GT Le Mans followed a script that was nearly identical to Prototype. Other than missing out on pole to BMW’s No. 24 entry by 0.066s, the Porsche GT Team went 1-2 in all three practices and ran 1-2 for most of the race after quickly overtaking John Edwards pole-sitting BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE.
The Porsche 1-2 would get derailed at the hallway point when the No. 912 shared by Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber lost the No. 911 of Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy as its tail gunner on the final pit stop. GTLM’s story would come from the pits and the incredibly gentle right foot of Vanthoor as the No. 912 stopped on Lap 78 and the Belgian proceeded to nurse the car home.
BMW’s Connor De Phillippi would push his last stop to Lap 97 in the No. 25 and spent the remainder of the race – the checkered flew on Lap 125 – at maximum attack. With Vanthoor working miracles with his fuel reserves, De Phillippi’s prayers weren’t heard as the Porsche’s engine stayed alight to deliver a tension-filled win by 1.6s over the M8 GTE.
“That was an amazing race,” Bamber said. “Since Sebring, we’ve been on a roll. Long Beach got away from us so this is what we deserved. Laurens did a phenomenal job holding off the BMW.”
De Phillippi was drained and displeased to come up short.
“It was a two-hour stint like a two-hour sprint race,” he said of the race he shared with teammate Alexander Sims. “I had an issue with the drink bottle in the cockpit and my left leg cramped up, which I hadn’t experienced before. We’ll keep battling and get that first win soon.”
3GT Racing’s Lexus RC F GT3 duo did a stellar job to lead from the front row and pulled out a comfortable margin over the home state Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 until late in the race when the No. 14 Lexus driven by Dominik Baumann was left to fend for himself against a charging Alvaro Parente in the No. 86 Acura.
With the Portuguese ace stalking the German, Baumann’s lead of more than two seconds was carved down to a scant 0.191s as the Acura cut left and right searching for a way past in corner after corner. Undeterred, the Lexus driver kept his eyes focused on the road ahead and made history for the brand as it captured its first IMSA GTD win since the program’s inception in 2017.
“What a day, what a weekend,” Kyle Marcelli said of the win he shared with Baumann. “Huge thanks to Lexus, huge thanks to 3GT racing. Today was not easy. Dominik had to work for it inside the car.”
For Legge, who handed over the MSR Acura to Parente, the close finish was a welcome surprise after the RC F GT3s spent the first half of the race well ahead of her NSX GT3.
“It was a great race,” she said. “I don’t think we had the speed to win outright. Alvaro did an awesome job; so proud of him and the whole team.”
Hearty crowds, non-stop action, and a big win for the series’ biggest names in Penske and Castroneves should, following the sizable news of IMSA heading to NBC Sports in 2019, launch the WeatherTech Championship into overdrive when it returns at Belle Isle on June 2.