Earl Bamber has picked up his first win of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship at Laguna Seca, though any hopes of a repeat title-winning campaign have now been extinguished.
Bamber and co-driver Laurens Vanthoor resisted the late pressure of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor in the leading Corvette after a full-course caution interrupted the race with just 20 minutes remaining.
Bamber had found himself in the lead due to the quick pit work of the Porsche GT Le Mans team.
Vanthoor, who was at the helm of the No.912 for the start of the 2hr 40min race, was running comfortably in second and unable to reel in the Corvette of Taylor.
But a one-lap undercut and some lightning work in the pitlane vaulted Vanthoor ahead of Taylor on Lap 20.
Taylor’s pace then began to fade as Vanthoor established a healthy seven-second advantage before swapping seats with Bamber for the final two stints home.
With one Porsche up front dictating the pace of the race, the sister No.911 entry opted for an aggressive two-stop strategy in a bid to throw a spanner among the works.
While the gamble failed to pay any dividends, it did cover off both BMW entries who tried a similar strategy after a disappointing show of pace across the weekend.
Both Bamber and Garcia made their final round of stops with under 45-minutes remaining and a five-second buffer separating the duo.
A brief full-course caution then came out on the 20-minute mark when a battle between two Prototypes resulted in debris flicked from off the circuit and onto the racing line.
The yellow ultimately eased everyone’s fuel-saving concerns, and Bamber was able to fend off Garcia all the way home. The eventual difference between the two was 0.9s.
Provisional third went to the second Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. However, the pair were penalised post-race for a height irregularity with the rear diffusor and consequently demoted to last in the GTLM class.
It meant Garcia and Taylor now have an insurmountable series lead as their Corvette teammates were the only ones able to take the championship to the final round at Sebring later this month.
It also ensures Bamber is denied the opportunity to defend his 2019 championship in what is his final year in the series with the Porsche outfit. The German powerhouse announced earlier this year that it is pulling the plug on its GT Le Mans operations after the current season.
Nevertheless, Bamber finally ends a winless drought that extended 483 days.
“Today we didn’t have the quickest, car but it was definitely one of those tremendous team victories,” said Bamber.
“We’ve been waiting for a victory since the summer of last year.
“It finally worked. We won the race thanks to our strategy and the perfect job of all involved. Just one week after our victory at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, we’re now at the forefront of the IMSA series.”
Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves claimed the overall win after an orchestrated overtake on Penske teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron to give them the maximum points haul ahead of the season finale.
The final round of the 2020 IMSA championship will be the 12 Hours of Sebring on November 14.