Filipe Albuquerque said after winning the Long Beach pole that he couldn’t picture a scenario where anyone would try to do the entire 100-minute race on a single set of tires. But Albuquerque’s perspective was that of a driver who had the field apparently covered on pace. For those that needed to take a different approach to achieving victory, all options were on the table.
With out laps on fresh, cold tires being more treacherous with the GTP cars than they had been with DPi, and apparently especially so at Long Beach, the Porsche Penske Motorsports team saw an opportunity to grab an advantage by trading reduced pace at the end of the race for better lap times in the middle. When the then-leading No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-06 had a long pit stop, the single-tire-set strategy was put into place for both the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s, and it paid off with a victory for Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 6, and a podium for the sister car with Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr.
“We kind of knew from practice and qualifying that our pace was probably not going to win us the race,” said Tandy with a chuckle. “So we came up with lots of options of how we can work strategy. This is the beauty of IMSA, and this is the beauty of these sprint races when there’s one pit stop — there’s lots of options you can play and one of them was to try and negate the tire warm-up issue that many of the teams have had in GTP this year and go with no tires. What we didn’t know is how it was going to end up for the last 40 minutes, because we hadn’t run the tire this long at any point during practice. Nobody had. It was just guesswork, but track position is often key so we had decent track position before we pitted and we rolled the dice.
“We obviously saw what the No. 10 did when they came in and out before us and said, ‘OK, let’s do everything we can to go for the victory. Then it was up to my buddy next to me and what a hell of a job he did.”
Ricky Taylor was coming hard at the end in the No. 10, with tires that had 42 minutes less running on them. The No. 6 was aided by teammate Matt Campbell in the No. 7 Porsche, who had held off Taylor for 15 minutes. But even with time running out, it was going to be a chore for Jaminet to fend off Taylor’s attack; the tires were in pretty bad shape.
“It was really tricky with the rear — no real grip at the end. So I just tried to avoid hitting the wall too many times,” said Jaminet.
Fortunately, when Taylor did attack, it was a long shot. He launched inside from too far back, even as Jaminet carried his braking as late as possible. Taylor couldn’t slow the Acura sufficiently to make the corner and nosed the car into the tire wall. The race ended under yellow, so there was no chance for second-place No. 25 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 of Nick Yelloly and Connor De Phillipi to take advantage of Jaminet’s fading tires. Porsche Penske Motorsports had achieved its first victory of the new GTP era after coming so close at Sebring.
“You always believe you can win,” stated Jaminet. “But if we were realistic, there was not much hope, looking at the pace we had all weekend and looking at the qualifying. But at the end of the day, we put options on the table. We try to react to it and try to be smarter with strategy. This is what IMSA offers, so you need to think about any opportunities and take them when they are in front of you. I think that’s what the team did. And it was a real team effort not only from the pit stand but also car No. 7 with Matty. So, yeah, everybody can be proud of today.”