The first weekend of the 2021 motorsport season has concluded in Daytona Beach, Florida with the Porsche customer teams successfully earning podium finishing spots in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Pole Award 100. The 100-minute qualifying race, the first of its kind in the series, helped fill the grid on January 23 for the 59th Running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Leading the way for the four privately-entered Porsche race cars was the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 in third-place of the GTLM class. Running in second-place in the pro-am style GTD class was the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
This was the first time that the grid line-up for the tradition-steeped 24-hour race in Florida was determined by a separate qualifying race. Consequently, the mood on the initially wet 3.56mile (5.73-kilometer) racetrack was assertive and at times aggressive. Heavy rain approximately one hour before the start of the race made conditions difficult early on. In the first half of the race, clever strategies and strong performances proved decisive in a successful result for the amateur drivers.
The weekend was the first for WeatherTech Racing with the ultimate Porsche 911 race car, the RSR-19, as well as the first time a customer operation has entered the 515 HP race car in North America’s premier sports car racing series. The debut was a successful one with the two-driver entry of Porsche factory driver Kévin Estre (France) and the Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Illinois) piloting the white, red and blue mid-engine racer to third-place against factory team competition in GTLM. The pairing will be joined by Porsche “works” drivers Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Richard Lietz (Austria) in the twice-around the clock classic January 30 – 31.
In the GTD class for customer cars, Pfaff Motorsports led the way for the four Porsche 911 GT3 R race cars entered. Belgian works driver Laurens Vanthoor and his Canadian teammate Zacharie Robichon planted the “Plaid Porsche” in second-place and will start the 24-hour event on the outside of the front row of the class accordingly. Factory driver Matt Campbell (Australia) and Porsche Test and Development Driver Lars Kern (Germany).
#IMSA - Pole for the No. 16 @WrightRac1ng #Porsche #911GT3R. Ryan Hardwick pushed the car to P1 in GTD class. The No. 79 @WeatherTechRcwy #Porsche #911RSR in P6 (GTLM) with @CooperMacNeil behind the wheel. Other GTD class #911GT3R results:— Porsche Motorsport (@PorscheRaces) January 23, 2021
No. 9 - P6
No. 88 - P11
No. 64 - P18 pic.twitter.com/2dhZ6kKfvm
Porsche factory driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) and teammate Ryan Hardwick (Atlanta, Georgia) had the most dramatic story to tell at the close of the ROAR Before the Rolex 24 weekend. In Saturday’s 15-minute qualifying session, Hardwick had an inspired drive earning the pole position for Sunday’s qualifying race. However, during the weekend’s night practice, the second-year Porsche customer driver spun and damaged the car. With the Wright Motorsports tub unable to be repaired on-site, owner John Wright placed a call to fellow Porsche owner Timothy Pappas (Boston, Massachusetts) who had entered a 911 GT3 R in the event but was diagnosed with COVID and was forced to withdraw. With the Black Swan Racing machine on-site in Daytona, the longtime Porsche entrant agreed to sell Wright the car. Wright took delivery of the car on Sunday morning and began to work preparing it in the correct livery and with swapping the flat-six engine from the damaged race car. Despite all of this, and a penalty for passing the safety car under caution, Hardwick-Long finished in ninth-place. Klaus Bachler (Germany) and Jan Heylen (Belgium) will co-drive in the 24-hour race.
The first-year operation of Team Hardpoint EBM was among the quickest cars in the class during practice. However, confusion of qualifying kept the team from setting its quickest possible lap in the time trial. The challenges continued in the race when Christina Nielsen (Denmark) made contact with the tire barrier in the “Bus Stop” chicane. The subsequent repairs cost the No. 88 car two laps. Driver/co-owner Earl Bamber (New Zealand) took the checkered flag in the 500+hp GT3 car in 14th-place. Bamber and Nielsen will share the car with Katherine Legge (Great Britain) and co-owner Rob Ferriol (Fayetteville, North Carolina). The TGM customer team opted against competing in the qualifying race. Under the difficult conditions, the squad, which tackles Daytona with four American amateur drivers, wanted to avoid any risk of damaging the No. 64 Porsche GT3 R and at the same time knowingly accepted starting from the last grid position on race day. The final entry, the No. 64 of first-year GTD class operation Team TGM opted to not participate in the qualifying race. Therefore, drivers Ted Giovanis (Highland, Maryland), Owen Trinkler (Nashville, Tennessee), Hugh Plumb (Wilmington, Delaware) brother Matt Plumb (Chesapeake City, Maryland) will start in the final grid position.
Quotes from the weekend
Steffen Höllwarth, Head of Operations GTLM.
“We’re very happy with this result. We weren’t the fastest in the qualifying race, but we worked our way up the order with clever tactics. These three days at Daytona were very informative.”
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“After the strong qualifying performance on Saturday with pole position going to Wright Motorsports, the Pfaff Motorsports customer team did a good tactical job and fought their way up to second-place. This is a very good result for our Canadian partner. We’re ready for the first highlight of the 2021 year at Daytona.”
Kévin Estre, Driver, No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR.
“It’s a great result for us. Third-place was the most we could do today. The team implemented a perfect strategy and we put in a flawless drive over the entire race. I’m thrilled for the WeatherTech Racing and my teammate Cooper MacNeil about this first outing. We also learned a lot in the qualifying race under changing conditions with wet tires and slicks.”
Steve Bortolotti, Team Manager, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I’m super proud of the team. Working and bringing everyone together was a huge focus of this week. Obviously, this qualifying race held more value for us as a team to integrate all the new pieces and learn our new roles. I would say as a team we got a lot out of it, probably more than most, and finishing second was just an added bonus. We really won’t know where we stand until race week, but in all it was a great test to set us up for the real thing.”
Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“This was a bit of a practice race, so it was good for all of us to get aligned and learn from a few things to make sure we have a clean 24-Hour race. Everything went really well – we had really strong pit stops and the car was really good, so we learned a lot of things for the 24, and we lined up second on the grid, so in all it went perfectly.”
Matt Campbell, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“It was a really positive Roar leading into Daytona next week. Zach and Laurens did a great job in this qualifying race to put us in fantastic position to start the 24. It was a nice way to finish off this test and gives us some added confidence going into the race, which is always nice. The GT3 R has been great and we’ve improved every session, so it’s been positive steps all the way.”
Zach Robichon, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I’m very happy with how the test unfolded. We did exactly what we wanted to do and it gave us a great opportunity to gel as a team and get our minds back in the game; we made the right strategy decisions and we were rewarded with a good starting position for the 24 Hours of Daytona. We know the starting position isn’t the most important thing during this race, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to be up front, so overall it was a great experience for the team and very happy with the result.
Patrick Long, Driver, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“The qualifying race was really chaotic with heavy traffic and a slippery track at the beginning. Unfortunately, we misinterpreted the information from the race director and overtook during a safety car phase. We were one of many teams that were handed a penalty. I’m a bit disappointed, but I’m still proud of our team. We’ve learned a lot for the upcoming race.”
Earl Bamber, Driver, No. 88 Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I think we’ve got a good car. We’re rolling about with a new bunch of guys, so I think it’s good to do a race. It gets everyone in tune, it’s a bit of a wake-up call. It was a shame that we had a bit of damage in the race, but we’ve still got a straight car. It was superficial stuff, so we can tidy that up now. We’ve got our starting spot, so there’s a lot of positives. Come the 24, we’re just going to keep building and building and get stronger as a team. If we’ve already got this as a base, we know that we can build on this and I think it’s going to be a lot of positives and a force to be reckoned with through the season.”
Christina Nielsen, Driver, No. 88 Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I think we started with a pretty solid car from the beginning. We’ve been testing a few things and might have gone a little bit too edgy in the final one. The nice thing is that our feedback is the same. It’s nice when the drivers are looking for the same car, because sometimes driver style means a little bit different preferences for the car setup. Everyone seems to be on the same page. I’m glad we got to try it now and I feel like we’re nice and prepared for the setup and handling for the actual race weekend. IMSA races are competitive from the first lap, but I’m happy to be back and hoping for a better result next week.”
Small But Mighty. Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport Leads Daytona Testing.
With only two entries, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport may be small in number in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge but the mid-engine race car proved formidable at the pre-season Roar Before the Rolex 24. The popular class for road car-based racing – which opens its season at Daytona International Speedway with a four-hour endurance race on Friday, January 29 – is loaded with competition. Despite the intense on-track battles, longtime GT4-spec class entrant BGB Motorsports set the fastest time of all five combined test sessions on the 3.56-mile road course.
BGB returns to the series with the No. 38 Porsche and Tom Collingwood (Canada). This year the Canadian will be paired with Porsche specialist Spencer Pumpelly (Atlanta, Georgia) and BGB owner, John Tecce (Gladwyne, Pennsylvania). BGB’s hot lap of one-minute, 54.130-seconds came in the Friday morning session (January 22). Wright Motorsports, a veteran Porsche customer but first-time MPC entrant, is using its new program to gain experience for IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver Ryan Hardwick (Atlanta, Georgia). While Hardwick is already a winner with the team’s Porsche 911 GT3 R race car in the WeatherTech championship’s GTD class, the added seat time in the German-built sports car based on the street-going Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 will shorten his learning curve. He drives the No. 16 in Michelin Pilot Challenge with Jan Heylen (Belgium).
The series-opening BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona will take the green flag at 1:35 p.m. E.T. on Friday, January 29.
59 for 59th. Longtime Porsche Race Team Celebrated at the Rolex 24.
As the Rolex 24 At Daytona commemorates its 59th running on January 30 – 31, it is only appropriate that the most famous car number in the history of the event, 59, is part of the celebration. No car number is more closely aligned with professional sports car racing or the 24 Hours of Daytona than “59”. The white roundel with the black block number became synonymous with the sport so completely that the number, as well as the instantly recognizable red and blue stripes, of Brumos Racing remain iconic to this day. Brumos was a founding stakeholder in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) with the No. 59 winning its first race in the inaugural IMSA sports car event of 1971. Since, the Brumos banner has gone on to fly over 48 IMSA victories and 15 IMSA Championships.
Over the course of its life and through five owners, Brumos Porsche remained a stalwart in sports car racing. Having moved from the solid orange and lemon yellow of the early 1970s, the mythology of Brumos exploded with the red and blue parallel stripes running up and over the top of the car and down the sides. With this immediately recognizable identity through to its final race, the prime era of Brumos Racing coincided with the growth of IMSA as the two Florida-based organizations matured to full strength hand-in-hand.
When the Bill France Sr. and John Bishop-founded race series held its first GT season in 1971, it was Brumos owner Peter Gregg and young co-driver Hurley Haywood who combined to win the first five races of the six-race season. The Tangerine Orange Porsche 914 commanded the GTU class in that inaugural season with Brumos missing the top step of the podium only at the Daytona-finale when the duo switched to a Porsche 911 T in the season-ender to prepare for 1972. In total, Brumos was a hallmark of IMSA racing for 42 years (1971 to 2013) and in both GT and prototype classes; its win tally is ninth on the all-time entrant list. However, its impact on approach and presentation in the paddock set the standard to all those who have followed.
Gregg, known as “Peter Perfect”, drove the No. 59 to 41 IMSA race wins and 10 titles – first and 11th on the all-time IMSA list in each category. Haywood owns four titles, all earned in No. 59 adorned machines, and 34 career victories – most of which came in Brumos-Porsche entries – placing him 15th in career wins and 16th in driver titles. The final victories and GT championship for Brumos came in 2011 with Andrew Davis and Leh Keen. The pairing took the GRAND AM GT title on the shoulders of two wins. In the interim, the No. 59 won the Rolex 24 four-times (1973, ’75, ’78, 2009) with both GT and prototypes prepared in Jacksonville, Florida. The final Rolex 24 At Daytona victory came with a Porsche-powered Daytona Prototype. The race program closed in 2013. The Brumos Porsche dealership was sold in 2015, changing its name to Porsche Jacksonville in April 2016. The Brumos Collection – one of the premier gatherings of classic automobiles and race cars in the world – has been moved from its private location and opened its doors in January 2020.
The Brumos colors – now artistically recreated with small, interlocking “59s” forming the stripes on the hood, roof and rear of the Porsche works 911 RSR race cars – flew again at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2019. True to form, the driving team of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frédéric Makowiecki won the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GTLM class at Sebring, adding more lore to the Brumos name.
Six legendary Brumos entries have been selected by the Brumos Collection, IMSA and the Daytona International Speedway to celebrate the brand and race in pre-event activities at the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 30.
1971 – Porsche 914-6 – GT IMSA Champion (Tangerine Orange) – Driver: Ray Shaffer
1975 – Porsche 911 RSR – 1977 24 Hours of Daytona Winner (Hurley Haywood on team “Ecurie Escargot” Livery) – Driver: Hurley Haywood
1979 – Porsche 935 – Peter Gregg’s last race car/ Brumos Livery) – Driver: Andrew Davis
2009 – Porsche-Riley DP – Daytona 24 Winning On loan to the collection/ Brumos Livery #58 ) – Driver: David Donohue
2011 – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Grand-Am Spec – 2011 Grand-Am Championship winner/ Brumos Livery – Driver: Leh Keen
2017 – Porsche 911 RSR (2019 Brumos Tribute Livery) – Driver: Earl Bamber
Anniversary Celebration. Porsche Celebrates Three Milestones at Daytona.
2021 marks three key anniversary celebrations for Porsche at the Daytona International Speedway.
50th Anniversary - 1971. Porsche 917K.
50 years to the day of this year’s event (January 30 – 31), Porsche had a key international victory at the event now known as the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Pedro Rodriguez (Mexico) and Jackie Oliver (Great Britain) raced the J.W. Automotive Engineering Porsche 917K to the winners’ circle. The race culminated the legendary run of the 917 prototype line at the Daytona Beach, Florida race track. The car had also won the previous year, 1970, with J.W. Automotive Engineering. The victory was the third overall win at Daytona for Porsche. Today, the record stands at 22.
40th Anniversary – 1981. Porsche 935 K3.
In 1981, the world of sports car racing was transitioning slowly away from the production-based prototypes into full thoroughbred, purpose-built rockets like the Porsche 962C. However, the most modified of Porsche 911 race cars, the 935, remained the fire-breathing core of the sport with overall victories from 1978 – 1983. It was with this backdrop that Porsche won its 10th of 22 overall victories in the Rolex 24 with the Garretson Racing/Style Auto-entered Porsche 935 K3. Drivers Bobby Rahal (USA), Brian Redman (Great Britain) and Bob Garretson (USA) drove to the overall win after 2,718.720 miles between January 31 and February 1.
30th Anniversary – 1991. Porsche 962C.
Porsche 962C earned its final overall victory at Daytona in 1991 with drivers Hurley Haywood (St. Augustine, Florida), Bob Wollek (France), Henri Pescarolo (France), Frank Jelenski (Germany) and Louis Krages (Germany). Prepared by the equally legendary Joest Racing, the car gave Haywood his fifth and final overall win at Daytona. It was also Wollek’s final victory in the Rolex 24 and Pescarolo’s only overall title on the track. In total, the Porsche 962C earned five wins at Daytona between 1985 and 1991.
Overall Wins. 22 (first in 1968; most recent in 2010) (Record).
1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1978 – 1987, 1989, 1991, 2003, 2009, 2010