It took a bit of convincing to get the Porsche GT Team’s Laurens Vanthoor to believe he’d set the fastest time in GT Le Mans qualifying on Saturday at Road America.
Trundling up pit lane at the end of the session, curious about where he stood among the entries in IMSA’s all-factory WeatherTech SportsCar Championship class, the Belgian was sure his No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR was behind the sister No. 911 machine, if not their several BMW and Corvette rivals. Told he was first in GTLM, Vanthoor responded, “I don’t know how that’s possible,” and used a few moments to let the accomplishment sink in.
Having run fourth in the final practice session prior to qualifying, where he and teammate Earl Bamber were nowhere near the leading Corvette C8.R of Oliver Gavin, Vanthoor’s shock at turning the 0.356s shortfall in the morning to a 0.264s advantage over the mid-engine American supercar in the afternoon—a swing of 0.620s—was more than understandable.
“Yeah, very happy,” he said after climbing from the ‘mid’ rear-engine Porsche. “A bit surprised because in FP2, we were struggling. Wasn’t so happy with the balance and with the brakes, but we managed to find some solutions. We did put on a new set of brakes, which you have to readjust your brake bias according to that; so the first couple of laps I was struggling a bit with locking the tires. But eventually, I found the right numbers and put a good lap together, which was good enough.
“Like I said, a bit surprised because FP2 was difficult, but it shows that we worked well, and that tomorrow is going to be interesting. It’s a track with a lot of tire deg for everyone, so I’m curious to see how strategy is going to play out for everyone. Starting from pole you can get to choose what’s going to happen, so that’s good.”
After three GTLM rounds where BMW and Corvette have visited victory lane, Porsche heads into Sunday’s 2h40m race seeking its first win of the abbreviated 2020 championship.