Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor claimed Corvette Racing's fourth consecutive victory in a GT-only round of the IMSA Sportscar Championship at VIRginia International Raceway as Porsche hit trouble late on.
All six of the GT Le Mans contenders ran into problems of one kind or another, and the #911 Porsche of Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy looked set for victory until it was forced to pit with its second damaged tire of the race with just 18 minutes remaining.
Makowiecki led away following a very tardy rolling start, as the sister #912 of Laurens Vanthoor was jumped by an aggressive Connor de Phillippi's BMW into the Turn 1 Horse Shoe bend. John Edwards in the second BMW also biffed its way past the eventual race-winning #3 Corvette to fourth.
After a brief yellow to retrieve a diveplane from Turn 1, after Frankie Montecalvo's GTD Lexus was hit by the Lamborghini of Madison Snow, the Porsche 1-2 was restored when Vanthoor repassed de Phillippi at Turn 4.
As both Corvettes passed the BMWs, there was more drama as leader Makowiecki's #911 car suffered a left-rear puncture and was forced to pit, promoting Vanthoor to the front.
The #24 BMW Edwards shared with Jesse Krohn was forced into the pits with steering problems 35 minutes from the end and, shortly after rejoining, refused to turn left to leave Edwards stranded in the wet grass. That coincided with Till Bechtolsheimer walling his Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 at Turn 3.
Under the resulting yellow, Makowiecki pitted for fuel only and retook the lead, from the #912 now being driven by Earl Bamber, while the #3 Corvette suffered a pitstop snafu, dropping it to fifth.
Bamber toiled to fend off de Phillippi before another yellow was required when Rob Ferriol hit the tires in his Audi R8 LMS.
At the next restart, De Phillippi grabbed second after some contact, and then attacked the lead 911 RSR. Oliver Gavin lost fourth place in the #4 Corvette as he clipped the grass and went for a ride at the final corner.
The #912 then suffered an unscheduled stop, as Bamber pitted for a new rear-end bodywork section after the clash with de Phillippi.
He was in again a few laps later with his diffuser hanging loose, and IMSA officials wouldn't let him rejoin with the #911's number on the rear bodywork. The Kiwi eventually rejoined three laps down to finish fifth.
"We can't catch a break," Bamber posted on Twitter afterwards. "Something has to go our way soon."
De Phillippi threw away his hard-earned second when he spun, handing that spot to Taylor's Corvette - which ultimately proved decisive when Tandy had his second puncture of the race.
That allowed Garcia to inherit a lead he held to the end, securing a third victory of the year with the new C8.R despite his own problems with a loose diffuser in the closing stages.
"Things are definitely going our way, we can't complain about that!" remarked the Spaniard, who revealed he initially thought the diffuser issue "was terminal because it felt really bad".
The de Phillippi/Bruno Spengler BMW finished 3.5s in arrears, with Tandy just failing to catch Spengler on the last lap, while Tommy Milner trailed home in a distant fourth in the second Corvette.
In a pulsating GTD class battle, Bill Auberlen scored a record-breaking 61st IMSA victory in the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 he shared with Robby Foley, breaking Scott Pruett's record that he had equalled at Petit Le Mans last year.
Foley led the opening stint after the pole-sitting McLaren of Corey Fergus made an awful start, which promoted the Acura NSX of Matt McMurry to second.
Strategy came into play during the second yellow, with some cars opting not to pit, but Foley soon battled his way back to the lead. Behind him, McMurry and Snow battled hard for second, with the Lamborghini driver eventually prevailing.
The final pitstops and driver changes to the pros put Auberlen out front. Mario Farnbacher was right on his tail, having taken over the NSX from McMurry, and Bryan Sellers (in for Snow) held third.
But Farnbacher ruined his chances of winning when he outbraked himself trying to pass Auberlen, and fell to fourth.
As Auberlen pulled clear, the battle for second intensified with Sellers under pressure from Lawson Aschenbach (Mercedes) and the recovering Farnbacher.
Farnbacher pulled off a committed move to pass Aschenbach for third with 10 minutes to go. Sellers looked to have second sealed, but a charging Tandy pushed him wide on a corner, so an opportunistic Farnbacher jumped past to grab second on the last lap.
Results - 85 laps
|1||GTLM||A.Garcia, J.Taylor||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet||2h40m40.846s|
|2||GTLM||B.Spengler, C.De Phillippi||BMW Team RLL||BMW||3.521s|
|3||GTLM||N.Tandy, F.Makowiecki||Porsche GT Team||Porsche||4.200s|
|4||GTLM||O.Gavin, T.Milner||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet||1m10.860s|
|5||GTD||R.Foley, B.Auberlen||Turner Motorsport||BMW||2 Laps|
|6||GTD||M.Farnbacher, M.McMurry||Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian||Acura||2 Laps|
|7||GTD||G.Robinson, L.Aschenbach||Riley Motorsports||Mercedes||2 Laps|
|8||GTD||J.Hawksworth, A.Telitz||AIM Vasser Sullivan||Lexus||2 Laps|
|9||GTD||R.Hardwick, P.Long||Wright Motorsports||Porsche||2 Laps|
|10||GTD||A.Parente, M.Goikhberg||Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Racing||Acura||2 Laps|
|11||GTD||A.Lally, J.Potter||GRT Magnus Racing Team||Lamborghini||2 Laps|
|12||GTD||R.De Angelis, I.James||Heart of Racing Team||Aston Martin||2 Laps|
|13||GTD||F.Montecalvo, T.Bell||AIM Vasser Sullivan||Lexus||2 Laps|
|14||GTLM||E.Bamber, L.Vanthoor||Porsche GT Team||Porsche||3 Laps|
|15||GTD||T.Bechtolsheimer, M.Miller||Gradient Racing||Acura||4 Laps|
|16||GTD||C.Fergus, P.Holton||Compass Racing||McLaren||Not running|
|17||GTLM||J.Krohn, J.M.Edwards||BMW Team RLL||BMW||19 Laps|
|18||GTD||C.MacNeil, T.Vilander||Scuderia Corsa||Ferrari||Not running|
|19||GTD||R.Ferriol, S.Pumpelly||Team Hardpoint||Audi||Not running|
|20||GTD||M.Snow, B.Sellers||Paul Miller Racing||Lamborghini||2 Laps|