Whenever Porsche launches a new race car, it is typically over prepared and over developed, if occasionally a little off the pace. That seems to have been the case with the new 992-generation GT3 R, which faced a difficult balance of performance in its first race but raced well and didn’t have any major failures. The prototype 963, however, saw a much more tumultuous race for the Penske Porsche team in its debut.
Porsche’s new 963
After qualifying second on the grid, Porsche was confident that the team had found the speed necessary to push hard in the 24 Hour endurance classic. When the race began at 1:40 PM eastern on Saturday, the Porsche team was full of vim and vigor, pushing hard to keep up with the early dominance of the Acuras.
The #7 car had a promising start to the 24, but would succumb to major failure just before nightfall on Saturday. Telemetry showed some issues with the hybrid system, and the Porsche team called the car to the garage for a replacement of the car’s high-voltage battery pack. The team had practiced a fast swap of the pack, but on their best days the job could really only be done in 45 minutes or so. That isn’t the kind of deficit a car recovers from in endurance racing anymore, and the 7 team ultimately finished 34 laps down. But at least it finished.
The sister #6 car wasn’t so lucky. The car was absolutely incredible for much of the event, pushing hard and even leading a handful of times in the overnight section of the race. A spin with ace driver Nick Tandy at the wheel cost the team three laps to the lead, but the car was strong and it wasn’t insurmountable. With a hard push on Sunday morning, the team had recovered to just one lap down. Then it happened.
Around 10AM on Sunday Nick Tandy was clearly the fastest in the field when he felt something that would make his heart skip a beat. Under braking into turn one, from top speed, the car simply didn’t have enough brakes and went way long into the braking zone. Clearly suffering an issue with the regenerative braking on the rear axle, Tandy pulled the car to the side of the track and gave the computer a reset and pushed on. One lap later the car again failed to brake into turn one.
Clearly there was a larger issue at stake here, but ever the optimist Tandy pushed on at full send. Another issue braking into the bus stop chicane on the back side of the circuit, and it was clearly done. The car sprouted a giant rooster tail of white smoke as failure dug in its nasty claws. The #6 car had apparently sprung a fluid leak from the gearbox with just a few hours to go in the race. The car was not repaired and did not return to the circuit. Its 700th lap would be its last.
“Firstly, congratulations to Acura on winning the maiden race in the new GTP era,” declares Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “We were hoping for more, mostly because we managed to set a fantastic pace at times. I’d like to thank Multimatic and all other partners. It’s been a long road for us all and we’ve finally arrived at the start of the GTP class. This is tremendous for the entire racing scene. Of all weekends, we had to deal with a lot of damage this weekend. Thank you to my colleagues in Weissach and at the team bases in Mooresville and Mannheim for their tireless work. We deserve a better result however we’ve learned a lot, which we will now consistently implement.”
Porsche’s new 911 GT3 R
Porsche didn’t leave it to just one new car for the Daytona 24. While the factory program was pushing hard with the new hybrid prototype, a few customer teams were running brand new 911 GT3 Rs in the GTD classes. While Porsche had won the championship with the 991-generation car, it was time for the new 992-generation to make its debut. A new larger engine was intended to make the car easier to drive for privateer pilots.
IMSA has always been conservative when it comes to providing balance of performance for new fresh cars. The new Porsche was hit brutally with the BoP stick and it was deemed by both Porsche and the teams to be completely impossible to push to a competitive lap time. Qualifying saw the Porsches near the back of the pack, and that didn’t change in the race.
Defending GTD Pro team Pfaff Motorsports was the top finisher among the Porsche contingent, and their efforts should not go unnoticed. Despite having a car that was capable of—at best—lap times some two seconds off the pace of the leaders, the team managed to keep the car on the track and out of the pits for a 5th place finish in class and maintained its status on the lead lap, against all odds. This performance won’t be remembered kindly by the history books, but I’m comfortable saying this might have been one of the hardest drives of the race.
“It was a turbulent start to the season, which we would’ve liked to conclude with a different result,” comments Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “Everyone attempted to make the most out of the situation. Seven customer cars started, six saw the checkered flag – that alone is a great debut for the new 911 GT3 R. However, the result is of secondary importance this weekend and we were only able to do damage control. Our focus is now on the future. Sebring wants to be challenging. We’ll take all the experience we gained with the new car from Daytona and work with the organizer on an updated BoP.”
Comments from the drivers
Nick Tandy (Porsche 963 #6): “This event was both fantastic and incredibly character-building. There were a lot of positives, but just as many negatives. Our pace was strong but we still have a lot of work to do. That’s probably normal with a new car in a new vehicle class, with a new team and new drivers. Still, disappointment is the main emotion at this point. Right now, we need to focus on the positive aspects as quickly as possible – and there is plenty to focus on!”
Felipe Nasr (Porsche 963 #7):“Unfortunately, several defects set us back – first the battery, then the cooling system. Our engine overheated and we had to return to the garage. We learned a lot in this race. We’ll certainly make progress and we have many more insights than before. The team never gave up and neither did the drivers. It simply wasn’t enough to succeed this time. Hopefully next time.”
Klaus Bachler (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9):“If someone had told us before the race that we would finish fifth in the GTD-Pro class despite the BoP classification, I would’ve thought that was very cool. The team did a great job. We were still on the same lap as the leading cars at the finish. From that perspective, we can be very happy with the result. It was my first race with Pfaff Motorsports and I had to learn a lot. Now we’re heading into the season with a good points tally. I’m sure we can fight for a class win again at Sebring.”
Jan Heylen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16):“I’m very proud of the Wright Motorsports team and everything we accomplished. The 24-hour race was very long for all of us, especially because we didn’t stand a real chance. Still, we finished in the top ten of our class and managed to score all-important points towards the championship. I hope things go better for us at Sebring.”
1. Blomqvist/Braun/Castroneves/Pagenaud (UK/USA/BR/F), Acura ARX-06 #60, 783 laps
2. Taylor/Albuquerque/Deletraz/Hartley (USA/P/CH/NZ ), Acura ARX-06 #10, 783 laps
3. Bourdais/van der Zande/Dixon (F/NL/NZ), Cadillac V-LMDh #01, 783 laps
7. Campbell/Nasr/Christensen (AUS/BR/DK ), Porsche 963 #7, 749 laps
DNF. Tandy/Jaminet/Cameron (UK/F/USA), Porsche 963 #6, 700 laps
1. MacNeil/Juncadella/Gounon/Engel (USA/E/B/D), Mercedes AMG GT3 #79, 729 laps
2. Garcia/Taylor/Milner (E/USA/USA), Corvette C8.R GTD #3, 729 laps
3. Hawksworth/Barnicoat/Conway (UK/UK/UK), Lexus RC-F GT3 #14, 729 laps
5. Bachler/Pilet/Vanthoor (A/F/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 728 laps
6. Kvamme/Estep/Magnussen/Hart /USA/USA/DK/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #53, 717 laps
1. De Angelis/Sörensen/James/Turner (CDN/DK/USA/UK ), Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #27, 729 laps
2. Potter/Lally/Pumpelly/Thiim (USA/USA/USA/DK), Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #44, 729 laps
3. Iribe/Schandorff/Millroy/Kirchhöfer (USA /DK/UK/CH), McLaren 720S GT3 #70, 729 laps
9. Hardwick/Heylen/Robichon/Olsen (USA/B/CDN/N), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 723 laps
11. Brynjolfsson/Hindman/Root/Estre (USA/USA/USA/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #77, 719 laps
14. Hyett/Jeannette/Priaulx/Tincknell (USA/USA/UK/UK), Porsche 911 GT3 R #80, 710 laps
16. Metni/van Berlo/Evans/Andlauer (USA/NL/NZ/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #91, 699 laps
DNF. Brule/Udell/Davis/Bleekemolen (USA/USA/USA/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #92, 278 laps