No. 67 Ford, No. 9 Porsche Teams Riding Substantial Momentum to Michelin GT Challenge at VIR
Wednesday, August 21, 2019

There are no hotter GT teams currently in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship than Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and Pfaff Motorsports.

The Ganassi squad – and more specifically, No. 67 Ford GT co-drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook – are winners of the past two races in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. In fact, the team’s No. 66 entry, shared by Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, has finished on the podium in the last two races also with a second-place run earlier at Road America and a third-place showing last month at Lime Rock Park.

What’s more, Briscoe and Westbrook finished third in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International at the end of June. So, they head into this weekend’s two-hour, 40-minute Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway with a winning streak and three podiums in their past four races.

“Watkins Glen and moving forward from there, we’ve been running strong,” Briscoe said. “We got to Lime Rock and we won it on strategy. We executed really well.

“It was sort of the same thing at Road America. We weren’t the fastest car, but we ran a perfect race and didn’t make any mistakes. We were really good on the long runs. As everyone else’s tires fell off, we seemed to hold that little bit longer that made the difference. I think in terms of how we have won the last two races, we’re hoping for more of the same at VIR. Hopefully, our consistency can pay off again.”

Pfaff Motorsports and driver Zacharie Robichon are hoping for more of the same at VIR, too. The team picked up its first WeatherTech Championship victory at Lime Rock with Robichon and Porsche Young Professional Dennis Olsen bringing the plaid, No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R across the line first in the GT Daytona (GTD) class by the slimmest of margins – 0.010 seconds – ahead of the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 shared by Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher.

Moving from the shortest track on the schedule – the 1.5-mile Lime Rock Park – to the longest, Road America at four miles, Robichon and the Pfaff team picked up a second consecutive win, this time with another Porsche Young Professional in Matt Campbell sharing the No. 9 machine. This time, they were a lap ahead of the second-place finishers, Bryan Sellers and Corey Lewis in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3.

“Certainly, in the summer months, we’ve come together as a team and we’ve gotten the results,” said Robichon, who currently leads the standings for the inaugural, seven-race WeatherTech Sprint Cup and is third in the overall WeatherTech Championship GTD season standings. “For me personally, being able to lead the Sprint championship is special.

“But that being said, there are still three races to go. If you look at the way our season’s gone – from one extreme to the other – just as quickly as it started going better, it can turn around and hit us back. So, we know that we need to keep focusing on what we’re doing.”

Apparently, staying focused on what you’re doing – especially when things are going right like they have been for both teams – is a key to retaining that all-important momentum. At least, that’s what the drivers say.

“I think for sure, it’s good,” says Briscoe of momentum. “It gets everyone feeling confident and positive, which helps. I don’t know if it ultimately makes a difference, but it certainly is a good feeling when you’re moving forward with confidence because you’re doing a good job. It just helps as a whole for team motivation, knowing that everyone’s on the same page to go out knowing we can win races.”

Robichon concurs.

“I think as a whole, we’re a lot more confident in ourselves and a lot more sure of the drivers individually, but as well as each and every team member,” he said. “I think they know what they have to do and everybody has that much more confidence.

“We recognize the fact that the past two races we’ve had, we’ve had a little bit of luck, but you have to be in the right position to be able to capitalize on that luck. Going forward, what we want to do is just keep that same mentality.”

This weekend at VIR, Robichon will share the No. 9 Porsche with Scott Hargrove, with whom he co-drove in the first five WeatherTech Championship races of the season. And in addition to the momentum, Robichon has some good recent history at VIR also, having won both races of last year’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama races and finishing second in the IMSA Prototype Challenge race there in 2018.

“I think any time you go to a track that you’ve had success at in the past, it gives you a little bit of confidence,” Robichon said. “When you talk to the drivers and when they say which tracks they like and which ones they don’t like, it’s usually pretty consistent with the tracks at which they’ve done well.

“For myself, obviously, VIR is a track that last year, I won both GT3 U.S. races and actually in LMP3, I finished second as well. It was a track that I really enjoyed racing at and had a lot of fun.”

Both Robichon and the No. 9 Pfaff team, as well as Briscoe, Westbrook and the No. 67 Ganassi team are looking for more fun this weekend at VIR. And their championship hopes need more of it.

While he leads the WeatherTech Sprint Cup standings, Robichon and the No. 9 team are 33 points behind the WeatherTech Championship GTD leaders, Hindman and Farnbacher in the No. 86. With three races to go, that’s a lot of ground to make up and Robichon acknowledges that fact.

“I think the Shank guys are a little bit far ahead, but I think second is an achievable goal for us,” said Robichon, who trails the second-place No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 duo of Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley by seven points. “It’d be nice to win the Sprint championship, but at the same time, the Pfaff team championship is more important at this time. Obviously, the two kind of go hand in hand, so hopefully we can keep those strong finishes until the end of the year.”

Briscoe and Westbrook are currently third in the GTLM standings. They’re 18 points behind the leading No. 912 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR duo of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor, but just four behind the second-place No. 911 Porsche pair of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet.

“We can only control what we have our hands on,” Briscoe said. “If we can just keep going out and winning – and if we can’t win, we’ll try to come second – we just need to finish as strong as we can and we’ll see how it turns out at the end. If they keep finishing on the podium, I think it’s pretty much impossible to catch them, but they might have some bad luck here and we’ll see what happens.”

Don’t think for a second, though, that the No. 67 team is giving up.

“We’re going to keep pushing,” Briscoe said. “We really want to win this championship if we can. It’s something that we didn’t think was possible at all two races ago, but after a couple of wins, it’s something that we half talk about now. We’ve moved up to P3 in the points and we’ll just keep pushing.

“I think the gap is big enough where we’re in a position to maybe take some risks on strategy, because we’re sort of just going for the wins. I don’t think fourth or third is even going to cut it for us if we’re going for the championship. We’ll be aggressive and try to get some more wins and see how it pans out.”

It’s that kind of mentality that will make this Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR that much more exciting.

NBCSN will have live television coverage of the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. IMSA Radio also will carry all of the action live throughout the weekend on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, with live race coverage airing on SiriusXM Radio as well.

Tickets are available now at VIRNOW.com

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