24 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Racers to Contend for the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona GT Crown; Six January Test Sessions Show Top 20 GT Cars in Class Within Less Than One Second
--TRG, Burtin, Alex Job, NGT, Flying Lizard, Brumos, Muehlner, Magnus and Paul Miller fastest Porsches at the Daytona Test with Camaros, Ferrari, Mazda, BMW and Audi ready to challenge for the GT Crown-
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – January 25 – More than 100 race drivers – many of them ranked among the world’s best – will gather at Daytona International Speedway this weekend to drive Porsches and contest the Rolex GT crown for the 50th anniversary race of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, to be held January 28-29, 2012.
The race track combines the tri-oval banking of the NASCAR stock car track with a challenging infield course for a unique 3.56-mile, 12-turn circuit. Jens Walther, president of Porsche Motorsports North America, pointed to the challenging course, along with the stout construction of the Porsche race car and the quality of the drivers for the Porsche teams that gives his company a good chance to win the 46-car GT class the end of January.
“The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, like its predecessors which found success at Daytona, is built for endurance racing. This year, with our 24 entries featuring some of the world’s best GT drivers and teams, we think we have an excellent chance for the top step of the podium once again,” said Walther.
He did point out that Porsche’s main competitors last year in the Rolex Grand-Am GT class – Mazda, Camaro and BMW – all have strong entries, along with newcomers Audi and Ferrari – but Porsche’s success at the Rolex 24 has included a record 22 overall victories and 73 class wins (events from the Daytona Continentals that started in 1962 and ran through 2011, when Porsche again won the GT class). Porsche 911 based race cars have 38 overall and class wins, also a Rolex 24 record. Porsche Rolex 24 at Daytona Facts and Figures
“At the official test in early January, different manufacturers each took their turn posting the fastest lap of the session, showing how even the field really is,” said Walther, “but lap speed is only part of the answer to winning the Rolex 24 – durability, strategy, teamwork, and error-free driving all come into play before anyone can earn a victory in the event.”
The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup is the most successful race car ever built by an auto manufacturer, with more than 2300 units sold since its introduction in 1989. The 2012-spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racecar is based on the lightweight, 911 GT3 RS street sports car. The power unit is largely identical to the production engine from that car with the same output of 450 bhp and the same maximum engine speed of 8,500 rpm. A race exhaust system with a controlled catalytic converter helps keep emissions to a minimum. It is the only GT racer built on the same assembly line by the manufacturer as the street version on which it is based.
And drivers for the Porsche teams entered in this year’s event represent Porsche factory drivers, former and defending Rolex 24 champions, Le Mans winners, international champions, and national title holders from every continent.
Porsche factory drivers Patrick Pilet (France) - #66 TRG Porsche; Marco Holzer (Germany) - #23 Alex Job Porsche; Wolf Henzler (Germany) - #67 TRG Porsche; Patrick Pilet - #66 TRG Porsche; Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) – Flying Lizard Porsche; Richard Lietz (Austria) – Magnus Porsche; and Marc Lieb (Germany) – Brumos Porsche all will lend their Porsche expertise to America’s top Porsche customer teams.
Last year’s GT champion in the Rolex 24, the #67 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, has three returnees from the 2011 winners circle (Wolf Henzler, Steve Bertheau, and Spencer Pumpelly) and they will be joined by Supercup veteran Jereon Bleekemolen (The Netherlands) and Marc Goosens (Belgium). TRG has also entered four other Porsches, and they all have sports car driving stars on their roster, including former Formula I pilot Eliseo Salazar (Chile), Jim Michaelian, president of the Long Beach Grand Prix Association, Patrick Pilet, Porsche factory driver, Dominik Farnbacher, pole sitter for the race in GT last year; and Kevin Estre, Porsche Supercup Rookie of the Year.
Last year’s Rolex GT season class champions Brumos Racing has their entire driver line-up in tact from last year’s race – season champions Andrew Davis and Leh Keen, with team manager Hurley Haywood – making his 39th Rolex 24 start – and Marc Lieb.
Last year’s second-place finishers, in the hunt for almost the whole race for a victory, is also back with the majority of its driver line-up from 2011. Paul Miller Racing has entered a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with Bryce Miller, Englishman Rob Bell, veteran Porsche racers Sascha Maassen and Canadian Mark Wilkins.
Flying Lizard Motorsports, multi-time champions in the American Le Mans Series, will try to win its first Rolex 24 with the Wright Motorsports Porsche with Porsche factory drivers Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister, team owner Seth Neiman, and current Audi factory driver-on-loan and 2010 Rolex 24 DP winner Mike Rockenfeller. Alex Job Racing, also seeking their first Grand-Am Rolex 24 win, enters its lead Weather Tech Porsche with multi-time Daytona winner Butch Leitzinger, Porsche factory driver Marco Holzer, former Porsche factory driver and Rolex 24 champion Emmanuel Collard, and Cooper McNeil. Alex Job Racing is one of the few GT teams which also have Daytona Prototype wins to their credit as well, including a DP pole.
John Potter’s Magnus Racing has a two-car Porsche entry, with strong contingents in both cars. Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz, NASCAR and sports car star Andy Lally, Porsche Supercup champion Rene Rast, and team owner Potter in one car, and SPEED TV commentator Justin Bell, Ron Yarab, jr., Ryan Eversley, and Daniel Graeff in the second car, which will be turning miles to earn dollars for Seattle’s Children’s Tumor Foundation.
Team owner Claudio Burtin has also put together a strong line-up in his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, with ageless veteran Jack Baldwin, last year’s GT runner-up Bryan Sellers, former Porsche factory junior driver Martin Ragginger, Sebastian Asch, and himself (Burtin).
Two well-known Porsche race preparers as well as street tuners – Orbit Racing and GMG Motorsports, have combined for a two-car entry, with the leading car featureing GMG owner James Sofronas, his regular co-driver Bret Curtis, veterans Lance Willsey and Shane Lewis, and Frenchman Nicolas Armindo.
Newcomers to the event, but certainly not new to the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car are the Miami-based NGT Motorsports, defending champions in the IMSA GT3 Challenge series. They have combined two of their champion drivers – Carlos Kauffmann and Henrique Cisneros – with two British Porsche Supercup and Carrera Cup stars – Nick Tandy and Sean Edwards – for the event this weekend.
Other Porsche drivers who sports car fans might recognize include Darryl O’Young, from Vancouver, B.C., who ran for several years in Carrera Cup in the Far East – now entered with the Canadian-based Bullet Racing team; veteran Porsche driver – and later IndyCar star Davy Jones – driving for the Belgian-based Muehlner Racing; David Murry, from Atlanta, on the podium at Le Mans this past year in a Ford GT, in the Mitchum Motorsports Porsche; Bob Faieta. IMSA GT3 Challenge Champion – in the second Alex Job Racing entry along with ALMS GT Challenge star Bill Sweedler and former IMSA and Grand-Am GT front-runner Cort Wagner; Frank Delvecchio – perhaps second to Hurley Haywood in Rolex 24 starts – and two-time Rolex 24 GT winner Randy Pobst – in the Acumen Motorsport Porsche; up-and-coming Irish racer Damien Faulkner in the #68 TRG Porsche; and Dick Greer Racing’ Porsche entry for himself; former Super Vee competitor John Finger and vintage racer Mark Hottchkis .