DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Zacharie Robichon remembers it all too vividly … and all too nervously.
Watching anxiously from the pit stand as his first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship win was within grasp, excitement quickly turned to agony when the report of a tire losing pressure came over the radio on the final lap at Lime Rock Park in 2019. But just when it looked like exuberance was becoming misery, Dennis Olsen somehow nursed the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R around the 1.474-mile circuit to win the GT Daytona (GTD) class by a slim 0.01 seconds in the Northeast Grand Prix.
Since Lime Rock didn’t host a race last year, Robichon and Pfaff return to the track in Lakeville, Connecticut, as defending champions.
“The emotion on that last lap was just crazy!” Robichon said Wednesday when recalling the drama two years ago that delivered the first series win for driver and team.
“Dennis did a fantastic job just to hang on. When he came over the radio saying, ‘I have an issue, I think a tire’s going down,’ I remember thinking, ‘Of course. There’s no way that luck could go our way after the races we’d had to that point.’ I had basically lost all faith going into the last lap. Then he managed to hang onto it.
“I think had it been any other track that wasn’t quite as short as Lime Rock, we wouldn’t have made it,” Robichon admitted. “Seeing that finish just made it all that much sweeter because we went from being super excited to almost accepting that we weren’t going to win and then going back to winning the race.”
Robichon will share the No. 9 entry this weekend with Laurens Vanthoor, who finished on the GTLM podium in a Porsche in the last three Lime Rock races (2017-19) and started the 2019 race from the pole position. The duo sits fourth in the GTD standings, highlighted by their win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March.
The lessons the then-fledgling “Plaid Porsche” team learned the weekend of that maiden victory at Lime Rock have helped carry the Canadian-based group forward to more success.
“It wasn’t a particularly good weekend up until the race,” Robichon said about 2019. “I’ll admit, I didn’t really love the track – I hadn’t been there before. It was a race that was super hot; very, very hot. Tire wear was a huge issue.
“We kind of just stayed out of trouble and had some amazing pit stops. I don’t think we were outright the fastest car that weekend, but we put ourselves in a position to win and it taught us a lot about what it takes to win at this level. It’s not always about being the fastest car; it’s about making smart decisions and making the right strategy calls and just keeping yourself out of trouble. I think the lessons we learned have stayed with us.”
As for this weekend’s return to Lime Rock Park, Robichon said the team is at a better baseline setup because of the 2019 experience. The same goes for the 29-year-old from Ottawa, though he admits he has less track time at Lime Rock than any other circuit on the schedule.
“We’re excited to go back because we won,” he said. “But for me, I know that I still have a lot of work to do there. That’s what I’m thinking of right now, not necessarily that we won there.
“It’s a very condensed weekend so Friday’s going to be super important,” Robichon added. “Our team’s really going to have to thrash on Friday in those first two (practice) sessions and qualifying, but I have all the confidence in the world in our team so I’m not too concerned that we’ll have a car that can compete.”
Practices are set for 11:25 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. ET Friday, with qualifying at 5:15 p.m. (livestream on IMSA.com/TVLive). The two-hour, 40-minute race airs live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio (Sirius 216, XM 202, SiriusXM Online 992) beginning at 3:10 p.m. Saturday. NBCSN’s telecast begins at 5:30 p.m.