Patrick Pilet says he feels honoured to win the GT Le Mans class title in the 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship, and that his overall Petit Le Mans victory still hasn’t sunk in.
For most of the season, Pilet shared the #911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR with 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans champion Nick Tandy, and the duo ended their season in style with a shock win at Road Atlanta‘s endurance classic.
“It’s a huge honour for me to win this title,” admitted Pilet to The Checkered Flag. “I worked so hard for this result; it’s just the [result] of many years’ [hard work].”
Although he had shared so many podium finishes and victories this year with Pilet, the Brit was unable to collect enough points to become GTLM champion. This was due to the Long Beach and Laguna Seca rounds he had missed earlier in the season in order to fulfil his FIA World Endurance Championship commitments. Tandy did however choose TUSC over WEC at the Circuit of The Americas round in September.
“Nick deserves this title as well. We really have a lot of fun driving together and even if from outside it looks like it’s easy, we never stop working and pushing each other to be better. I think he’s more than a team-mate, he’s a friend and our relationship is the key to our success.”
Pilet’s season started miserably with two fifth place finishes at the Daytona and Sebring. These improved to fourth and third at Long Beach and Laguna Seca, before dropping back to sixth at Watkins Glen.
“The low point was Sebring because after a disappointing race at Daytona, we had a technical issue after leading a big part of the race.”
Following that, he and Nick secured three consecutive wins at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Road America and Virginia International Raceway. Although he could only finish third in Texas, a Petit Le Mans performance that dominated not only the GT cars but also the Prototypes ensured he ended 2015 with a bang.
“The highlight is definitely Petit Le Mans because we had to push so much to get this victory, and finishing with all the titles and the overall victory was just unreal.”
“[I began to think we could win the championship] after Watkins Glen. I started to feel the cohesion between me; Nick; our engineer Gary; our crew; and the complete team. At the end of the race I was disappointed with the result, but I was sure we had made a big step concerning our way to [ensuring it] all works together.”
Last weekend’s race at Road Atlanta seemed to do all it could to deny victory to the Porsche duo, who where joined by Richard Lietz. By the time the green flag came around, the heavens had well and truly opened and the drivers were heading out into horrible conditions.
“It was just crazy, but all the performance depended about how much risk you took. We managed this perfectly and it looked even harder for our opponents.”
What’s more, a post-qualifying technical infringement forced them to join their sister #912 car at the back of the grid.
“I was 100% confident, we have the quickest car and the strongest team. I was sure we’d be back to the front quickly. OK, maybe not that quick and not for overall victory!”
Although Lietz never got to drive, stellar runs from Pilet and Tandy saw them make their way back up to the front of the GT pack in no time. But they weren’t finished yet.
It was at a round of pitstops where Pilet and a few other GTLM drivers passed the Prototypes to take the lead. When it was the turn of the GT cars to pit, though, it was only Pilet who could manage to stay out front. Later in the race, and soon before it was prematurely ended, he made his way back past Eric Curran’s Corvette DP for a lead he would never let go of.
“[The win was] a combination of few things. The Michelin tires were working perfectly, we also made good adjustments on the tires. The 911, due to its weight distribution, is the best car for these conditions. Add to this drivers who like [driving in the] rain and that’s it.”
“I think we still don’t realise what we achieved. It was one of the only races that Porsche hadn’t won overall. I’m just proud to write a new line in the [history of] Porsche success.”
It wasn’t just Tandy who had a drive at Le Mans. Pilet was also drafted in, but in the GTE-Pro class #92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR. Unfortunately, his race ended after just 14 laps.
“It was really hard. We worked one complete year for this and to have the race over after one hour was really hard for me. It took me few days to accept the failure.”
“My dream is still to win Le Mans and especially overall. I’m sure that Nick, Earl [Bamber] and I would make a great team!”