Despite not getting the results that Porsche Penske Motorsport would have liked in their debut event, both Porsche 963 show considerable pace at the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona at the historic Daytona International Speedway.
The debut of Porsche Penske Motorsport, the Porsche 963 and the all-new GTP class in the 61st running of the 24 Hours of Daytona ended with a P7 result for the No. 7 race car of Felipe Nasr (Brasil), Matt Campbell (Australia) and Michael Christensen (Denmark). The sister car of Mathieu Jaminet (France), Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Dane Cameron (USA) had to retire due to mechanical issues.
“It was a really tough day for the team, but days like today are things we build upon for the future,” said Managing Director Porsche Penske Motorsport, Jonathan Diuguid. “I look forward to the future and we will learn for all of the races, beginning in Sebring.”
All three drivers of the No. 6 Porsche 963 kept the car in the top-five throughout the first half the race, running as high as second for large chunks of the race and proving they were one of the cars to beat.
Unfortunately, as is often the case in 24-hour events, surviving the nighttime is the name of the game. Tandy suffered an off during the 5:00 am hour, resulting in damage to the nose, rear wing and underbelly of the Porsche 963. After making repairs and only losing three laps in the process, the No. 6 continued in the top-five as problems hindered other competitors. However, despite driving back to just one-lap down with just over two hours to go, a gearbox problem knocked the No. 6 out of the event.
The No. 7 Porsche 963 ran into trouble early and often in the first quarter of the race, suffering drive issues in the first stint with Felipe Nasr, then having to go behind the wall five hours into the event with Michael Christensen behind the wheel with an electrical system issue. It dropped them 19 laps down. Several other mechanical issues eventually dropped the No. 7 some 34 laps down from the leaders over the course of the race’s 24 hours.
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 ploughed 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 realised 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 levelled 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.
Driver comments after the race
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 963 #6): “It was an eventful night. For a long time, we were running up front trying to stay out of trouble, but Nick had an off and it caused some damage on the car. Since then, the car was losing performance. It was really tough out there. We lost a few laps with all of the pit stops. When we changed to the soft/hot tire, we got some performance back in the car.”
Dane Cameron (Porsche 963 #6): “An unfortunate end to our first race with the Porsche 963. We had a few small things here or there, but we were handing around withing reach of a podium finish at the end of the day. The guys were fighting hard and put forth a really strong effort. We were just slightly out of touch for the 24 hour. It is too bad that we had to retire in the end with a technical failure. It was great to get the first one going, get it out of the way and launch the team, the car and the program. We can build from here and we know we had strong pace. We will come out stronger with all four cars in Sebring.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 963 #7): “We made it to the end, and that is mission accomplished. It certainly wasn’t an easy race for us. We were quite a few laps down, but we were able to fix the car and make it really fast. We were going to fight to the end. It’s a shame we weren’t able to fight for a win at the end. But I think we learned a lot, and we know what to do from here on out.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 963 #7) “The first race in the Porsche 963 was a bit painful in terms of results and where we ended but getting to drive it and race against everyone else was super cool. Unfortunate, we just had too many issues. We will learn and get better. There is a long road ahead of us.”
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
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