It was a Porsche 1-2 at Virginia International Raceway on Sunday as Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet showed their intent from the very start of the Michelin GT Challenge. Starting from P6 on the grid, Tandy drove around the outside of turn 1 to slot in behind his pole sitting teammate, Laurens Vanthoor in the sister #912 Porsche 991 RSR.
Tandy and Pilet won at VIR back in 2015 and this win makes it their sixth victory of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season in the GTLM class for the Porsche GT Team, having led for 48 laps with both Porsches combining to lead 86 of the 88 laps completed in the race.
An early full course yellow was called after 20 minutes when the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 left a tyre carcass on the track after contact with the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Despite the early call, most of the cars dived for the pitlane and Tandy gave his seat to co-driver Pilet to start his stint early.
At the restart Pilet showed there were no team orders in the Porsche camp as he challenged and took the lead from Vanthoor. Behind the Porsche duo came the two Corvettes with Jan Magnussen looking to take advantage of any coming-together from the two battling Porsches.
Following the final pitstops, Antonio García in the #3 Corvette lost fourth place to Dirk Müller in the #66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT after being caught out by cold tyres and outbraking himself on the first lap out of the pits. With 45 minutes remaining the Spaniard had to regain the position but almost threw it all away when going for a gap at the top of the Rollercoaster which turned himself and the Ford around. Tom Blomqvist took advantage in the #25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE to take P4 and García’s teammate Tommy Milner was also able to close up on the Ford of Müller.
Race control decided no action was required against García and with no obvious damage to his car he was soon up with Richard Westbrook in the other Ford who found himself mugged by both Corvettes on his out lap. First García passed him and then Tommy Milner steamed past, leaving Westbrook in fifth and Mueller in sixth.
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Tandy took the lead at the final pit stop as Earl Bamber came out of the pits behind the #911 car.
With 20 minutes to go the Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Kathryn Legge left the circuit at the villas following a tyre failure and had a heavy impact into the barriers. There was a delay of 12 minutes as the safety car was brought out whilst the barriers were repaired and the stricken Acura was towed away.
Positions stayed the same in the final sprint to the line with Tandy and Pilet taking the victory ahead of their Porsche teammates of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor and the Corvettes coming home in third and fourth.
In GTD Jeroen Bleekemolen took the victory in the #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. The Dutchman took over from Ben Keating for the second half of the race. Building upon the work done by his teammate to steer the AMG from seventh at the start through the fierce battles that marked the GTD class, Bleekemolen rocketed into the lead with a no-nonsense pass on Mario Farnbacher in the #86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 in the final hour.
#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 pilot Toni Vilander took third place behind the MSR Acura on the final lap getting past the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R of Scott Hargrove. The Porsche squad started from pole and seemed to be emulating the works Porsches’ victory during the first half of the race but turned out to be unable to defend its position at the front of the GTD in the final stages of the race.