With two and a half hours left, Bleekemolen was in first place because he was the last car among the GT leaders to pit. Once rejoining after his stop, the Dutchman was 29 seconds behind leader Andy Lally in the Magnus Porsche, an express train on the banking. Shortly after Faulkner got in for the final push, the Job Porsche team got a big break. The race’s 15th caution fell with 92 minutes remaining. Given the Job team’s pit stop schedule, it would definitely be able to run the race with one more pit stop. Was it possible the team might win on a fuel gambit?
Alas, the cautions give and the cautions take. The same safety period enabled the #24 Audi to return to the lead lap after its penalty. And then the race’s 16th and final caution fell with just over 60 minutes remaining. After 23 hours of at-the-limit racing, all the leading GT crews were faced with a decision about fuel strategy that would decide the race.
Having huddled with the data acquisition engineer, Pierce knew what he wanted to do. The team was lying sixth. The green would fall with approximately 50 minutes remaining. The right pace might allow the #23 Porsche to run to the finish. By now, everybody in the Job pits — including the #24 side of the tent — was in full alert despite a night of forty winks for crew members. McNeil, Bleekemolen and Holzer watched intently as Pierce discussed the options with the data engineer.
“What it came down to was we knew where we were going to finish,” Pierce would say later, “so we tried something and took a gamble to try to move up.”
A parade of different strategies played out among the leaders. During the safety car period, the Michellotto Ferrari took fuel, tires and brake pads. The Rum Bum Audi took fuel and tires. With an eye on track position, only the #24 Audi and the #23 Porsche of Job took just fuel during the safety car period. “There were no team orders,” Job would say afterward. “Each team managed its own strategy.”
When the green fell, the Magnus Porsche pitted right away for fuel only, hoping to go to the finish but was unable to run the remaining distance flat out. Next, the APR Audi and the Ferraris pitted for fuel. Suddenly, the Job Audi and the Job Porsche were leading and running nose-to-tail with 40 minutes remaining. Plus, the Job team knew its sister car had to pit for a splash of fuel. Would a mileage gambit work after all?
In a maddening development, the Grand-Am’s timing and scoring periodically went on the blink. It was nearly impossible to track the pace of the trailing competitors who had more fuel and judge the lap times needed for Faulkner to stay in the lead without running out of fuel.