Porsche opens season with Daytona win

Porsche has taken off into the 2014 racing season with a victory at the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona. Porsche factory pilots Richard Lietz (Austria), Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Patrick Pilet (France) won the highly-competitive GTLM class of the sports car classic in Florida with the Porsche 911 RSR run by the Porsche North America factory squad. With the 76th class win and the 40th for the Porsche 911, Porsche adds to its record as the most successful manufacturer in the history of this race. The 24 Hours of Daytona was the inaugural race of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, the new sports car race series in the USA and Canada.

The 52nd running of the Daytona 24 hour race marks the start of a new era for Porsche: In the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, Porsche runs a works team for the first time in US sports car racing under the flag of the newly-formed team Porsche North America. The debut race was a complete success. When dawn broke after a long night on the Daytona International Speedway, the Porsche 911 RSR with the starting number 911 lay in the lead with Patrick Pilet at the wheel. The second 911 RSR with the number 912, in which Patrick Long (USA), Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) shared driving duties, followed in second. The 470 hp racer from Weissach is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car and celebrated its race debut last season, scoring a brilliant double victory at it first outing at the Le Mans 24 Hours. For 2014, the winning racer from Weissach, with its extraordinary vehicle design representing the Porsche Le Mans slogan “Mission 2014. Our Return”, has received improvements in many areas. At the Daytona premiere, however, a double victory was not possible: Contesting his first race as a Porsche works driver, Michael Christensen had to park the #912 Porsche 911 RSR after 489 trouble-free laps with an engine mechanical issue.

The number 911 vehicle, however, continued in flawless form. Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz successfully warded off all attacks from factory-run BMW, Viper and Chevrolet. However, it was the ongoing gripping duels at the front that clearly outshone the fight for overall victory. The spectators, many of whom traditionally follow the race action from the roofs of their motorhomes parked in the infield of the world famous race track, were thrilled. Two caution phases in the final laps made for a nail-biting situation at the front. But the Porsche North America strategists in the pits made the right call and the drivers kept their cool in the hectic final phase. When Patrick Pilet finally crossed the finish line at 14.11 hrs, the Porsche pits erupted in cheers.

The new Porsche 911 GT America celebrated a successful debut in the GTD class: After a spirited fight in the race car purpose-built for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, American Madison Snow saw the flag in second place with Jan Heylen (Belgium) and Germany’s Marco Seefried. They finished less than one second shy of the winner.

Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member Research and Development at Porsche AG: “I’ve experienced many 24 hour races, but this one was definitely the most exciting. When the pace car was deployed in the closing laps it got really close again. But Patrick kept his cool and brought victory home. A great effort from the entire team.”

Hartmut Kristen, Porsche Head of Motorsport: “You can’t compare this race to Le Mans. Success here in Daytona was achieved under completely different conditions: It’s a new championship with a newly-formed team who first had to get used to each other. We couldn’t have wished for a better start to the season than a win at Daytona. Both cars were running in the lead for more than 14 hours. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this success. Now we need to look where we can make some detailed improvements and then our chances look good for a successful season.”

Richard Lietz: “What a fantastic way to start the season and, as expected, it was an extremely tough fight. It was particularly difficult to keep out of any tussles during the night. To win in Daytona with the 911 RSR after Le Mans – it looks like this car is particularly suited to endurance racing. Now we have to see that we also perform well in shorter races.”

Nick Tandy: “This victory is the best. The 911 RSR ran perfectly for 24 hours, the team pulled out all stops and did a fabulous job. It was an incredibly tough race for us all, but it was great fun as well. On top of that, we even posted the fastest race lap.”

Patrick Pilet: “That was without doubt the most difficult race of my life. I’ve never had such a well set-up car. The whole team did an awesome job. This win has made a dream come true.”Patrick Long: “We’re proud that the team brought us so far in such a short time and was able to celebrate this incredible victory. It’s a shame it wasn’t a double victory, but we fought hard over the entire distance.”Michael Christensen: “This was my first race as a Porsche works driver. Daytona was a great experience. I was welcomed everywhere I went, and the spirit in our team was fantastic. Victory for the #911 is motivating for the whole squad. I’m sure we could have fought for a top podium spot right to the flag.”

Joerg Bergmeister: “That was definitely a successful outing for the new Porsche North America team. The win is a great feather in Porsche’s cap. Had our car held out until the finish, the end would certainly have been even more suspenseful.”

Race result

GTLM class

1. Tandy/Lietz/Pilet (GB/A/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 679 laps
2. Priaulx/Auberlen/Hand/Martin (GB/USA/USA/B), BMW Z4 GTE, 679
3. Goossens/Farnbacher/Hunter-Reay (B/D/USA), Viper GTS-R, 675
4. Edwards/Müller/Rahal/Werner (USA/D/USA/D), BMW Z4 GTE, + 668
5. Gavin/Milner/Liddell (GB/USA/GB), Chevrolet Corvette, + 666
6. Bomarito/Bell/Wittmer (USA/GB/CAN), Viper GTS-R, + 653
7. Krohn/Jonsson/Bertolini/Dumbreck (USA/S/I/GB), Ferrari F458 Italia, 625
8. Turner/Mücke/Lamy/Stanaway/Della Lana (GB/D/NZ/CAN), Aston Martin, 610

GTD class
1. Canache/Pumpelly/Pappas/Winkelhock (VEN/USA/USA/D), Audi R8 LMS, 662 laps
2. Snow/Heylen/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 GT America, 662
3. Rotenberg/Zlobin/Mediani/Salo/Aleshin (RUS/RUS/I/SF/RUS), Ferrari F458 Italia, 662
8. MacNeil/Keen/van Gisbergen/Lewis/Dumolin (USA/USA/NZ/USA/CAN), Porsche 911 GT America, 656
9. Cisneros/Giermaziak/Nielsen/Thiim (USA/PL/DK/DK), Porsche 911 GT America, 652
12. Henzler/Potter/Lally/Dumolin (D/USA/USA/CAN), Porsche 911 GT America, 645