A driver who had excelled in the GT3 arena with Audi, winning multiple titles, finally got his hands on some end-of-season silverware after his switch to 2017 Porsche. Vanthoor triumphed in the GT Le Mans class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship together with Earl Bamber at the end of a near-faultless season.
Vanthoor and Bamber edged out Porsche factory team-mates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, three-time race winners like themselves, by dint of greater consistency. They notched up a further four podiums to the two of the sister car. Consistency is always the name of the game in IMSA and Vanthoor has now eradicated the mistakes that marked his early career.
He's made regular appearances in Autosport ranking lists, where it was always pointed out that there were lows as well as highs. There could have been more highs for Vanthoor in 2019, but he proved that he's a true all-rounder. He might have repeated his 2018 GTE Pro class win at Le Mans together with Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen but for technical problems.
Vanthoor was also on course for victory in the Nurburgring 24 Hours together with his Le Mans team-mates and Bamber when he was penalised for a yellow-flag infringement, though it turned out to be academic when their factory Manthey car was subsequently excluded for a technical anomaly. He then rounded off his season with second in the Macau GT World Cup.
Does the IMSA title top your other championship triumphs in GT3?
It was probably the hardest for me. People underestimate the impact of the change I made for 2017 when I joined Porsche. I went straight to North America and the IMSA series, so as well as not knowing the car, I didn't know the tracks or the rules. It was like a mini reset of my career. I had to prove myself all over again. But I had told people that I didn't want to stop racing in the USA before I won the championship. That was why it was so important for me personally to win the championship. I took the risk to do something new and at a higher level, and it has paid off.
Do you prefer racing in North America?
I take a lot of joy racing in America. If I try to think of things I don't like, nothing pops into my mind. I love the tracks, I love the championship and I love the cars.
What were your best races of the season?
I have spoken to Earl about this question. It's not like we banged out one race where we drove away from everyone and did the ultimate job. We were always consistent. We always qualified well and then made up places at the start. We didn't make mistakes or get any penalties. It may sound boring, but that's how you win championships.
What's the next target?
The dream I have is to win all the big 24-hour races. I've won at Le Mans, Spa and the Nurburgring, so the one I am missing is Daytona.