Porsche Penske’s WEC program providing gains for its IMSA outfit

The 28-year-old Frenchman, along with co-driver Nick Tandy, are in the thick of an ultra-tight championship battle heading into Petit Le Mans – IMSA’s season finale – next weekend at Road Atlanta.

The pilots of the team’s No. 6 Porsche 963 sit third in the top-level GTP class, but only five points behind points leaders Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims in the Whelen Cadillac.

Momentum, though, is on the side of Jaminet and Tandy after winning the previous round on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last month. It marked their second victory of the season, having won on the Streets of Long Beach in April. 

The surge of performance by Penske also extended to IMSA team-mates Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr, who have finished first and second in each of the previous two rounds (Road America, IMS RC).

However, results in the endurance rounds haven’t been as favorable by comparison, with the best being a third-place result in the 12 Hours of Sebring in March for Jaminet and Tandy. At the Rolex 24 At Daytona, a gearbox issue led to an early retirement and relegated them to eighth in class.

Additionally, a June victory in the Six Hours of The Glen was negated after a post-race penalty due to a chassis skid plate measuring thinner than the legal minimum, which dropped them to the bottom of the 57 entries, ninth in class.

Podium: #6 Team Penske Porsche 963: Nick Tandy, Mathieu Jaminet, #7 Team Penske Porsche 963: Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr

Podium: #6 Team Penske Porsche 963: Nick Tandy, Mathieu Jaminet, #7 Team Penske Porsche 963: Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr

Photo by: Tyler Clemmensen

Although next Saturday’s contest at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn natural terrain road course is 10 hours, Jaminet is rolling with the momentum rather than looking at the enduro results.

“The mindset right now is very good,” Jaminet said. “Obviously, endurance races have not been great for us. But also, there I see a lot of positives; we were extremely close to win Sebring. We ended up crossing the line first in Watkins.

“At the end of the day, it wasn’t terrible. It’s just things didn’t really go our way. I still believe that 10 hours in Atlanta is going to be a challenge for the car, so to win the championship, you already need the car to be there because they’re still very new to everyone.

“I think no one is guaranteed to have no technical issues by the end of the race. That’s still for sure an unknown for us and I believe for the others. Other than that, we feel that the car has made really good improvements over the last month.

“We feel quite confident going into this one. Then we will see how it plays out, but at least I believe we did our homework, as much as much as we could to arrive as prepared as we could. Then we see if it works or not.”

Unlike Daytona and Sebring, Jaminet and Tandy will be without veteran Dane Cameron as their third co-driver for the lengthy round in Road Atlanta. Instead, they will have Laurens Vanthoor, who, like Cameron, is part of Penske’s program in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

“These cars are pretty complicated and there is actually a lot of things you can interact with in the cockpit,” Jaminet said. “I believe it’s so important right now to communicate to your team; what the car does, what your issues are, and how they can help you.

“Because there is so much software stuff, especially on braking that you can change to actually improve, which is one of the main topics, at least for us at Porsche. The braking, we see these cars are super tricky. We see most of the tracks, people going off also on cold tires and so on.

“So, any help you can get with this software stuff, which happens in the background, it’s really important to give the feedback to the team because sometimes you don’t realize as a driver that there might be some other options that you can try. It might actually help your issues that you would not do in a normal race car.

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“Communication is key because there is a lot more to see on the data at what you can feel and the team is there to support and can give you the tools to solve your problems. That’s one of the main things and the things we have been working on in the last testings and last events.»

According to Jaminet, who won the GTD Pro class title with Campbell last year with Pfaff Motorsports, Penske’s recent improvements in IMSA come from the depth of resources that include contributions from the WEC program.

“Luckily, with the WEC program, the car is running almost double as everybody else,” Jaminet said. “Cadillac has also one car in WEC but I think yeah, it’s only one and they’ve been doing a bit less testing as well. These cars are so new that every kilometers or every mile that you have on a racetrack provides you new information, new things to test.

«You have also feedback from more drivers, from different tracks. We have one type of track in the US — all very different from, let’s say, Mosport to Road America to Daytona, but none of those tracks are actually like Spa or Fuji, or Le Mans.

“So, we’ve been lucky also to try different tracks there. Also, the setup philosophy of how we run the car has been evolving so much.”

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