Wright Motorsports has secured fourth-place in the GTD class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s season-opening race, the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Led by Porsche factory driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) the team fought one of the largest fields in the history of the endurance classic in Daytona Beach, Florida. North America’s only “works” driver for the German marque shared driving duties in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with Trent Hindman (West Long Branch, New Jersey), Jan Heylen (Belgium) and Klaus Bachler (Austria). Over long stretches, the 500+hp GT3 vehicle fielded by the team from Ohio was on course for a podium result, however, a collision cost the squad considerable time. The result was the highest for the Porsche privateers in the January 30 – 31st race run on the 3.56-mile road course that uses portions of the famous Daytona oval.
Other contenders utilizing the race machines built in Weissach, Germany filled out Pro-Am style class. The Team Hardpoint EBM operation’s first outing fielding a Porsche 911 GT3 R concluded with tenth-place with drivers Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Rob Ferriol (Fayetteville, North Carolina), Katherine Legge (Great Britain) and Christina Nielsen (Denmark). Pfaff Motorsports overcame serious obstacles to finish in 12th-position with the “Plaid Porsche” driven by factory driver Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), Matt Campbell (Australia), Porsche Test and Development Driver Lars Kern (Germany) and 2019 IMSA Sprint Champion Zach Robichon (Canada) . Team TGM’s debut with the Porsche GT3- spec machine netted a 17th-place result for owner/driver Ted Giovanis (Highland, Maryland), Hugh Plumb (Wilmington Delaware), Matt Plumb (Chesapeake City, Maryland) and Owen Trinkler (Nashville, Tennessee).
Bad luck plagued the Pfaff Motorsports squad in the GTD class for vehicles complying with GT3 regulations. For almost 20 hours, the No. 9 red and black racer ran among the frontrunners. The car sustained considerable damage in a collision and came to a standstill on the track. The repairs, including fitting a new half-shaft, took approximately 80-minutes. The team would cross the finish line in twelfth-place. The Porsche 911 GT3 R campaigned by the TGM squad retired early after 515 laps with a power transmission fault.
In the GTLM class, WeatherTech Racing made its first start with the Porsche 911 RSR-19. Previously the sole territory of the Porsche factory team in North America, WeatherTech joined with Proton Competition to take on the factory-backed programs as a privateer. Unfortunately, the race was over before it had even started for the No. 79 515 hp race car shared by factory drivers Gianmaria Bruni (Italy), Kévin Estre (France) and Richard Lietz (Austria) as well as series veteran Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Illinois). Works driver Estre approached the green flag in his earned third-place GTLM starting position when a BMW crashed into the rear of his car. The Frenchman was unable to avoid a spin and collided with another vehicle. Repairs to the damage at the front and rear of the most advanced Porsche 911 race car threw the squad 14 laps behind. Making the most of the 13 caution phases, and strategies to finish in sixth-place of the class.
Round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, is scheduled for March 20.
#IMSA - Checkered flags @IMSA #Daytona24. Here are the results ⬇️— Porsche Motorsport (@PorscheRaces) January 31, 2021
GTLM #Porsche #911RSR
P6 - No.79 @RaceWeatherTech
GTD #Porsche #911GT3R
P4 - No. 16 @WrightRac1ng
P10 - No. 88 @hardpointteam
P12 - No. 9 @pfaffmotorsport
DNF - No. 64 @GoTeamTGM pic.twitter.com/0pR76xxmzc
Drivers’ comments on the race
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “The start was beyond adventurous. Kévin was driving and got shunted from behind. The car was badly damaged in the accident. Our team did a terrific job and fixed everything, but the gap was simply too big. Our strategy was perfect and we were able to make up five laps, but unfortunately, we couldn’t catch the frontrunners. We would’ve needed many more safety car phases to achieve that. So, we finished sixth.”
Patrick Long (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “We were going really well and had our eye on the podium over long stretches. At times we even had a faint hope of a class win. A nudge with the No. 9 Porsche left our car in bad shape. The damages to the body hampered us on the straights. It’s a shame. Still, fourth place gives us a lot of championship points. I prefer to focus on this positive aspect. I’m now looking forward to Sebring.”
Katherine Legge (Porsche 911 GT3 R #88): “It was a great experience to drive at Daytona with the Hardpoint EBM team. The Porsche 911 GT3 R was huge fun to drive. Unfortunately, a faulty splitter hampered us significantly. Under these conditions, we couldn’t do better than tenth. It’s definitely not the result we’d anticipated at the start.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “It’s a pity. We were looking really strong during the night, and our hopes were high. Unfortunately, an incident resulted in considerable damage. Still, the team put in a massive effort and managed to get our No. 9 car back in the race. At least we earned important points for Pfaff Motorsport and for the regular drivers Laurens and Zach.”
Ted Giovanis (Porsche 911 GT3 R #64): “All in all, my first race at Daytona was a great experience. Our team worked perfectly, and my teammates did a flawless job. Obviously, we’re disappointed that we didn’t finish, but I gained a lot of amazing impressions. I learned a lot, especially about physical exertion. Next time I’ll make sure I’m fitter when I compete. I’m exhausted. It’s like my first marathon. I was totally exhausted, but I still took part in a second one.”
Result GTLM class
1. Garcia/Taylor/Catsburg (E/USA/NL), Corvette C8.R #3, 770 laps
2. Milner/Tandy/Sims (USA/GB/GB), Corvette C8.R #4, 770 laps
3. Edwards/Krohn/Farfus/Wittmann (USA/FIN/BR/D), BMW M8 GTE #24, 769 laps
6. MacNeil/Estre/Lietz/Bruni (USA/F/A/I), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 760 laps
Result GTD class
1. Ward/Ellis/Dontje/Engel (USA/CH/NL/D), Mercedes-AMG GT3 #57, 745 laps
2. Habul/Marciello/Grenier/Stolz (AUS/CH/CDN/D), Mercedes-AMG GT3 #75, 745 laps
3. Sellers/Snow/Lewis/Caldarelli (USA/USA/USA/I), Lamborghini Huracan GT3 #1, 745 laps
4. Long/Hindman/Bachler/Heylen (USA/USA/A/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 745 laps
10. Ferriol/Bamber/Nielsen/Legge (USA/NZ/DK/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 R #88, 737 laps
12. Robichon/Vanthoor/Kern/Campbell (CDN/B/D/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 702 laps
17. Giovanis/Plumb/Plumb/Trinkler (USA/USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #64, 515 laps
Full results and championship standings at imsa.alkamelsystems.com.