Daytona III: Autometrics Motorsports preview

Autometrics Motorsports brings the end of an era for Porsche's 911. November 1, 2002: Production-based Porsches have never been a stranger to competition. Arguably, there is no other carmaker in the world that has had the success that Porsche...

Autometrics Motorsports brings the end of an era for Porsche's 911.

November 1, 2002: Production-based Porsches have never been a stranger to competition. Arguably, there is no other carmaker in the world that has had the success that Porsche has had. Even more significant is the fact that they earned this reputation using a platform derived from the original "People's Car" and engine cooling more commonly found on a lawnmower than a car. The horizontally opposed air-cooled 6-cylinder engine was introduced in the 911 with a displacement of 2 liters. When the air-cooled 6 ended production in 1998, it was nearly twice that size at 3.8 liters.

When the 911 was first introduced, Porsche was still busy with its prototype racers, so it wasn't for a few years that the 911 made an appearance in top-level professional competition. Top-level sportscar racing in America has for over 30 years been defined by the famous Daytona 24-hour race. The Daytona season opener was not always a 24-hour race. When it began in 1962, it was only 3 hours long. By 1964 it lengthened to 2000km, and it changed again to 24 hours in 1966. The 24-hour format wavered twice from '66-'74, but has run the full duration since.

Porsche's first 911 entry into the famed race came from two 911 RSR's campaigned by Mark Donohue and Brumos Porsche. Though the entries were primarily meant to be a testing ground for the new 3.0-liter engine, the Brumos #59 was treated to overall honors when reliability problems plagued the top prototypes.

RSR's enjoyed great success at Daytona as well as all sportscar competition for many years. Naturally, the wide-fendered cars evolved into turbocharged machines that eventually became the 935, another wildly successful Porsche factory racer.

When the 911 chassis was re-designed in 1989 to the 964 model, with it came a new RSR. Still an air-cooled boxer 6 based on the production car, this time displacement measured 3.8 liters. The successor to the 964 RSR was the final air-cooled racer to be built, the 993-based 3.8 RSR. This RSR maintained the success of the original with multiple manufacturers' championships. In 2000, Porsche finally was forced to abandon its air- cooled, 2-valve heritage when it introduced the GT3R. With the new car introduced, the RSR began to lose its eligibility in professional competition. In 2001, the American LeMans Series disallowed the 993, but the Grand American Series (Grand-Am) still allowed the RSR to compete against the aerodynamically and powerfully superior water-cooled cars for another two seasons. Though absent throughout the 2002 season, one RSR campaigned by Autometrics Motorsports out of Charleston, South Carolina made a few attempts to fight with the newer cars in 2001.

The 2001 race demonstrated the last time an air-cooled 911 will ever run the famed Rolex 24 hours at Daytona. Autometrics and their #14 RSR began the grueling race 75th on the grid of 80 cars. The car ran strong through the pouring rain and placed itself as high as 19th on the overall standings before crossing the finish line at an impressive 23rd overall, and 13th in class. Though the end-result was no where near as rewarding as the first RSR to run Daytona back in 1973, the 993 displayed the same rock-solid reliability as the first car and as a result, outdistanced many much faster cars. Picking up 52 positions over the course of the event, only one other car in history has ever managed to post a greater improvement. After Daytona, Autometrics ran their aging RSR at Homestead, Lime Rock and again at the Daytona Finale. A different 993 RSR wore #14 at Phoenix. While co- drivers changed throughout the season, the lead driver, Cory Friedman, qualified the car at each event and finished the season 22nd in the GT driver standings.

Consequently, the last race of this year's Grand-Am season, which also represents the last time the RSR will be eligible for top-level pro competition will be at Daytona on November 10, 2002. Autometrics Motorsports will again bring out its RSR to race at the Speedway. For the first time, Cory will not be piloting the car at the finale. For the 2001 Grand-Am season, Friedman and Autometrics Motorsports have focused their efforts with Marcus Motorsports who has been running E36 BMW M3's. Consequently, these are the same cars that were the RSR's primary competition in the mid-late '90's and using updated technology are still able to finish on the Grand-Am podium as Cory and Bryan Dobyns did at Watkins Glen. Bransen Patch and Jim Hamblin, both Grand-Am Cup competitors, will share driving duties in the Porsche. The competition has grown significantly faster since last season, so hopes of even a class podium for the RSR would be overly optimistic. The goal of this race is more of history than competition.

The 996-based GT3R is such a potent successor to the RSR that it completely replaced the car after only one season. Being Porsche's new 911, the transition from oil coolers to radiators went nearly unnoticed. From a performance standpoint, this change is more of an evolution than a revolution, but it also represents the first deviation in nearly 30 years for the 911 and even longer than that with earlier Porsches.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bransen Patch , Cory Friedman , Jim Hamblin , Bryan Dobyns , Mark Donohue
Teams Autometrics Motorsports