BRASELTON — Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet overcame the field and a long afternoon in pouring rain to drive their Porsche 911 to a victory Saturday in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
It was the first time a GT (Gran Turismo) car won the endurance race, which was called just shy of eight hours following two rain delays. The race was scheduled to last 10 hours.
The win also clinched the GT Le Mans Class Championship for Pilet.
“Rain is always the great equalizer,” Prototype driver Scott Pruett said. “So it was interesting to see a GTLM car get the win.”
GTLM cars finished 1-2, as the BMW Z4 GTE team of John Edwards, Lucas Luhr and Jens Klingmann finished second overall.
Pruett, and teammates Scott Dixon and Joey Hand, finished fourth overall and second in Prototype.
“This was probably the poorest conditions I think I’ve ever raced in,” Dixon, who won the IndyCar championship in August, said. “All in all, I think in the end, I was glad it went red.”
Of the 199 laps ran, 58 laps were run under caution. There was a red flag at Lap 165 that lasted an hour and five minutes.
Eleven cars either spun, crashed or just ran off course. The rain would not stop and the jet driers couldn’t do enough to keep the track safe especially as darkness started to set in.
“We weren’t racing out there, we were just trying to survive,” Pruett said.
Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais finished first in the Prototype Class. Barbosa and Fittipaldi clinched the Prototype Class Championship for the second consecutive year by overcoming a six point deficit to Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook who finished fifth.
“The whole thing starts back at the workshop,” Fittipaldi said. “In two years, this car has only missed one lap.”
Colin Braun and Jon Bennett won the Prototype Challenge Class Championship for the second straight year.
“These guys work so hard, and Jon has put together such a good group of people,” Braun said. “We just keep never giving up.”
Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler won the GT Daytona Class Championship over Christina Nielsen. Nielsen was looking to become the first female to win an international motor racing championship and had a one-point lead in the standings heading into the Petit Le Mans, but finished five places behind Bell and Sweedler.
“Christina was a formidable competitor,” Sweedler said. “We were in that same place last year. We led the entire year ... so I know how it feels. It creates that much more euphoria and elation for us to come from behind and get (the championship).”
Competing in the last race of his career, Braselton resident Bryan Sellers finished 11th overall, and seventh in the GT Le Mans class.