The longest and possibly the most challenging race on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship concluded on Sunday afternoon, and new sports car racing team AO Racing took great pride in facing adversity to finish the Rolex 24 At Daytona. In some ways, the team faced a stacked deck with challenging regulations, but also, the normal demands of the endurance race came into play, giving the team quite the dose of adversity in their series debut.
It became apparent early into the Daytona festivities that the seven Porsche 911 GT3 R race cars competing in the event would be at a disadvantage based on series technical regulations (Balance of Performance-BOP). The Porsche teams accepted their fates, aiming to race clean and finish the event, which can be its own challenge, to maximize results.
Competing in the 23 car-deep GTD class, AO Racing started the 24-hour race from 19th place on Saturday. After early contact, the team was on the back foot, working with a car that had a certain level of damage that could not be diagnosed during the race. Already running three seconds slower than the competing manufacturers due to the technical restrictions, the team knew that the goal would be to finish the iconic race and yield as many points as possible with a positive result.
Drivers PJ Hyett, Gunnar Jeannette, Sebastian Priaulx, and Harry Tincknell proudly raced the No. 80 Porsche 911 GT3 R, a modern race car that wore a livery inspired by the Porsche 935 that won the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1983. However, the ghost of 40 years before brought no luck to the team. Throughout the 24-hour race, the AO Racing program went through four bumper covers, two splitters, one fender, and one wing plate.
Despite the setbacks, the operation outlasted many veteran sports car racing teams, steering clear of any catastrophic crashes or damage that would have required extended time in the pits for repair or even early race retirement. With 61 cars in five classes all competing within the same race, the GTD class competitors constantly maneuvered out of the way of the four faster categories, racing through the day and night to be there in the end on Sunday afternoon. In the end, the team finished 14th in class, and third amongst the GTD class Porsches.
Round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will take place March 15-18 at Sebring International Raceway, near Orlando, Florida. The second of four endurance rounds on the IMSA calendar will run for twelve hours in a race known by all die-hard race fans as the Twelve Hours of Sebring. Hyett and Priaulx are slated to run the whole 2023 season together, with Jeannette racing alongside them in the endurance rounds. The Twelve Hours of Sebring is a fan-favourite, known for its notoriously bumpy and demanding road course surface.
Firstly, I’d like to thank AO Racing and Multimatic. What a race they put on for us. They gave us a great race call all race long. It’s AO’s first 24-hour race, so congratulations to them. It’s an amazing achievement to finish it. I have to say thanks to my teammates. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. Unfortunately, the BOP wasn’t on our side for this weekend, but we kept pushing and kept fighting. We weren’t quitters to the very end. I have a lot of faith in the team for Sebring. It’s a new race and hopefully we’ll have different set of circumstances. That’s not the main objective. Working as a team is the main thing. I can’t thank all of the guys enough. What an incredible performance they did to get to the finish line. I’m excited for the future with them.
It was a monumental effort for us in our first IMSA race, battling the powers that be. We never had a chance to do well, but we persevered through everything that was thrown at us, which is hugely important for us as a team. I’m super proud of everyone given the adversity of the weekend, to work together so well. Hopefully, we’ll get some help on the performance side for the future events.
Daytona is a great race and AO Racing is a great team that’s formed and is continuing to grow. I was super impressed at the test in December, and how close-knit the team was. It has very good individuals from different teams and just to see them grow in the last two weeks, it’s been huge. I’m very convinced that when there is the right BOP, they’ll win races this year. I’m really proud of all of them. PJ had an unfortunate incident right at the start, which meant that even though we had a bad BOP, our car was slightly wounded throughout the whole race, but nevertheless, we showed our perseverance.
There are loads of lessons to take from it. We had a few incidents, and we had a few penalties. Ultimately it’s AO’s first race and we finished the Daytona 24 Hours and scored some points. A lot of cars that were quicker than us had issues and didn’t finish. It was a great start for the team. I’m going to be at the test with the team in a couple of weeks and hand the reins over to Sebastian for the rest of the year. He’s a great driver. He’s young and super-fast. This is a big step up for him to lead a team the rest of the year, but I feel like he’s ready for it. There’s no champagne or Rolex today, but I’m a hundred percent convinced that there’ll be plenty of that this season for AO.
Source. KBru Communications
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