Pfaff takes fifth win of 2022 with fuel strategy
ALTON, Va. — With a GTD-class car playing the fuel strategy game ahead of him, his own fuel economy issues, and a rival GTD PRO competitor shutting down fast, Mathieu Jaminet had his hands full Sunday in the final stages of the Michelin GT Challenge to the VIR.
But the 27-year-old Frenchman handled the pressure with aplomb as he guided the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R he shared with Matt Campbell to the GTD PRO and overall victory within two hours and 40 minutes IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event at VIRginia International Raceway.
After making a final pit stop for fuel and rear tyres, Jaminet had to balance his fuel management with the aggressiveness he needed over the final 50 minutes to not only chase the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Heart of Racing #23 in the GTD PRO class. driven by Alex Riberas, but also Heart of Racing’s #27 GT Daytona (GTD) car, which held the overall lead but followed an even more extreme fuel economy strategy.
Jaminet passed Riberas for the GTD PRO lead with about 15 minutes remaining, then passed Maxime Martin in the No.27 for the overall lead 10 minutes later. But the drama was not over for the Pfaff Porsche in its quest for its fifth victory of the season, the best of the series. Jordan Taylor, who had built an 11-second lead early in the race in the #3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD co-driven by Antonio Garcia, closed within 0.823 seconds at the checkered flag.
Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth finished third in GTD PRO in the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, 18.029 seconds behind the winners. Motul Pole Award winners Riberas and Ross Gunn made a late pit stop to refuel and finished fourth in the No.23 Aston Martin.
How accurate was the Pfaff team’s fuel calculation? The “Checkered Porsche” dried out during the recovery lap and had to be pushed into victory lane.
“We did that one on strategy, running out of fuel on the first lap,” Campbell said after his 10th career IMSA victory. “It was a wild ride but we got another win at the end.”
Campbell and Jaminet now lead the GTD PRO Championship with 265 points over Garcia and Taylor, who edged Barnicoat and Hawksworth (minus-281 points) for second place with only the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta remaining on October 1. With a maximum of 385 points available in the season finale, the title is almost guaranteed.
“Obviously it was super close when the guys took on different strategies,” said Jaminet, who now has seven career wins. “Just taking rear tires like we did is not very common and the car was very difficult to drive. I had to push hard but we were pretty tight on fuel at the end so we saved quite a lot in the last two laps, it was a good calculation by the boys, we maximized everything.
“Super happy for the team,” he added. “Fifth win of the season and the championship is practically over. I think all the objectives are achieved, so now we go to Petit Le Mans to push hard and win one more.”
Garcia and Taylor were aiming for their third consecutive win at VIR, the last two coming in the former GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. The Corvette was the first pit entry for fuel and a driver change, putting them into a comfortable lead that was eliminated by a full-course warning just before they planned to make their next pit stop.
“We called the strategy well early on and took the lead,” Taylor said. “If the race had gone green (until the finish) we would have maintained that position on the track, but yellow kind of killed it. The car felt good, it’s just frustrating to ‘to be a bit short again.
The pendulum swings in favor of the Mercedes #57 Winward in GTD
For Philip Ellis, patience was key.
Ellis chased Maxime Martin and passed him with two minutes remaining to win a back-and-forth in the GTD class and claim an atypical ladies’ pole victory.
Ellis pressured Martin after giving up the lead for a splash-and-go pitstop with eight minutes left in the two-hour, 40-minute race. Then, as Martin saved fuel to try to reach the finish, Ellis caught him to take the lead.
Victory for the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 came despite a problem during the first pit stop and a brief excursion by Ellis.
“Fortunately, nothing damaged the car,” Ellis said. “We still had a good car at the end. We were a bit unhappy with the track position, of course, and we had to manage a lot.
It was the second straight victory for Winward Racing, which won earlier this month at Road America. On Saturday, co-driver Russell Ward won the Motul Pole Award for the GTD category.
“It was just a rocket ship, especially on old tires,” Ward said. “It really lasted the whole stint. My stint was just trying to keep him in a safe position, being careful with the car and the tires and making sure I got him back to Philip in the same position. We all put in amazing performances.
Ward led the first 26 laps before the pitfall problem pushed the #57 back into the 13-car GTD field. With 53 minutes remaining, Bryan Sellers put the #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 he shared with Madison Snow in the lead. Thirty minutes later, after Sellers pitted, Aaron Telitz briefly took the lead in the #12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 which he co-drove with Frankie Montecalvo.
With 19 minutes to go, Ellis found himself in the lead when Telitz pitted, setting the stage for the late-race battle between Ellis and Martin in the #27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Heart of Racing team. Ten minutes later, Martin took the lead when Ellis made the save for the fuel splash. But, as Martin was forced to save fuel, Ellis was able to chase him down and regain the lead as the clock ticked down.
The win helped Ward and Ellis move up to fourth in the WeatherTech Championship GTD Drivers’ Standings, with only the Oct. 1 Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta remaining on the 2022 schedule.
“We had so much bad luck at the start of the year,” Ellis said. “We always had the rhythm, and now we always have the rhythm too. Even today we were unlucky when the air bottle fell. So that threw us all the way to the back of the field. From there, it was a really tough fight.
Martin held on to second place from the No.27 Aston Martin despite going 40 laps on his final stint. The finish helped team-mate Roman De Angelis take the lead in the GTD Drivers’ standings ahead of Stevan McAleer, who finished eighth in the #32 Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 he co-drove with. Mike Skeen.
De Angelis leads McAleer by 45 points going into the final, with Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen, co-drivers of the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, in third place, 57 points behind De Angelis.
Meanwhile, Sellers helped Paul Miller Racing celebrate the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup Championship for the best performance in all eight GTD-class sprint races.
“We got a podium; it’s a good day,” Sellers said. “We were able to wrap up the Sprint Cup championship and take home a trophy, so that’s great. But I felt like today we should have had more.