North East Grand Prix on Lime Rock Park between New York and Boston hosted this year’s first GT only weekend in WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
While the prototypes were allowed to go on a summer holiday, the GTLM and GTD classes went out on the short track with laptimes around 50-52 seconds for the two.
Corvette Racing #3 with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia started from Pole Position, ahead of Porsche #912 and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66.
In GTD it was Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 with Christina Nielsen and Patrick Long on Pole Position, ahead of 3GT Racing Lexus #14 and #15. 3GT Racing Lexus #15 normally has David Heinemeier Hansson in the car, but the Dane chose to sit over the weekend, and instead it was Mario Farnbacher who would drive the car alongside Jack Hawksworth.
Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 had opted to not let Jeroen Bleekemolen drive in the qualifying, and instead let Ben Keating start the race. It meant they would start last in the GTD class.
The start was chaotic when Corvette Racing #4 overtook Ford #66 already in the first corner.
Meyer Shank Racing Acura #93 ended up on the grass in the close midfield, as Bill Auberlen in Turner Motorsport BMW #96 made a little unintentional turn. There wasn’t any contact between the two cars, but #93 with Lawson Aschenbach went off on the grass, where he slid and hit the side of #96. The contact broke both cars’ suspensions, and while the BMW retired on the spot, Aschenbach managed to drag the #93 to the pits – though there was nothing the mechanics could do about it.
It deployed the first Safety Car of the day to get the debris and the BMW removed from the track.
The stewards decided that #96 was the one responsible for the incident and gave them a drive-through penalty. Though it didn’t mean anything since they were already retired from the race.
The clean-up took more than ten minutes before the race got resumed.
#15 and #14 then swapped places, so the red Lexus was ahead of the blue.
Half an hour into the race, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 managed to drive past BMW Team Rll #24 in the battle for fifth place.
Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 had slowly but surely worked their way up to sixth place in GTD, where Keating did a fantastic job.
It didn’t take long before the GTLM would start overlapping the GTD cars. It gave an extra challenge, since the laptimes of the two classes were only two seconds apart.
The two 3GT Racing Lexus cars lost a lot of time, which enabled Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 to overtake #14 and then later close up on #15. #15 chose to pit and put some fresh tires on.
3GT Racing Lexus #14, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63, and Magnus Racing Audi #44 all chose to pit at the same time, and #63 came out in front of #44 and #14. The pro-drivers got in the car and would drive the race to the finish. Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 used the same tactic by swapping Kathrine Legge with Alvaro Parente.
Wright Motorsports Porsche #58 chose to do the complete opposite by putting Christina Nielsen in the car, and Patrick Long would drive again when they were close to the finish.
It meant that #15 now led the GTD class, since their pitstop didn’t take so long due to a shorter fuel stop.
BMW Team RLL #24 had an off track incident, when John Edwards outbraked himself in the chicane. The team replaced him with Jesse Krohn shortly after, which was the first stop for a GTLM car.
The two Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 and #67 were almost driving into each other, when #66 got stuck behind Corvette Racing #4. All three cars could continue through the corners.
When everyone else had pitted, BMW Team RLL #25 with Connor De Phillippi could continue driving without needing to pit. It was a very fuel-efficient race car, even though the laptimes couldn’t really keep up with the other GTLM competitors.
Their tactic was to drive the whole race with just one pitstop, so after an hour and twenty minutes, they pitted for the first and only time. But they had been driving so slow, that they were nearly two laps behind the leading Corvette Racing #3. Though Magnussen in #3 must pit one more time, while the BMW didn’t.
Christina Nielsen did a really good job, and although she lost a position to Gunnar Jeannette in Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63, her old car, she still drove faster than the likes of Andy Lally and Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Porsche #911 had a bodywork part that flapping in the wind, which cost them a lot of time on the long straights, but it wasn’t enough to get a technical defect flag.
The GTD teams who were on two-stop strategy pitted with a bit over an hour left, so they could drive the race to the finish without having to pit again.
Gunnar Jeannette in Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 had a solo spin in Turn 1, before he pitted. The usually fast American maybe pushed a bit too hard to get a perfect lap before pitting. Instead, he lost several seconds.
Corvette Racing #3 and #4 pitted with just a bit over an hour left, which was close to the limit of their fuel tank capacity. Everyone else waited about ten minutes later to do their last stop – except BMW #25, whose plan was to do a one-pitstop.
Earl Bamber in Porsche #912 had an off track moment, but he came back and only lost a couple of seconds. It made Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 to close all the way up to the Porsche’s rear bumper.
There were more problems for #912 regarding their pitstop. The wheel gun on the right front tire didn’t work, so the mechanics had to retrieve the reserve wheel gun. They lost some precious seconds and it could as well cost them a place on the podium.
Patrick Long was back in Wright Motorsports Porsche #58, and he was up to second place, with over 20 seconds up to the leading Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 with Madison Snow behind the wheel.
Porsche #911 attempted to do a short stint, but it only made it possible for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 to drive past as if they stood still. The podium was already out of question for #911, so it didn’t make sense to continue.
Porsche #912 brushed the rear end of Magnus Racing Audi #44, which cost a small part on the latter, but there wasn’t seem to be more problems.
BMW Team RLL #24 had a bonnet that suddenly went loose on the windscreen, so Jesse Krohn had to do an extra pitstop. The mechanics found a huge roll of tank tape and sent the Finnish driver back on the track. But it only held for a few laps before the bonnet went loose again.
Magnus Racing Audi #44 had closed the hole to Wright Motorsports Porsche #58, and they were right behind the rearwing of the white and red Porsche with 35 minutes left.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 closed up on Corvette Racing #3 with up to one second per lap. But it could be a combination of traffic and a bit older tires than the Ford’s.
There was a wild battle between #58 and #44, which #66 also got involved in. #66 eventually overtook #44, but the Audi went past again. In the next corner, there was a light touch between #66 and #44, when the Ford got a little impatient. Luckily, all three could continue without problems.
In fact, Andy Lally had so much grip in #44 that he could drive past Patrick Long in #58 from the outside in Turn 2 with 27 minutes left. Afterwards Long would have to look at the rear-view mirror, when Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 was only three seconds behind.
Magnussen in #3 got Tandy in #911 breathing down his neck, in the attempt to come to the leading lap. But the yellow American car wasn’t interested in that, so Tandy drove with blinking headlights in several laps, while driving through GTD traffic.
With 20 minutes left, Patrick Long lost two places in the same corner when his tires were completely done. It made the Porsche to fall back from a potential podium finish, while P2 in the GTD championship, Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 calmly sneaked themselves up the podium.
#66 came right behind #3 with 16 minutes left of the race, in the battle for the win in GTLM.
Magnussen did a big mistake on the way out of the last corner with 12 minutes left on the clock. The dane drove off track on his own when he was trying to overtake some slower GTD cars and thus he had to give away the lead to Joey Hand in #66. To his luck, the Porsche #912 was about 15 seconds behind, so he still had a nice gap to P3.
After that the race fell into a rhythm in the last ten minutes, where there weren’t any changes in the top three in both classes.
Porsche #911 with Nick Tandy was, however, in an attacking mood and grabbed P5 from Ryan Briscoe in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67, with only two minutes left.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 with Joey Hand and Dirk Müller won in GTLM, ahead of Corvette Racing #3 with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, while Porsche #912 with Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor was on P3.
In GTD it was Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 with Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers who claimed victory, in front of Magnus Racing Audi #44 with John Potter and Andy Lally, followed by Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 with Gunnar Jeannette and Cooper MacNeil.
It means that Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 extends the lead to Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 even further in the championship, with Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 on P3.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 is now leading the GTLM, with one point ahead of Corvette Racing #3, and a further point down to Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 on P3.
WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be back on track in two weeks’ time, when the series go to Road America, Elkhart Lake, and all three classes will be present.