Daytona Beach – After what has seemed to be a very short off-season in the sports car world, it was back to work yesterday for the 60-plus teams entered in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Porsche customers filling 18 of those entry slots with Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars.
Porsches have won the Rolex 24 overall 22 times, and have earned 74 class wins. The first overall victory was in 1968, with the most recent wins in 2003 (with a GT car) and 2009 and 2010 with Porsche-powered Daytona Prototypes. Porsche’s first class win at Daytona was in 1966, with the most recent being the Magnus victory last year. Porsche 911-based race cars have 39 overall and class wins, while Porsche scored 11 consecutive overall victories from 1977 - 1987 in the iconic 24-hour event.
“This has to be one of the strongest line-ups our customer teams have ever fielded,” observed Porsche Motorsport North America president Jens Walther as he looked over the entry list during yesterday’s first testing session.
“Seven of our ten Porsche factory drivers are here, plus other international racing stars, to add to our top American teams who field cars during the American Le Mans and Rolex Grand-Am seasons,” said Walther.
While lap times are certainly an important part of how test days are going for the teams, Walther pointed out that most of entries have specific tasks they are looking to accomplish that are not linked to just speed.
“For teams that are using drivers who have never driven Daytona before – and this applies to many of the Porsche Junior and Carrera/Challenge Cup drivers from around the world – learning to get the most of the banked oval is a priority. Others have never driven at night – an experience they will get tonight during evening practice. Still others may only have sprint race experience, and will need practice with driver changes. And for crews and engineers, the challenges are the same. The size of the crew swells for a 24-hour event, so pit stop coordination is essential. New combinations of drivers will require challenging set-up issues which must be solve. Just making sure everyone has correct clothing and safety equipment can be a priority activity,” said Walther.
For casual race fans, perhaps the two most well-known names who will be driving Porsches this weekend are Tony Kanaan, IndyCar star, and his KV IndyCar teammate Rubens Barrichelo, who also boast 11 victories in Formula 1 during his career. Along with fellow Brazilians Nono Figueiredo and Ricardo Mauricio, the IndyCar drivers will be piloting one of the two Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racers fielded by the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Brazil series.
The seven Porsche factory drivers and two Porsche Junior pilots are spread throughout the field as follows (* denotes previous Rolex 24 winner):
--Marco Holzer – Alex Job Racing (with Cooper MacNeil, Jeroen Bleekemolen* and Damien Faulkner).
--Nick Tandy (newest Porsche factory driver) and Michael Christensen (Porsche Junior driver) - with Lance Willsey and Christian Englehart – Konrad Motorsports/Orbit Racing
--Richard Lietz* – Magnus Racing (with John Potter*, Nicolas Armindo and Andy Lally*)
--Marc Lieb* – Brumos Racing (with Leh Keen, Andrew Davis, and Bryan Sellers)
--Klaus Bachler (Porsche Junior driver) – Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports (with Melanie Snow, Sascha Maassen, and Marco Seefried)
--Joerg Bergmeister* – TRG (with Ben Keating, Dominik Farnbacher*, and Kuno Wittmer)
--Patrick Long* – Park Place Motorsports (with Patrick Lindsey, Jason Hart, Spencer Pumpelly* and Daniel Graeff
A long list of veteran Porsche drivers participating with Porsche teams for Daytona, including former factory pilots and series champions, not mentioned above include Martin Ragginger, Jack Baldwin*, Sean Edwards, Angel Benitez, Jr., Hugh Plumb, Charles Espenlaub, Emmanuel Collard*, Nic Jonsson, Tracy Krohn, and Kelly Collins.
“You could start a world-class sports car series just with the drivers who will be in Porsches for this race,” said Walther.