IMSA: Katherine Legge returns to the top-10, as Team Hardpoint finishes P8 at Road America
Katherine Legge fought her way up the field in Sunday's IMSA Road America race and brought the Team Hardpoint Porsche across the line in eighth place despite a clutch issue.
Coming off a difficult weekend at Lime Rock Park three weeks ago - when the adverse weather forced the IMSA officials to call the race with 30 minutes left - Team Hardpoint returned to the track at Road America, one of the most iconic North American racetracks, for the eighth round of the 2021 IMSA sportscar season. At the previous NorthEast GP, Katherine Legge and driver/owner Rob Ferriol were classified 12th, but the drivers of the #88 Richard Mille/GridRival Porsche were confident in getting back in the top-10 at the Winsconsin venue - where Ferriol had claimed his first career IMSA win in 2019. The duo had the opportunity to test the week prior to the race event - something that has become rarer in post-pandemic motorsport: “With the compressed race weekend schedules that have become the norm post-Covid, it’s rare we get an opportunity to focus solely on engineering sweeps", said Ferriol. “Every time we roll our Porsche 911 GT3 R off the hauler we add to the knowledge bank, and our test a few weeks ago was no different." "Road America is one of my favorite tracks on the schedule." - added Legge, who famously emerged unscathed from a brutal crash in 2006 in the CART championship, after a rear wing failure at the fastest section of the track. "I really enjoy driving here, it's just a great old-school race track! We came and tested a couple of weeks ago and are hoping that this is the turning point of our season" - she echoed. Ferriol qualified the #88 Porsche in 11th position in the session that set the starting order, while Legge got behind the wheel for the point-paying session and finished ninth fastest. Weather conditions remained changeable throughout Saturday, the rain stopped on race day and gave the teams and fans a break until the end of the 2 hours and 40 minute race. Rob Ferriol took on driving duties for the first stint and had a very solid shift, navigating through traffic and making up positions on the fast and technical circuit. In the overall classification, poleman Felipe Nasr (#31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi) went side by side with Ricky Taylor (#10 Konica Minolta Acura) at Turn 1 in a tightly fought first lap that also saw Oliver Jarvis (#55 Mazda) and the #01 Cadillac of Jan Magnussen battling hard. Positions settled until the first Full Course Caution approximately 20 minutes into the race, when the DPi teams anticipated the neutralization and went for an early pit stop as the #30 LMP3 of Olson had come to a stop on track. Ferriol stayed out and pitted after 30 minutes, then rejoining in eighth place, having previously recovered to ninth on track. The American driver - who would also take over the Bob Akin Award point lead for the FIA Bronze-rated drivers - pitted for the driver change during the second caution one hour into the race, handing over to British ace Katherine Legge. Legge continued to climb the order, despite reporting a clutch issue early in her stint. Nevertheless, she moved into seventh place in GTD and had race-long battles with most of the midfield GTD entries. She held off the Magnus Acura NSX of Andy Lally until he had to retire after losing a wheel with 30 minutes left on the clock. In the final stages, the technical issues on the #88 Porsche intensified and Legge tried everything in her power to bring the car home, ultimately conceding the seventh place to Bryan Sellers (Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini) on the very final lap of the race. She crossed the finish line in eighth place in GTD - bringing back the Team Hardpoint Porsche in the Top-10 after the Watkins Glen double-header. “I had some good fun battles” - Legge said. “The team executed without fault, no mistakes were made. I feel like we’re making progress." "We plan to go testing again soon, so I think that will again aid our march up the grid and we’ll be able to fix the problems that we had and come back even stronger at Laguna.” “I said coming into the weekend that every time we come out with the car we’re smarter, we’re faster, we’re more capable and we’re more competitive and we showed that” - explained Ferriol. “I think we had it in us to fight a little higher up the grid but Katherine’s clutch started to fade at the end. It limited how much progress we could make, but I was happy with the car when I was in it and was extremely happy watching Katherine fight her way through the field.” The GTD victory was claimed by Zach Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor in the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche, thanks to a strategy gamble by Robichon after the first Full Course Yellow that saw the Canadian driver jumping ahead of the field. Meanwhile, the leading #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus of Aaron Telitz was handed a drive through for changing lane at the race start. The driver of the #9 Porsche, on fresher tyres, was thus able to make his way through the GTD field, forcing the #12 Lexus of Montecalvo to a small mistake for the lead. Robichon handed over to Vanthoor with one hour left on the clock and the Belgian brought home the victory with a 11-second gap to the second placed #96 Turner Motorsports BMW M6 GT3 of Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley - who climb into the championship lead with their runner up finish. The GTLM category was also dominated by Porsche: Cooper McNeil and Matt Campbell took their second win of the season ahead of the two Corvette Racing entries. The overall victory went down the wire and became a matter of fuel calculations in the final minutes: when the #60 Acura of Dane Cameron, comfortably in the lead, had to pit for a splash of fuel with three minutes to go, Pipo Derani took victory for the #5 Whelen-Engineering Cadillac, shared with fellow Brazilian Felipe Nasr. Ranger van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the overall podium despite a challenging race that saw the #01 Cadillac protagonist of a few off-track moments, but they managed to overtake the #10 Konica Minolta Acura with 30 minutes to go after Albuquerque picked up a puncture and finished fourth. With 32 points, now Katherine Legge sits tenth in the GTD standings, ahead of the next round at Laguna Seca on September 12th.