After a promising start with Nick Tandy and Felipe Nasr in the cockpits of the two Porsche 963, the works team suffered the first setback at 7:00 pm on Saturday. The replacement of the high-voltage battery threw the No. 7 down the field. As the race progressed, damage to the cooling system forced the vehicle back into the Porsche Penske Motorsport garage for repairs.
The No. 6 car, which in the early stages Tandy had catapulted from P9 on the grid to the leading pack, put in a strong performance. During the night, the Porsche returnee and his teammates Mathieu Jaminet from France and Dane Cameron from the USA even led the field at times. A spin by Tandy – the 2015 outright Le Mans winner in the Porsche 919 Hybrid – cost him three laps. On Sunday morning, the crew again launched an attack. Posting top lap times, the Porsche 963 plowed its way back to within striking distance of the frontrunners, only to be robbed of all hopes for a top result by a gearbox problem. While the car shared by Tandy/Jaminet/Cameron had to retire early, the sister car driven by Matt Campbell (Australia), Felipe Nasr (Brazil) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) went on to take the GTP-class flag in seventh place after 24 hours.
“We’re disappointed, no question about it,” concludes Thomas Laudenbach. The Vice President of Porsche Motorsport adds: “After just over five hours, the No. 7 car was thrown out of contention for victory due to an issue with the high-voltage system. Later, our No. 6 suffered damage to the powertrain. We experienced several problems but at the same time, we were able to learn a great deal. The good thing is, we know where we now stand and what we need to work on. We’ll now prepare systematically for the next race at Sebring in March.”
“Firstly, congratulations to Acura on winning the maiden race in the new GTP era,” declares Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “We were hoping for more, mostly because we managed to set a fantastic pace at times. I’d like to thank Multimatic and all other partners. It’s been a long road for us all and we’ve finally arrived at the start of the GTP class. This is tremendous for the entire racing scene. Of all weekends, we had to deal with a lot of damage this weekend. Thank you to my colleagues in Weissach and at the team bases in Mooresville and Mannheim for their tireless work. We deserved a better result however we’ve learned a lot, which we will now consistently implement.”
New Porsche 911 GT3 R in GT classes without realistic chances
The customer teams fielding the new Porsche 911 GT3 R in the GTD-Pro class already realized during the practice and qualifying sessions that they faced a difficult situation. In the GT classes, in which different manufacturers compete with a variety of vehicle concepts, the playing field is leveled out via a so-called Balance of Performance system. The governing body of the IMSA series did not succeed in achieving this at the season opener in Daytona. The new GT3 vehicles from Weissach were so severely handicapped in terms of engine performance that the seven vehicles contesting both categories had next to no chance of success.
As the defending GTD-Pro champions, Pfaff Motorsports reached the finish line in fifth place after a valiant effort from works driver Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) as well as Klaus Bachler from Austria and the Frenchman Patrick Pilet. The identical vehicle campaigned by MDK Motorsports took the flag in sixth place. In the GTD category, Wright Motorsports’ No. 16 car finished the race in ninth as the best-placed Porsche.
“Our starting position was difficult due to the classification of our Porsche 911 GT3 R,” says Thomas Laudenbach, describing the situation of the Porsche customer teams in the GT classes. “Regardless, all teams fought their hardest – and that deserves the highest respect. Pfaff Motorsports finished fifth in the GTD-Pro class, just one lap behind – hats off! That’s the best morale in sports. Even if we can’t be right at the front at times, we still don’t give up; instead, we fight to the end, take home the points and continue at the next race.”
“It was a turbulent start to the season, which we would’ve liked to conclude with a different result,” comments Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “Everyone attempted to make the most out of the situation. Seven customer cars started, six saw the chequered flag – that alone is a great debut for the new 911 GT3 R. However, the result is of secondary importance this weekend and we were only able to do damage control. Our focus is now on the future. Sebring will be challenging. We’ll take all the experience we gained with the new car from Daytona and work with the organiser on an updated BoP.”
Round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is contested on 18 March in Sebring (USA). The day before, the Porsche 963 makes its debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the same venue.
Drivers’ comments on the race
Nick Tandy (Porsche 963 #6): “This event was both fantastic and incredibly character-building. There were a lot of positives, but just as many negatives. Our pace was strong but we still have a lot of work to do. That’s probably normal with a new car in a new vehicle class, with a new team and new drivers. Still, disappointment is the main emotion at this point. Right now, we need to focus on the positive aspects as quickly as possible – and there is plenty to focus on!”
Felipe Nasr (Porsche 963 #7): “Unfortunately, several defects set us back – first the battery, then the cooling system. Our engine overheated and we had to return to the garage. We learned a lot in this race. We’ll certainly make progress and we many more insights than before. The team never gave up and neither did the drivers. It simply wasn’t enough to succeed this time. Hopefully, next time.”
Klaus Bachler (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “If somebody had told us before the race that we would finish fifth in the GTD-Pro class despite the BoP classification, I would’ve thought that was very cool. The team did a great job. We were still on the same lap as the leading cars at the finish. From that perspective, we can be very happy with the result. It was my first race with Pfaff Motorsports and I had to learn a lot. Now we’re heading into the season with a good points tally. I’m sure we can fight for a class win again at Sebring.”
Jan Heylen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “I’m very proud of the Wright Motorsports team and everything we accomplished. The 24-hour race was very long for all of us, especially because we didn’t stand a real chance. Still, we finished in the top ten of our class and managed to score all-important points towards the championship. I hope things go better for us at Sebring.”
1. Blomqvist/Braun/Castroneves/Pagenaud (UK/USA/BR/F), Acura ARX-06 #60, 783 laps
2. Taylor/Albuquerque/Deletraz/Hartley (USA/P/CH/NZ), Acura ARX-06 #10, 783 laps
3. Bourdais/van der Zande/Dixon (F/NL/NZ), Cadillac V-LMDh #01, 783 laps
7. Campbell/Nasr/Christensen (AUS/BR/DK), Porsche 963 #7, 749 laps
DNF. Tandy/Jaminet/Cameron (UK/F/USA), Porsche 963 #6, 700 laps
1. MacNeil/Juncadella/Gounon/Engel (USA/E/B/D), Mercedes AMG GT3 #79, 729 laps
2. Garcia/Taylor/Milner (E/USA/USA), Corvette C8.R GTD #3, 729 laps
3. Hawksworth/Barnicoat/Conway (UK/UK/UK), Lexus RC-F GT3 #14, 729 laps
5. Bachler/Pilet/Vanthoor (A/F/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 728 laps
6. Kvamme/Estep/Magnussen/Hart /USA/USA/DK/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #53, 717 laps
1. De Angelis/Sörensen/James/Turner (CDN/DK/USA/UK), Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #27, 729 laps
2. Potter/Lally/Pumpelly/Thiim (USA/USA/USA/DK), Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #44, 729 laps
3. Iribe/Schandorff/Millroy/Kirchhöfer (USA/DK/UK/CH), McLaren 720S GT3 #70, 729 laps
9. Hardwick/Heylen/Robichon/Olsen (USA/B/CDN/N), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 723 laps
11. Brynjolfsson/Hindman/Root/Estre (USA/USA/USA/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #77, 719 laps
14. Hyett/Jeannette/Priaulx/Tincknell (USA/USA/UK/UK), Porsche 911 GT3 R #80, 710 laps
16. Metni/van Berlo/Evans/Andlauer (USA/NL/NZ/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #91, 699 laps
DNF. Brule/Udell/Davis/Bleekemolen (USA/USA/USA/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #92, 278 laps
Full results on http://imsa.alkamelsystems.com.
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Edited Porsche Factory Press Release
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG