The two Porsche 963 fielded by the Porsche Penske Motorsport factory squad have wrapped up their first qualifying session in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with varying degrees of success. Felipe Nasr from Brazil planted Porsche Penske Motorsport’s No. 7 car on P2 – a mere 0.083 seconds off pole position. His brand colleague Nick Tandy, however, was hampered by bad luck in the No. 6 car. On the way to setting pole, the UK driver lost the rear of his 963 while braking for the Bus Stop chicane and hit the tyre wall. In the GTD classes, the seven Porsche 911 GT3 R secured only mediocre grid positions.
At the start of the 20-minute GTP qualifying, Tandy and Nasr initially waited in the pits with their two 500 kW (680 PS) Porsche 963. After about seven minutes, the two hybrid vehicles headed out onto the 5.73-kilometre racetrack to chase top times. Both Porsche works drivers put in a strong drive and quickly positioned themselves among the frontrunners. On lap four, Tandy pulled out all stops: the outright Le Mans winner of 2015 set top times in the first two sectors and was on course for pole position – only to lose the rear of his Porsche 963 when braking for the last chicane. The vehicle shot over the grass and crashed into the tyre barrier. Despite damage to the front of the car, Tandy managed to drive slowly back to the pits – however, the stewards had already red-flagged the session. The IMSA regulations clearly state that the driver who caused a red flag in qualifying has their two fastest lap times voided. As a result, the No. 6 car will take up the race from the back of the GTP field.
When the qualifying session finally went green for the remaining two and a half minutes, Nasr again launched a blistering attack in the No. 7 car. With mere seconds left on the clock, the Brazilian catapulted his 963 to the front of the field, only to be pipped to pole by the No. 60 Acura in a last-ditch effort. The qualifying on Saturday marks the conclusion of the so-called “Roar” at Daytona. As part of the three-day test event, Porsche’s two new hybrid prototypes covered a total of 1,541 kilometres in preparation for the season-opening round this coming Saturday and Sunday. Tandy shares the cockpit of the No. 6 Porsche 963 with his works driver teammates Mathieu Jaminet from France and Dane Cameron from the USA. Nasr drives the sister car with the Australian Matt Campbell and Michael Christensen from Denmark.
“Congratulations to Acura on securing the first pole position in the new GTP era,” says Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “We’re pleased with our qualifying result because we’ve clearly underlined that we’re up with the play. When the session restarted towards the end, we didn’t have enough time to get the tyres back up to the optimum temperature. Nick’s accident is a pity for the crew of the No. 6 car but it’s by no means an indication of how the race will pan out. 24 hours is a long time and a lot can happen – and we’re part of the action!”
New Porsche 911 GT3 R qualifies among the backmarkers
In the GTD-Pro class, the new Porsche 911 GT3 R (Gen. 992) concluded its qualifying debut in eighth place. Works driver Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium turned seven qualifying laps and improved significantly over the course of the session. However, the vehicle fielded by the defending champions Pfaff Motorsports was unable to join the fight for pole position. In the GTD category, the six new identical 415 kW (565 PS) GT3 vehicles from Weissach also struggled. Jan Heylen (Belgium) and factory driver Kévin Estre from France planted the two cars from Wright Motorsports on positions 14 and 18. Both cars fielded by Kelly-Moss with Riley take up the race from P19 and P20 of the GTD field. Lining up on the grid behind them are the vehicles from MDK Motorsports (P21) and AO Racing (P23).
“Our cars haven’t been able to match the pace of the competition since the Roar began,” explains Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “On the one hand, the Balance of Performance process is based on basic data such as the vehicle’s weight, engine output and aerodynamics, which help determine the initial classification. On the other hand, what is taken into account is the data collected out on the circuit under comparable track and weather conditions. The organiser receives the data when the qualifying session is over so that the adjustment of the BoP process can begin. We work closely with the organisers and look forward to a balanced field for the race.” At the three-day “Roar Before the 24” in Daytona, the seven new Porsche 911 GT3 R turned 829 laps and covered a distance of 4,733 kilometres.
The 24 Hours of Daytona race weekend begins this Thursday, 26 January, with three practice sessions. The 61st running of the endurance classic in Florida gets underway on Saturday, 28 January, at 1:40 pm local time (7:40 pm CET).
1. Blomqvist/Braun/Castroneves/Pagenaud (UK/USA/BR/F), Acura ARX-06 #60, 1:34.031 minutes
2. Campbell/Nasr/Christensen (AUS/BR/DK), Porsche 963 #7, 1:34.114 minutes
3. Taylor/Albuquerque/Deletraz/Hartley (USA/P/F/NZ), Acura ARX-06 #10, 1:34.198 minutes
9. Tandy/Jaminet/Cameron (UK/F/USA), Porsche 963 #6, no lap time
1. MacNeil/Juncadella/Gounon/Engel (USA/E/B/D), Mercedes AMG GT3 79, 1:46.784 minutes
2. Gunn/Riberas/Pittard (UK/E/UK), Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #23, 1:46.825 minutes
3. Hawksworth/Barnicoat/Conway (UK/UK/UK), Lexus RC-F GT3 #14, 1:46.923 minutes
8. Bachler/Pilet/Vanthoor (A/F/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 1:48.977 minutes
1. Ward/Ellis/Dontje/Auer (USA/D/NL/A), Mercedes AMG GT3 #57, 1:46.093 minutes
2. Schiller/Jefferies/Habul (D/UK/USA), Mercedes AMG GT3 #75, 1:46.312 minutes
3. Skeen/Grenier/Koch/Götz (USA/CDN/USA/D), Mercedes AMG GT3 #32, 1:46.705 minutes
14. Hardwick/Heylen/Robichon/Olsen (USA/B/CDN/N), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 1:48.942 minutes
18. Brynjolfsson/Hindman/Root/Estre (USA/USA/USA/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #77, 1:49.358 minutes
19. Brule/Udell/Davis/Bleekemolen (USA/USA/USA/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #92, 1:49.373 minutes
20. Metni/van Berlo/Evans/Andlauer (USA/NL/NZ/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #91, 1:49.507 minutes
21. Hyett/Jeannette/Priaulx/Tincknell (USA/USA/UK/UK), Porsche 911 GT3 R #80, 1:49.644 minutes
23. Kvamme/Estep/Magnussen/Hart (USA/USA/DK/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #53, 1:50.628 minutes
Drivers’ comments after the qualifying
Nick Tandy (Porsche 963 #6): “First of all, I want to thank the team for putting a great car on the track for me today. The new Porsche 963 has never felt so good under such conditions with an open track and the proviso to go max attack. It was simply outstanding! I was on track to set a new personal best, I only had to get through the chicane – but it didn’t work out. The left front wheel locked up under braking and I ended up in the dirt off the racing line. I tried to salvage the car before the second kerb but the rear kicked out. I lost control. Luckily the damage isn’t too bad. I’ll focus on the positives: the teamwork has been great over the last few days and the car is simply stunning. The 963 is a lot of fun to drive.”
Felipe Nasr (Porsche 963 #7): “I’m happy with my fastest lap. It’s incredible how much progress we’ve made over the weekend. We’ve now got a better understanding of the quirks of the car and the new tyres. Ultimately, our focus is now on the race and the preparation for it. Pole position would’ve been nice but we’re looking at the big picture – which is the race this coming weekend.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 963 #6): “We initially had some tricky issues to solve at the start of the Roar but our team worked on them systematically from session to session. As a result, we’ve made great progress in terms of vehicle balance and performance, which is the most important thing for a 24-hour race. I’m looking forward to the start of the season.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “We have a new car. And this version of the 911 GT3 R is also new for the IMSA management. So there’s a lot to learn for all parties – also in terms of the classification. At the moment it’s obvious that all of the GT3 Porsche are too slow. I gave it my best shot in qualifying – I can’t do more. I have complete confidence in everyone involved that things will go in the right direction for the race.”