Porsche has won at least one class of the famed Rolex 24 at Daytona every year this decade, and the factory team's GTLM class victory last year continued that legacy. For that win streak to continue, one of the twelve Porsche racers there will have to chalk up a class win in either GTLM or GTD. Porsche will be pulling out the stops to make sure that happens, with an astonishing forty-eight Porsche racing drivers converging on the Floridian endurance race to pilot their 991s twice around the clock.
Outside of the Le Mans 24, this is the most exciting 24-hour race anywhere in the world, and with the excellent international talent there this year, it should be a great one. There is always some great wheel-to-wheel dicing, and this year should be no different. IMSA seems to have a lot of things figured out this year, so make sure you put this one on your list.
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Porsche in the GTLM Category
#911 and #912 - Porsche North America with CORE autosport
For the second year running, Porsche will be bringing a pair of 911 RSR racers not only to Daytona, but for the entire United Sports Car Championship. The 2014 season had a lot of ups, but a few downs as well. The team came out of the gate swinging and won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring back to back.
In the 911 car, Porsche has lined up Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet, and Marc Lieb. This car is pretty impressive, as Tandy and Pilet teamed to win the race last year. Joining them this year, replacing Richard Lietz, Marc Lieb has won his class at Le Mans 3 times, and has an impressive endurance racing record. This is a stout GTLM team, but other factory teams have equally impressive lineups, so they'll have to work hard and have luck on their side to repeat last year's result.
The 912 car has perhaps not quite as strong of a lineup, but still impressive. Joerg Bergmeister, Earl Bamber, and Fred Mako will be teaming to tackle the 24 hour. The interesting bit here is the lack of one Patrick Long. Patrick was the lead driver in the 912 last year, and for 2015, Porsche has loaned him to the Dempsey Racing Team for a full season WEC entry. As he will be racing in the World Endurance Championship, he'll be otherwise engaged and can't captain a factory effort in TUSCC. Porsche new-hire Earl Bamber is a known quantity, and he'll do the yeoman's work to help Porsche win another TUSCC title. Fred Mako was an excellent part of the factory's WEC GTE-Pro effort, and he'll surely work well at Daytona this year, too. It's all pretty much plug and play with this set of six drivers.
This Is The 991 RSR's Third Season
The two previous seasons have netted Porsche's 991 victories at the three most prestigious endurance races in the world, 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
# 17 - Team Falken Tire
Speaking of Patrick Long, he's been drafted into the Falken Tire cockpit as third driver to the long-time partnership of Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler. This team knows how to run an endurance race, and with what they learned over the course of 2014, they should come out at Daytona swinging. This is, however, the team's first trip to Daytona as delays in RSR production meant they wouldn't take delivery of their 991 until after it was too late. This car should be strong, especially with Patrick as the third man.
Porsche in the GTD Category
#18 and 19 - Muehlner Motorsport
Muehlner will be attacking the Rolex 24 with a two-car squad. Drivers of the #18 car will be Darryl O'Young, Matteo Beretta, Marc Basseng, and Conor De Phillippi. O'Young is one of the most versatile tin-top drivers in the business, stepping easily from GT cars to touring cars, and back again. Car #19, completing the Muehlner pairing, will be driven by Jim Michaelian, and an as-yet-unannounced driver, as well as De Phillippi and Beretta taking seats in both cars. Conor De Phillippi is a very quick driver for his age, and should be a good driver in either GT America.
#22 and #23 - Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle
The #22 AJR car is probably the most stacked lineup in the GTD category, not just the best Porsche driver lineup, but the best driver lineup period. Throw Cooper MacNeil, Lehman Keen, Shane Van Gisbergen, and Andrew Davis all in the same car, and you've got the makings of a winner. AJR has always built a good car, and even though they had some issues last year (finished 8th in class, 26th overall), don't count them out.
The #23 car is officially entered by Team Seattle, with support from Alex Job. Team Seattle has been running endurance race events to raise money for the Seattle Children's Hospital since 1997. Solid drivers Ian James, Mario Farnbacher, and Alex Riberas should do a decent job.
#28 - Konrad Motorsport
Konrad is an extremely well practiced endurance racing team out of Germany. Last year, the team was run in a joint effort with Dempsey Racing, but this year will run a solo effort. Drivers Klaus Bachler, Christopher Zoechling, Christian Engelhart, Lance Willsey, and Rolf Ineichen should all work pretty well together.
#44 - Magnus Racing
Magnus Racing is a perennial fan favorite, as they are the 'quirky team that could'. They work hard to produce a good effort, and the car is always prepped to a very professional level, but they still find time in the day to have fun with it and engage the fans. Team boss John Potter teams up with Andy Lally, Marco Seefried, and Martin Ragginger. These drivers all have a high level of respect for each other, and experience sharing a car, so they should be able to jump in and be quick. Nobody has to worry about how the others are going to treat the car, as they are all well heeled drivers with lots of experience. Lally and Potter have grown together over the last few years, and while Lally started out great, he's only become greater. If anyone is going to challenge AJR for top-Porsche, it'll be this team.
#58 - Dempsey/Snow Racing with Wright Motorsport
This car is a powerhouse of Porsche names, receiving support from Dempsey Racing, Snow Racing, Brumos Racing, and officially entered by Wright Motorsport. Racing in the North American Endurance Championship (Daytona, Sebring, 'the Glen', and 'Petit'), the Wright Motorsport car will be driven by Patrick Dempsey, Madison Snow, Philip Eng, and Jan Heylen. Wright builds some truly impressive cars to an exacting standard, and for the first two endurance races, this Porsche will run in Brumos Racing livery. It's a strong cast of characters that gives Porsche fans something to really cheer for. I wish them all of the good luck I can.
#73 - Park Place Motorsports
Previously a two-car effort, the team have opted to sell one of their cars on eBay and run a single car GTD effort for 2015. Instead of splitting their star drivers among two cars, this time they're all packed into one car for the 24 hour. Patrick Lindsey, Spencer Pumpelly, David Ducote, Kevin Estre, and Dr. Jim Norman will all be sharing the #73. Pumpelly was an excellent addition to this team, and could give them a great competitive edge.
#81 - GB Autosport
Team manager Cole Scrogham has a history of putting together decent teams and doing a great prep job on his cars. This year, the #81 GB Autosport team has assembled an impressive team. Damien Faulkner, Kuba Giermaziak, Mike Skeen, Rory Butcher, and Michael Avenatti are teaming up to push toward the victory. Faulkner and Skeen are very quick drivers, and Giermaziak has a lot of experience in Porsche GT cars, as he was previously with the Momo Racing team.
Who's Porsche's Competition
I am frankly impressed by the level of competition there is in GTLM. Even with the 2014 championship winning Viper team now gone, there are factory teams of Corvettes, Ferraris, Aston Martins, and BMWs to contend with. The two C7s from Corvette Racing have hired some quick third drivers in the form of Ryan Briscoe and Simon Pagenaud. Two Z4s from BMW Team Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan have an impressive lineup including Graham Rahal, Lucas Luhr, Bill Auberlen, and Dirk Werner, among others. One Ferrari 458 Italia from Risi Competizione, and another from AF Corse will be competing, and while the 458 is getting a bit long in the tooth, it's still pretty quick. A single factory supported Gulf-livery Aston Martin V8 Vantage has already proven to be very fast. Porsche has already been the quickest GTLM car during the "Roar Before the 24" test, but they were hounded quite closely by the Aston Martin and Corvette cars. To put the competitive nature of this class into perspective, all ten GTLM cars finished the three day test covered by less than seven tenths of a second. It'll be tough for Porsche to repeat their victory with a strong field like this, but if they keep their sheetmetal intact, and fight hard, they can do it.
Porsche has lost a couple of cars in GTD for this year's race, which will make things a little more difficult, but there are still 9 Porsches in this class, and that's more than any other single car. Even with that depth of talent, this class will be a monster for Porsche to try to take down. There are a handful of teams that could win this race depending on any number of factors. Teams to watch out for include the championship winning Turner Motorsport Bimmer Z4, a pair of Riley Motorsport Vipers, 2014's close-but-not-quite Flying Lizard Audi R8, or any of three Ferrari 458s. I wish this class got more TV time, as it's definitely my favorite. At the pre-season test, the Riley Vipers were the quickest, followed closely by a handful of Porsches, so we'll see how things go down next weekend.
Resources and How to Watch/Follow Along
The 24 Hours of Daytona on Twitter for Porsche Fans
Entry List: Click Here
Timing and Scoring: Click Here
IMSA Mobile App: Click here
Andy Blackmore's annual spotter's guide: Click Here
Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona Fan Schedule: Click Here
Saturday, Jan. 24
2-4 p.m. EST on FOX
4-8 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 2
8-10 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1
Overnight (Jan. 25-26)
10 p.m. – 7 a.m. EST on IMSA.com
Sunday, Jan. 26
7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
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Meet Porsche’s 2015 Factory Drivers
The Iconic Brumos Livery Is Back For The Daytona 24 And 12 Hours Of Sebring!
[All photos via Porsche and sportscar365.com]