AUSTIN – Nicki Thiim (Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup) and Mark McKenzie (Ferrari Challenge) have taken the victories in the first of each of their two races during the United States Grand Prix weekend at Circuit of the Americas.
But the story was behind Thiim in the Porsche race, as last-lap contact between the two Porsche Supercup title contenders – Kuba Giermaziak and Earl Bamber – will have serious championship implications.
Giermaziak had fallen from second down to fourth during the race. When attempting to defend against Bamber on exit to Turn 11, Giermaziak was to the outside with Bamber on the inside. The two made it about halfway down the straight before Giermaziak’s car was turned around into the outside retaining wall.
Bamber made it home in fourth, while Giermaziak slipped to 11th. Photos below from Will Santiago in the stands, who did a great job to capture the drama as it happened.
The Pole had been poised to close what had been a five-point deficit to the New Zealander (123-118) heading into the race. But unofficial projections now have Bamber 14 points up (137-123) after the contact.
Such a gap can be overcome if Giermaziak was to win (20 points) and have Bamber end 10th or worse (6 points). Giermaziak has three wins to Bamber’s two this year, so would have the tiebreaker.
The task for Giermaziak is made all the more difficult because Bamber has the pole for Sunday’s second race, courtesy of a 2:08.508 set in the morning qualifying session, the top second fastest lap in the field. Ammermuller and Thiim start second and third; Giermaziak starts fifth.
Thiim’s win in the 14-lap Supercup race was a flag-to-flag drive from pole position, and good for his second win this season (Hockenheim in Germany). Michael Ammermuller was second with Klaus Bachler third, the latter up from sixth on the grid.
Bamber was fourth with Phillip Eng rounding out the top five.
Americans struggled in the race with Sean Johnston best of the lot in 12th, one spot behind Giermaziak. Madison Snow suffered a spin at Turn 11 and wound up 26th; IMSA Porsche GT3 USA champ Colin Thompson suffered either a brake failure or stuck throttle as he lost control of his car on the run to Turn 12, and ran straight into Pepe Massot at the corner. Heavy damage took both cars out of the race.
The Ferrari Challenge race saw McKenzie pass polesitter Ricardo Perez on Lap 6 and hold the lead for the remainder of the race through to the checkered on Lap 10. Gregory Romanelli was third and Scott Tucker, making his first overall race start of any kind since this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, finished fourth.
In the CS class, James Weiland won from Robert Herjavec and Ross Garber. Garber, an Austin local, set the fastest lap in his class and was also a supporter of NBCSN’s Will Buxton’s Big Time Bash Thursday night. The trio finished seventh through ninth overall.
Second races for both series are Sunday morning, at 10:15 to 10:45 a.m. (Ferrari Challenge) and 11:15 to 11:50 (Porsche Supercup) local time, respectively.