To say that it’s been a rough first season for Wright Motorsports in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition would be an understatement.
However, on Sunday during the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, the team’s luck finally turned around as the #58 Porsche 911 GT3 R crossed the finish line first for the GT Daytona (GTD) victory.
Co-driving in their first season together, Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen had yet to land on the podium in the season’s previous seven races. However, the team began knocking on the door of a breakthrough performance after scoring back-to-back Motul Pole Awards at Lime Rock Park two weeks ago and at Road America on Saturday.
“Long time coming,” said Nielsen, the double GTD champion. “We’ve really been wanting to put together the perfect execution for the weekend. Wright Motorsports did a fantastic job with our Porsche Consulting car. To end up in first place with our first podium of the season was absolutely amazing.
“Patrick did a great job yesterday with the pole and a perfect stint. It feels so rewarding, we didn’t have a perfect race until now. There were highlights, things that were improving, things getting better, but it wasn’t all together. And this was finally the weekend where it all came together.”
In a unique strategy twist, the #58 Porsche was the only team in the 11-car field to perform two driver changes during the two-hour, 40-minute race, the latter of which also came with a little bit of luck. After taking the reins from Long about a third through the race, Nielsen dove into the pits ahead of a full-course caution for tires, fuel, and another driver swap to allow Long to finish the race.
The #58 Porsche restarted from second place behind GTD point leaders Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, yet Long made a move for the lead soon after the green flag dropped and held on for the win.
“We discussed after qualifying, that that’s one aspect, but putting together a full race together with this level of competition in GTD isn’t something you can’t ever take for granted,” said Long. “We took advantage of excellent pit stops and strategy. We had a great balance in the car. When you get out of the car, and you realise you’re barely sweating you know it’s on rails. We worked really hard.”
The win is the first for Long since the 2014 Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the first for Nielsen since the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last September.
Sellers and Snow took second place on the day, which allowed the duo to expand their points lead 250, 232 over Katherine Legge in the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 who finished seventh. And storming from ninth to third in the final 20 minutes was the #63 WeatherTech Racing Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 of Cooper MacNeil and Alessandro Pier Guidi to take the final spot on the podium, the second consecutive for the team.
Once again the top seven finishers in GTD consisted of different manufacturers with BMW, Mercedes-AMG, Lexus and Acura (Honda) joining the mix.
Up next for both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM and GTD classes is the second GT-only event this season at Virginia International Raceway on 17-19 August.