit: Pfaff Motorsports/Lenssen Photo
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