Tandy & Milner Rule Michelin GT Challenge
Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy celebrate in the victory lane Saturday at the Virginia Int’l Raceway.
ALTON, Virginia – It has been an unusual farewell season for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans class. That’s not to say he lacked purpose or meaning for the competitors.
In the penultimate race before the start of the class, Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner teamed up on Saturday to win the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.
After Tandy recovered from contact with Kevin Estre, he finished the race victorious in the # 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. Tandy broke the bar 17.852 seconds ahead of the team’s # 3 sister car co-driven by Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia.
Tandy and Milner fell within 127 points of Taylor and Garcia with only the season finale – the Motul Petit Le Mans on November 13 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – remaining.
“This entire year as a team has been really, really good,” said Milner. “We had a very good car at Daytona and Sebring, but things didn’t go the way we wanted. It was frustrating for us and frustrating for our guys on the team. Everyone got attached and focused on getting every detail perfect, so we get these wins. I firmly believe in creating your own luck.
Lately they’ve been making their own luck and more. It was the third consecutive victory for the No.4 Corvette, which had fallen behind the No.3 Corvette at the start of the season, despite a contact that could have cost the No.4 car dearly.
“It was interesting,” Tandy said. “It’s always great to win a race when you really don’t have to. It was fun there.
Corvette Racing has yet to unveil its plans for 2022, but the battle for the future defunct class still carries weight for the team.
On Friday, Milner broke Taylor’s five-game winning streak by qualifying the No.4 car just 0.003 seconds ahead of Taylor in the No.3 car on the 17-turn, 3.27-mile VIR course. The two cars exchanged heads on Saturday before Tandy could pull away from Garcia in the dying minutes of the 2 hour 40 minute race.
After the mid-race incident, Estre and Cooper MacNeil finished third, 38.655 seconds off the pace, in the # 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche RSR-19.
“It shows a way to win a race when you don’t have the fastest car,” Tandy said. “Honestly, the Porsche should have won the race. But honestly, when you lose your mind and start driving stupidly, things happen. Fortunately with our Corvettes, we kept them on the track and didn’t do too much damage to them.
The victory was the fifth for the No.4 Corvette at VIR and the third on the track for Tandy and Milner. Milner now has 20 career wins in IMSA, Tandy 18.
As the dust settled, Milner praised Tandy for hanging on to the contact.
“He did it today for sure,” Milner said. “Porsche definitely had pace on us, but… he had a bit of it, but he gave it up straight away. What an awesome race.
Pfaff Motorsports has risen to all challenges lately to take the GT Daytona (GTD) championship lead in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Zacharie Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor may have overcome the biggest obstacle of all Saturday to win the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.
Relegated to 13th starting position following a penalty for Pfaff’s crew touching the car between qualifying sessions the day before, Robichon and Vanthoor plowed the field to put the # 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R in contention. for the GTD victory at VIRginia International Raceway. They capitalized when the # 96 BMW Turner Motorsport was involved in a late-race incident, allowing Vanthoor to spin and win by 2.755 seconds over Paul Miller Racing’s # 1 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 shared by Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers.
“I still can’t believe it,” Vanthoor admitted on the victory lane. “He’s the one I’m probably the happiest because yesterday was just our mistake. A stupid mistake, but we win and lose together.
“Today the guys caught up by tripling (the effort) because what got us ahead was the pit stops – it’s amazing what they did. And Zach, the overtaking (which he completed) at the start and how quickly he coped and ended up in front, those were probably the two things that gave us the race. … I’m sorry for what happened to (the BMW). We were catching up with them and I would have liked to see a battle at the end, but it turned out the way it did.
Robichon was a rocket in the opening stint, guiding the No.9 to fifth place ahead of the first set of pit stops. Pfaff’s crew did magic in the pit lane, making Vanthoor third in the first stop and the GTD lead at the second stop. A fuel-only trip for the # 96 BMW at the third and final stop with 20 minutes left of the two-hour, 40-minute race put Bill Auberlen back in the lead. But not for long.
With 11 minutes remaining, Auberlen and No.3 Corvette driver Antonio Garcia made contact in turn 1. Auberlen’s BMW suffered a puncture in the right rear tire and he had to limp the No.96 down the entire 3.27 mile track to the stand for a new tire, eventually finishing 12th. A surprised Vanthoor gladly accepted the gift and kept the vendors at bay from the checkered flag.
Vanthoor and Robichon have won three of the last four GTD races and finished second in the other. Before this scorching stretch, they occupied fourth place in the standings, 161 points from the lead. They are now in the lead, 50 points ahead of Sellers, Snow and the No. 1 Lamborghini. Only the Motul Petit Le Mans, final of the 2021 season at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on November 13, remains to be determined the champion.
“It’s when you’re down that a champion team comes forward and shows why they deserve to fight for the championship,” said Robichon. “I think we all showed it today. We have shown resilience. We were kicked yesterday, but we fought back.
The # 14 Lexus RC F GT3 Vasser Sullivan completed the podium thanks to Jack Hawksworth’s daring pass on the last lap on Patrick Long driving the # 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R.
Saturday also marked the final of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup, made up of the eight non-endurance events of the GTD program. Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn, with a fifth place finish in the No.23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Heart of Racing Team race, won the Sprint Cup title with a 20 point lead over Sellers, Snow and Lamborghini n ° 1.
The No. 23 drivers have never finished worse than sixth in any Sprint Cup race this season, winning the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit and the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.