Defending Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champion Dirk Werner enters this weekend's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona with one thing on his mind: to win. The endurance racing star makes his third Rolex 24 start Saturday, driving for the Farnbacher ...
Defending Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champion Dirk Werner enters this weekend's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona with one thing on his mind: to win. The endurance racing star makes his third Rolex 24 start Saturday, driving for the Farnbacher Loles Porsche Rsuper teamS in the GT class. While Werner already has taken wins in other around-the-clock marathons, he's set his eyes on Grand-Am's crown jewel event, the first race to kick start his title defense.
In 2007, Werner showed that consistency wins championships. He teamed with co-driver Bryce Miller for 12 of the 13 races last season, taking one class win and 10 podiums. The Farnbacher Loles duo weren't able to share the title though, since both were in different cars in last year's season-opener. With the points system awarding consistency, Werner took the title.
"Especially in the championship with so many races where every race counts, the distance between positions are so small points wise, so you have to be consistent," Werner said. "Last year, we were in position to win more races, but the races are also pretty long. Everything has to work together to win a lot of races. Sometimes it just didn't work out in the end. We led many laps but we were on the podium 10 times, so that showed that we had a good performance."
For this coming season, Werner pairs with Dominik Farnbacher for the bulk of the season. Pierre Ehret and Porsche factory ace Timo Bernhard round out the driving strength in the No. 87 Porsche for the 24-hour. But that's just one of the seven Farnbacher Loles Porsches entered for Saturday's race, requiring a massive effort for the Gregory Loles-led operation. Instead of treating all entries as one team or vice versa, the Connecticut -based squad has opted for a unique strategy.
"What's helped us manage the effort effectively to make sure that all the cars are at the standard we want was to create a 3-2-3 division among our seven cars that we have," said Dino Loles, racing operations manager. "With our three full-season cars, we wanted to assign a full-season crew there so they can mesh and hopefully recreate what happened last year. Then we have tour two Team Seattle cars, which is a dedicated effort. Then we have our two client cars. It's helped us to manage the entire process to three dedicated crews instead of seven individual projects."
In addition to Bernhard, Porsche works drivers Sascha Maassen and Jorg Bergmeister are also part of the super team this weekend. "We have the experienced Porsche drivers that the factory gave us so they can bring a lot of experience to the team," Werner added. "It's more of an advantage than a disadvantage. It's very positive."
Werner also brings a lot of endurance expertise to the team, having won the Dubai 24 Hours in 2007 and the Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone in 2006. He also has two previous Rolex 24 starts with a best finish of 3rd in 2006. Werner's past success in endurance races can help other drivers who may not be as well versed.
"It helps me as I know how the rhythm is to go to this race," Werner explained. "If there are drivers who are not as well experienced, I can help them. Everything works together. This year, it's not really necessary because the team has put together such a great driver lineup with all the Porsche factory drivers in the cars. The staff is experienced to work on the cars. I want to win the race. I want to win the championship as well but this race is something special."
Looking past the Rolex 24 and into the bulk of the Rolex Series season, Werner predicts a similar fight developing for the 2008 GT crown.
"I think it will be pretty much the same as last year," he forecasted. "I think that the Mazdas and Pontiacs will be very strong. The drivers who competed last year were very fast and very good. We'll see through the season."