After 24 hours on the Daytona International Speedway, Earl Bamber missed out on victory by just twelve seconds. Driving the Porsche 911 RSR of Porsche North America, the Le Mans winner from New Zealand had held the lead at the long distance classic in Florida up until 36 minutes to the flag. After a fierce battle with gripping wheel-to-wheel duels, he and his teammates Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) took the flag in third place and earned all-important championship points to kick off the season. The second podium spot for Porsche at Daytona went to the new Porsche 911 GT3 R campaigned by the Black Swan Racing customer team in the GTD class.
At the traditional opening race of the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the GT classes in particular were immensely competitive and exciting down to the wire. Breathtaking fights for positions and constant changes at the lead treated fans lining the world famous racetrack to some enthralling motor racing, day and night. Right up until the last hour of racing, none of the competitors were able to build a decisive gap. In the end it came down to a nerve-wracking three-way battle between the Porsche 911 RSR with Earl Bamber in the cockpit and a pair of Chevrolet Corvettes. By this stage, BMW and Ferrari were no longer in contention.
After the last round of pit stops, the 470 hp 911 RSR, which underwent modifications, particularly to the aerodynamics, to comply with the new regulations of the most import sports car championship on the North American continent, held a narrow lead. Despite Earl Bamber’s valiant assault, he had to let both Corvettes overtake him, and went on to score the last podium step. In the sister 911 RSR campaigned by Porsche North America, Le Mans winner Nick Tandy (Great Britain) had started from pole and taken the lead of the strong GTLM field, which his French teammates Patrick Pilet and Kévin Estre also managed to defend. But with five hours of racing to go, their 911 RSR with the starting number 911 was hampered by a faulty drive shaft which relegated them down the pack to finally finish on eighth place. However, they too took home important championship points from Daytona.
The new Porsche 911 GT3 R mounted with the new ultra-modern four-litre flat-six with direct fuel injection celebrated a successful racing premiere at the 54th edition of the long distance classic. Competing in the 500 hp customer racer from Weissach for Black Swan Racing, Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA), his compatriots Timothy Pappas and Andy Pilgrim as well as Dutchman Nicky Catsburg secured second place. Porsche has designed the 911 GT3 R for worldwide GT3 series based on the production sports car 911 GT3 RS. In developing the vehicle, the engineers at Weissach paid special attention to lightweight design, improving aerodynamic efficiency and reducing fuel consumption.
Quotes after the race
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “That was a good start to the season. To finish just twelve seconds down after 24 hours is not really losing. It was a tough battle to the flag and we were always amongst the front-runners. But in the end it wasn’t enough for victory, unfortunately. But at Sebring we’ll do better. I’m extremely pleased with the strong performance of our new 911 GT3 R. It’s just as we had hoped for. To contest a 24-hour race with a new car and then finish on the podium is an incredible achievement. It’s a fantastic success for our customer squad, Black Swan Racing.”
Sascha Pilz, Manager GT Customer Racing: “I’m completely satisfied with the debut of our new 911 GT3 R customer racer. Congratulations to Black Swan Racing on an enthralling and flawless race, for which they were rewarded with second place. The strong showing of our customer teams and the good performance of the new car allows me to look to the future with positivity.”
Nick Tandy (911 RSR #911): “We underlined here that we have a fast car and that we’ll definitely be a tough opponent this season. The pit crew did an excellent job, and our preparation was perfect. That gives us confidence for the rest of the season, even though, unfortunately, this race didn’t end up exactly as we had imagined.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR #911): “We’ve earned important points towards the championship, and that’s critical. The race showed that we’re in the position to fight for victory. I’m proud of the team. The guys worked hard, but unfortunately they weren’t rewarded for it. We haven’t experienced technical problems for a very long time, but that can happen sometimes in motorsport. Now we can take a quick breather before we turn our full attention to Sebring.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR #911): “My first race as a Porsche works driver was a fantastic experience. It’s great to work with such a professional team. We didn’t make any mistakes. I’m certain that we will win some races together this season.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #912): “That was a great race. Congratulations to the whole team. We did everything we could, but the faster car on the track won today. We have gained many useful insights from Daytona and we’re well prepared for Sebring. I’m positive that we have the chance to fight for victory there.”
Earl Bamber (911 RSR #912): “Until shortly before the finish, I tried everything to fend off the Corvettes. We had a great fight, but they were simply faster today. Third place is a great result for the team. The GTLM class is so competitive. The races this year will definitely be super exciting and just as tough as this one.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR #912): “We had the best strategy, but the Corvettes were a little faster than we’d expected. Still, it was very close. The team has been rewarded with a podium for its efforts. Daytona is simply a great race and a lot of fun.”
Patrick Long (911 GT3 R #540): “I was certain after the tests that we would do well at this difficult race. But I didn’t anticipate that the new 911 GT3 R would be so fast and so good to drive. The car is simply phenomenal. Black Swan Racing also worked faultlessly under pressure. We achieved our goal and we’re simply happy. Congratulations to the winners from Magnus Racing. In Sebring we’ll do our utmost to turn the tables.”
1. Gavin/Milner/Fässler (GB/USA/CH), Chevrolet Corvette, 722 laps
2. Magnussen/Garcia/Rockenfeller (DK/E/D), Chevrolet Corvette, 722
3. Makowiecki/Bamber/Christensen (F/NZ/DK), Porsche 911 RSR, 722
4. Pier Guidi/Serra/Premat/Rojas (I/BRA/F/MEX), Ferrari 488, 721
5. Werner/Auberlen/Farfus/Spengler (D/USA/BRA/CDN), BMW M6, 721
6. Fisichella/Rigon/Vilander/Beretta (I/I/SF/MC), Ferrari 488, 709
7. Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/D/F), Ford GT, 690
8. Tandy/Pilet/Estre (GB/F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 687
9. Briscoe/Westbrook/Mücke (AUS/GB/D), Ford GT, 560
10. Shaytar/Bertolini/Bruni/Calado (RUS/I/I/GB), Ford GT, 557
1. Potter/Lally/Seefried/Rast (USA/USA/D/D), Audi R8, 703 laps
2. Pappas/Long/Catsburg/Pilgrim (USA/USA/NL/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 703
3. Keating/Robinson/Mosing/Foss/Faulkner (USA/USA/USA/USA/IRL), Dodge Viper, 703
4. Dalla Lana/Lauda/Lamy/Stanaway (CDN/A/P/NZ), Aston Martin, 702
5. Ineichen/Basseng/Konrad/Wilsey/Babini (CH/D/D/USA/I), Lamborgini, 702
6. Marsal/Martin/Palttala/Krohn (USA/B/SF/SF), BMW M6, 701