Milestone Victory at WeatherTech Raceway for Penske and Porsche

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races can be up to 24 hours long, yet they are often decided in the blink of an eye. Such was the case Sunday in the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Nick Tandy (No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963) capitalized on a brief moment of indecision by Jack Aitken (No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R) with 12 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute race. When race leader Aitken was momentarily blocked while lapping a pair of Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class contenders, he went off track exiting Turn 4. Tandy took advantage of the moment and shot past to the inside to emerge in front.

Tandy drove away to a 5.764-second advantage over the Cadillac shared by Aitken and Pipo Derani when the checkered flag flew, securing the overall and Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class win for Porsche and co-driver Mathieu Jaminet.

It was the 100th sports car racing victory for Team Penske, 37 of them in IMSA-sanctioned races. With Porsche also taking the GTD PRO class victory, the German marque crossed the 600-win threshold with victories No. 600 and 601 in IMSA competition.

“In qualifying, we maybe didn’t have the speed, but it looked like we had good long-run speed all day,” said Roger Penske, who was present at WeatherTech Raceway for his legendary racing team’s milestone triumph. “We had great pit stops and great strategy by the guys, and fantastic driving by the guys in car No. 6. For the Porsche program to come here and win is a big deal. I came here and won (as a driver) in the ‘60s, if you can believe it.

“I can tell you there’s a lot of pressure coming from Porsche because they expect us to win,” Penske continued. “We’ve got a deep bench here. We’ve been through a lot of stuff this past couple weeks, but hey, we’re on a roll.”

Derani fell just short Saturday in his quest to claim a fourth consecutive Motul Pole Award this season, but after running second to Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R for the first half-hour of the race, the Whelen team pitted the No. 31 early to cure a tire imbalance. The No. 31 then regained the top spot and held it through the second hour until pitting with 59 minutes remaining, taking a full 40-second fill of energy and fuel but only right-side tires.

The No. 6 Porsche ran out front for another 11 minutes before making its final stop, returning to the track 3.6 seconds behind the No. 31. Tandy quickly caught the Cadillac but was unable to mount a serious challenge until the fateful run through traffic late in the race.

“Every time we would catch traffic, I knew I had to put pressure on him,” Tandy said. “If you have a 10-second gap, it’s easy to measure up the traffic. You can pick and choose; you can just wait and pass on the exit. But when someone is pressuring you – and they have been pressuring you for 20 or 30 laps – the decisions have to get quicker and more off the cuff. Nine times out of 10, it’s pretty obvious.

“I feel for Jack,” he added. “It wasn’t obvious what was going to happen. He picked one side just as they started to go that way. I had a grandstand seat to see where they were going and managed to go the other way and take the lead.”

Jaminet and Tandy were the fourth different GTP winners in four races this year. The No. 31 Cadillac is winless in 2024 but has finished second in three of the four races.

The No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 with drivers Felipe Nasr and Dane Cameron finished third Sunday and continues to lead the GTP standings with a 50-point cushion over the No. 31 Cadillac. But Sunday’s postrace talk centered on the historic accomplishments achieved by Porsche and Penske.

“It’s pretty awesome to bring the 100th win for the Penske team, especially with Roger here,” said Jaminet. “I think he had 14 hours of travel to get here, because he was at Spa yesterday to watch Porsche Penske Motorsport compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship race. It shows the commitment of Roger for this program, for this team and for all of us. So, this is emotional for us, and I think we can be proud of what we’ve done today.”

“It’s an incredible and amazing achievement,” added Tandy. “The fact that we got the 100th sports car pole for Team Penske at Spa and the 100th win here in IMSA … it’s a huge accomplishment for one weekend, let alone a hundred of each, for an organization.”

The next round of the WeatherTech Championship takes place May 31-June 1. The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will feature the GTP and GTD PRO classes. The 100-minute sprint airs live at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1 on USA Network and Peacock.