Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen came painfully close to turning pole position into a commanding victory at the Northeast Grand Prix, but it was all for naught as the Dane understeered off Lime Rock’s final corner with 12 minutes and 55 seconds left on the clock and presented the overall win to Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Joey Hand on a platter.
Under intense pressure from behind, Magnussen threw his Corvette C7.R down the inside of slower GT Daytona traffic to try and build a gap to Hand’s Ford GT. Despite making the right call, Magnussen carried too much speed at the bottom of the hill while overtaking on the tight inside line. Once he reached the apex leading onto the long front straight, the Corvette tracked out onto the marbles and went for a ride on the grass and dirt as Hand motored by into the lead.
One tiny miscalculation turned the tables for the supercar manufacturer as Hand went from a half-second deficit to an easy 11.431-second lead for the Blue Oval at the checkered flag.
“That win is truly from the whole team,” Hand’s co-driver Dirk Muller told IMSA Radio after the frenetic 2h40m contest. “We worked so much for the race car and made so many changes from qualifying to the race. I’m still shaking.”
Porsche GT Team’s Earl Bamber, charging like a madman heading into the final round of pit stops to draw down the gap to Magnussen, appeared ready to emerge and fight for the win until a wheel gun problem left his Porsche 911 RSR sitting on its air jacks. As precious time was lost seeking a spare gun to affix the right-front tire, Bamber’s hopes of victory were dashed. The Kiwi still went on a tear to salvage the day with the final podium position in GT Le Mans (+13.601s).
The win gave Ford three in a row and its fourth from seven GTLM races this year. Hand and Muller also took over the points lead as IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship heads into its final four events.
While GTLM was filled with intense racing capped by a surprise twist at the end, GTD had something similar to offer, yet didn’t require misfortune to settle its podium. This win was all about rallying from behind when, after a major engine failure on Friday set the back of Paul Miller Racing’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 alight, the tandem of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow put in a staggering performance to charge from fourth on the grid to first in class.
The race got under way with a lengthy caution period for contact between Turner Motorsport’s Bill Auberlen and Meyer Shank Racing’s Lawson Aschenbach on the opening lap. With heavy suspension damage to Auberlen’s BMW M6 GT3 leaving it parked on the track, the field circulated behind the pace car with GTD polesitter Patrick Long in the lead.
Once the race returned to green, Long hit the fast forward button in his Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and left his rivals in the dust. Thirty-five minutes in, Long held an advantage over Jack Hawksworth’s 3GT Racing Lexus RC F that represented almost one-quarter of a lap — 13 seconds. By the 45-minute mark, it was out to 21 seconds, but their fortunes changed when he handed over to his Pro-Am teammate Christina Nielsen, and again when he returned to the car to close the race and tried to make his tires last well beyond their peak.
The Lexus team also starred in the middle portion of the race as Hawksworth stayed in for as long as possible before handing it over to his teammate Mario Farnbacher. Supreme effort by Sellers, however, brought the championship-leading PMR Lamborghini up to second, and he was soon into the lead. Replicating Long’s early pace, the team leader disappeared into the distance before turning the car over to his Pro-Am co-pilot Madison Snow. together, they owned the second half of the contest.
Considering the intensive work by the team to recover from Friday’s fiery adversity, the comfortable win over an impressive Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by John Potter and Andy Lally (+18.614s), and a wild recovery drive from Gunnar Jeannette in third (+36.511s) with the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 he shared with Cooper MacNeil made GTD the spotlight class of the Northeast Grand Prix.
“It’s so hard to find words in moments like this,” Sellers said after scoring PMR’s second victory of the season. “The wins don’t come often, so this is great. There isn’t a strong enough word to describe how today was. We had some issues early in the week, and the guys were able to fix it and get us moving to deliver a win to Paul in front of his home crowd at his home track. To watch Madison drive such a spectacular race is as rewarding. You want to be that guy that crosses the finish line when the checker falls, but today was the first time I was just as happy to see someone else do that. That was just as special. Hopefully we have a few more in us this year.”