IMSA: Ford breaks Porsche’s win streak at Lime Rock

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Ford Vs. Ferrari may not release in theaters until this November, but race fans at Lime Rock Park got to watch a live performance of Ford Vs. Porsche.

With the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber fading late in the race due to worn tires, Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, on a three-stop strategy, was able to catch up to and challenge Bamber for the lead in the closing laps and eventually took over the lead with seven minutes remaining in the race.

The No. 67 would take the checkered flag, and finally break Porsche’s five-race GTLM win streak to claim their first class victory of the season.

“Just a great strategy by the team,” Westbrook told NBC Sports following the race. “Ryan [Briscoe’s] opening stint just put us in a really good position on this three-stop strategy. I had better tires than the Porsche, and that’s the only way we can beat them. We got to roll the dice and do a gamble, but we stuck to the plan. That was our plan before the race and it just worked to treat, but to do that, you need the best team.

“When you got all of that behind you, then sometimes these plans work out, and today was one of those special days.”

Co-Driver Briscoe watched as Westbrook took the checkered flag. For him, the win couldn’t have come at a better time.

“What a great drive by Rich at the end. I’m just so stoked,” Briscoe said “It’s been a tough year, and to turn things around here – my home race – with this win, it’s just phenomenal. The whole team just did such a great job. Gave us a really good car to drive, and I think I think it was just really fun to do the three-stop strategy and just do it on pace out there.”

Bamber was able to still hold on and finish second overall in the race, with the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller finishing in the third position.

GTD: Olsen gives Pfaff maiden victory with late-race pass

In GTD, Dennis Olsen gave Pfaff Motorsports their maiden IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory by passing Mario Farnbacher for the class lead with less than three minutes remaining.

However, Farnbacher fought back, challenging Olsen and almost retook the lead from the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R, coming just short at the finish by only 0.010 seconds.

“I saw the opening, and I just had to do it,” Olsen said of his late-race pass. “We had some quite aggressive moves throughout the whole stint and towards the end as well. It was pretty hard to keep him behind on the last lap, but we made it.”

The victory was also the first for co-driver Zacharie Robichon.

“He did an incredible job,” Robichon said. “He took the opportunity when presented without being overly aggressive, and at the end, I’m not too sure what was going on, but he held his position and it was pretty stressful as a team, I’d say.”

The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley completed the GTD podium.

The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship now heads to Road America for the IMSA Road Race Showcase on August 4. Live coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. 

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.