The burnout lasted 11.7 seconds, according to Porsche factory driver Nick Tandy.
The Briton, who learned to race on ovals, was the perfect candidate to dip south of Braselton, Georgia, where IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta took place Saturday night, and entertain a crowd waiting for Sunday’s NASCAR race at the Talladega superspeedway to get under way.
Arranged by IMSA co-founder and current NASCAR president Jim France, Tandy and the Porsche GT Team – fresh from sealing the GT Le Mans championship at Petit Le Mans – were invited to give the Porsche 911 RSR, dressed in its one-off throwback Coke livery, a demonstration run around the 2.6-mile oval.
Set in unfamiliar territory for an entry from the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Tandy reveled in the chance to unleash the 4.0-liter flat-six Porsche engine’s 500hp in front of the stock car crowd. After nearly 12 seconds spent torturing Michelin’s wide slicks which produced a fog of white smoke, the Briton savored rowing through the gears on the high banks of Talladega.
“Of course I stuck my hand in the air and said, ‘Yeah, I’ve done a bit of oval track stuff in the past,’” he said of volunteering to drive. “The car came off the race track at 10:00pm on a Saturday evening, we did a quick clean and dust down, changed the tires, popped it in the truck and, and rolled it out the next morning in Talladega.
“It was mega. I grew up watching NASCAR and racing in stock cars racing over here in the UK while watching the American scene on TV. I knew Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott and those boys long before I knew what Le Mans was, or what a Formula 1 car looked like. It was a bit of a fanboy moment for me walking in, and I must admit, I enjoyed walking around the garage and watching the start of the race pretty much as I did driving the actual car around the track. I mean, holy cow, what a facility. It’s an iconic place. It’s an iconic name that goes with NASCAR racing.”
The odd appearance of a Le Mans-winning driver from England in a title-winning sports car from Germany on the holiest of NASCAR grounds drew attention on and off the track.
“We got to run the car around the track a couple of laps just after the command to start the engines for the Cup race,” Tandy said. “We were screaming along with the flat-six [engine] screaming away for all of the people in the stands. It was a good reception, I was quite surprised by the excitement and the amount of people that came over to have a look at what we were doing and look at the car, a lot of the crew from in the NASCAR garages. I’m glad we did it.”
And what about that 11.7-second burnout to start the demo laps? “The engine guys were impressed,” he said.
Once Tandy climbed out of the car, he went and marveled at the form of American racing he’s always wanted to sample.
“It was an eye-opener,” he said. “I’ve been to a few Cup races before, so it’s not the first time I’ve seen cars up close or been at an event, but I was definitely there waiting, watching when the 40 of them fired off from the green. It was cool. I’m glad we did it and if I’m not busy next year on the Sunday, then I’m definitely going down. Hopefully not working, just to have a bit of fun.”