IMSA's GTLM class, once the most competitive sports car category in the world, is down to just three full-time entries from two teams. It means opportunities for drama are fewer and further between than they used to be, but it does not mean every race is a sure thing. Today's race became far less certain earlier in the week, when WeatherTech Racing announced that outside commitments in other races would lead Porsche to send ace Kevin Estre to their No. 79 car as Cooper MacNeil's co-driver. A safety car with an hour to go put Estre directly behind the two leading Corvette C8.Rs. What happened next is why GT racing exists.
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Estre had a narrow window to pass the No. 4 Corvette for second. So, he swung with everything he had and grabbed the position. He would eventually move past the No. 3 Corvette for the race lead, but Nick Tandy struck back in the No. 4 Corvette in a move that left the Porsche bouncing off the track. IMSA chose not to penalize Tandy, who would go on to win the race by 20 seconds ahead of his Corvette Racing teammate and 40 over the WeatherTech Porsche.
Tandy did not mince words after the crash in a post-race interview. As he told NBC, "The Porsche should have won this race, but when you lose your brain and start driving stupid, stuff happens."
With ten minutes to go in the 2 hour and 40 minute race, GTD also seemed decided. Bill Auberlin had a comfortable five second lead in the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 when the second-placed Corvette, the No. 3 of Oliver Gavin, came up inside of him for what should have been a routine pass. Gavin missed his mark on corner entry, though, and spun before the apex while side-by-side with Auberlin. The Corvette continued on without an issue, but the BMW was left with a punctured tire. Auberlin fell all the way to 12th in the exchange, promoting the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche to a 4 second lead of their own and what would become a massive win in a close championship fight.
The crash demotes the No. 96 out of title contention before Petit Le Mans, but Pfaff's Zachari Robichon and Laurens VanThoor can't breath easily just yet. Their next two closest rivals, the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini and No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche, finished second and fourth, respectively, and the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin stayed alive in the championship fight with a respectable fifth. All four will have a shot at a title in the ten hour season finale, the Petit Le Mans at Road America, but only the Lamborghini has any hope of passing the Pfaff Porsche in the standings unless some of the contenders suffer an issue in-race.
Both GT classes return to action in next month's Petit Le Mans. All three prototype classes will also wrap up their seasons in the ten hour classic.
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