For those of you not familiar with him, Jeff Zwart is not only the director behind a number of Porsche commercials and other films and documentaries, he has won his class at Pikes Peak – all in Porsche Turbo street cars – in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2002, setting new class records three times. Most recently, he co-drove a Porsche Cayenne with Pikes Peak veteran Paul Dallenbach at the challenging TransSyberia Rally (Moscow to Mongolia) in 2007. He also has an SCCA PRO Rally Championship (1990) and a SCORE Baja 1000 class win (2004) to his credit.
He is currently practicing in his specially-prepared Luminox Watch Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car (that's it up above) as official practice opened today for the 88th running of the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. In a last-minute schedule change, the organizers held practice on the middle third of the course today (rather than the previously scheduled bottom third), which is all tarmac, and Porsche driver Jeff Zwart, a commercial film director from Woody Creek Colorado, and six-time class winner at the Pikes Peak, reported that his Time Attack 2WD class car was exceptionally quick, and handled the altitude well.
Not only did Zwart and his Porsche go faster than all his 2WD competitors, but he beat all the Time Attack 4WD entries, something he would love to do on Sunday for the race.
”The middle part of the course goes to about 12,000 feet, and the 3.8 liter Porsche motor never skipped a beat. Although we are not formally competing against the 4WD cars, the fact that we were faster than all of them speaks volumes on where we are this early in the week. The car handled so well we were able to start making small adjustments for Sunday’s race, something that is usually hard to do until all three practice sessions are complete,” said Zwart.
He pointed out that this section of the hillclimb, which has the most number of exposed drop-offs – cliffs of 2,000 feet or more without guardrails – also includes eight hairpins. With speeds of more than 100 mph between the hairpins, and then turns so severe the car almost comes to a stop, the strain on all the components is great. As the race is one sprint up the hill, Zwart and his crew must make adjustments that will work well in on both gravel and tarmac, and at the lower and the higher elevations.
“Brakes, suspension, tires, engine, transmission, and even driver stamina are all tested, and we all came out with top marks today in practice,” he reported.
With the schedule change, Zwart will now run the top third of the 12.42-mile course on Thursday, and the bottom part of the hillclimb course on Friday. The race Sunday begins at 9:00 AM MDT. Results will be posted on the official Pikes Peak web site – www.ppihc.com. To pace the race, IndyCar and NASCAR star John Andretti will be the Grand Marshall and behind the wheel of a sizzling new Porsche Panamera Turbo at the start of the Race To The Clouds in Colorado Springs. The Pace Car is provided by Porsche of Colorado Springs for the nation’s second-oldest motor sports event behind only the Indianapolis 500. His famous uncle, Mario Andretti, won Pikes Peak in 1969 when it was part of the USAC championship series.
With technical support from Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) and Pirelli Tires, and despite his previous nine starts at Pikes Peak, running a 2WD, normally aspirated, purpose-built race car up the “Mountain” will be a new experience for him as his previous experiences were all turbo based.
Porsche Motorsport started with a 2007 Cup car, updated it to 2010 specifications, and installed a new 450 horsepower 3.8-liter engine currently in use in the Patron GT3 Challenge, American Le Mans Series Challenge Class, and the Porsche Supercup series. The engine management mapping was modified to perform well in high altitude as the race starts at 9,390 feet and finishes at the summit, 14,110 feet above sea level, and ride height was increased for the gravel sections of the course. The under body was also modified to protect the car from gravel and stones similar to rally competition. Pirelli has provided road racing-style rain tires which worked very well both on paved and gravel surfaces during last week’s test, and are derived from the company’s Rolex Grand-Am GT series road racing rain tires.
The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, built on the same assembly line in Stuttgart as the street-legal Porsche 911s, is raced all over the world in the Porsche Supercup series as well as various Porsche Carrera Cup and Challenge Cups. New last year was the additional of the American Le Mans Series Challenge class, where the Porsche Cup cars contest the full endurance series run by the Le Mans racers.
[Source: PCNA Motorsport]