Oh man, it’s the start of a new racing season! This weekend is the 60th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and there are seven Porsches racing in two different GT classes this year, and it’s going to be an amazing time. Will Porsche win? Well, let’s walk through which teams and drivers will be running the event in Zuffenhausen’s finest, what the competition looks like, and what the new rules and regulations look like.
PORSCHE IN THE GTD PRO CATEGORY
GTD Pro is a new class for 2022, which is built to replace the now-defunct GTLM class. Porsche is no longer running the 911 RSR in IMSA competition, but the customer racing GT3 R is eligible to run in GTD Pro. There are three customer teams running, all with Porsche factory racers doing some of the driving duties. The three teams in the Pro category are poised to compete quite well, with two teams starting in the top three at the start after a good showing in the Qualifying Race last weekend. So let’s get an introduction to each of the teams.
#2 KCMG Porsche 911 GT3 R
The KCMG car had some difficulties in the qualifying race on Sunday, but it was quite strong in the early running, and the driver lineup is strong. I would expect these folks to be in the running all weekend if they can keep the car under them and off pit road during the 24.
Drivers: Laurens Vanthoor – Patrick Pilet – Dennis Olsen – Alexandre Imperatori
#9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
You may remember the 2021 GTD class winning Pfaff Motorsports team. You know, they ran with the plaid livery. Well the Canadian team is back, but they’ve moved up to GTD Pro and have a kickass three-driver lineup. Felipe Nasr is a 2021 IMSA Prototype class champion, and he’ll be heading up Porsche’s prototype efforts next year with Penske, but in the meantime, the powers that be have him racing in GTD to keep his skills sharp.
Drivers: Felipe Nasr – Mathieu Jaminet – Matt Campbell
#79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
This is an interesting one. Obviously you remember that WeatherTech carried the Porsche flag in GTLM through the 2021 season, and did an admirable job against the might of Corvette Racing, but the GTD Pro class is much deeper and it’ll be more difficult to capitalize for a team that isn’t 100% perfect. Cooper MacNeil, heir to the WeatherTech fortune, is not up to pro-level driving quality, so it’ll take some serious strategy to minimize his lap time deficit over 24 hours of racing. The other drivers are pretty damn good, though, so if he can keep the car out of trouble, they can make it fast. That said, this car finished second in the qualifying race this weekend, so maybe they’re on to something.
Drivers: Matteo Cairoli – Julian Andlauer – Alessio Picariello – Cooper MacNeil
Porsche’s competition in GTD Pro
The qualifying race last weekend was won by a stacked team in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 that ran over a tenth of a second quicker lap time than anyone else in the field. Qualifying form and outright lap speed aren’t necessarily going to decide this event, however, as it’s a 24 hour slog that could go poorly for a lot of teams. Strategy, reliability, and traffic management are going to be key to success, just as they are every year. With pro-level efforts from factory teams like Corvette and Lexus, the Porsche teams have their work cut out for them.
PORSCHE IN THE GTD CATEGORY
Porsche teams running in the GTD class will use the same base 911 GT3 R, but some minor rules have been changed to make them slower overall across the 24 hour event. For one thing, the GTD class does not allow for an all-pro driver lineup, which should make some time. Further, the balance of performance allows for the GTD Pro class to have just a smidge more power and slightly lower weight than GTD. This year there will be four teams running Porsches in the GTD class, including a few heavy hitters.
#16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Wright Motorsports is always going to put together a quality effort, and the driver lineup is pretty stellar. Factory racer Richard Lietz certainly knows his way around a 911 GT3 R, and Zacharie Robichon is the defending GTD class champion. If I were going to put money on a Porsche to win, it would be this one.
Drivers: Richard Lietz – Ryan Hardwick – Jan Heylen – Zacharie Robichon
#34 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
Man, another legendary name in racing is back in IMSA competition, and they’re bringing a mess of talent in the driver’s seat. This could be a class contender, if things go their way.
Drivers: Klaus Bachler – Jeroen Bleekemolen – Kyle Washington – James Sofronas
#64 Team TGM Porsche 911 GT3 R
This Michelin Pilot Challenge team is once again stepping up to the big race to run a GT3 R in the 24 Hour on the same weekend as the Pilot Challenge 4-hour enduro. The team says it has “unfinished business” with the 24, after a good showing in 2021 ended in the 18th hour with a drivetrain failure. Here’s hoping they make it to the finish this year.
Drivers: Ted Giovanis – Hugh Plumb – Matt Plumb – Owen Trinkler
#99 Team Hardpoint Porsche 911 GT3 R
The Hardpoint team switched from Audi R8s to Porsche 911 GT3s in 2021, and managed to bring home some decent and consistent points, but was never really in contention for the victory. With a season-best finish at Sebring, the team seems to do a little better in endurance rounds, so with some luck on their side, could place well at Daytona.
Drivers: Katherine Legge – Rob Ferriol – Stefan Wilson – Nick Boulle
Porsche’s competition in GTD
The GTD class is even more diverse and competitive than the GTD Pro class. There are many teams here with lots of experience in GT3 machinery, and the driver lineups are stellar, given the restrictions on pro drivers. During the qualifying sprint race over the weekend, the winning GTD car would have finished fourth in GTD Pro on the same lap as the leaders. The race was a fight between a Mercedes-AMG GT3 and a McLaren 720S GT3, but with further entries from Ferrari, Lexus, Aston Martin, Acura, and BMW, it’s going to be a tough one for the Porsche crew to break through. I personally can’t wait to see how it all goes down this weekend!
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #2): “I’m feeling very positive about the upcoming race week. We made noticeable progress during the test runs. The car improved from one practice session to the next. We had a bit of bad luck in the qualifying race when the refuelling didn’t work perfectly. It’s a pity, but at the same time, it was a good thing because we managed to sort it out in time for the important race. It’s hard to predict who’ll be in the fight for victory. We’ll just have to wait and see how the competition looks on the day.”
Felipe Nasr (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9):“We head into the GTD-Pro class from the second grid spot. That’s a good position to be in, but during those test days, it was much more important for me to familiarise myself with the Porsche 911 GT3 R – and with everything else that my switch to the GT scene has brought. I’ve already learned a lot but I’m sure I’ll make even more progress in many areas, such as driving style, tyre management and understanding the car. I also think there are still some tweaks we could make to the car setup. The grip on the track will increase as the week progresses, so we have to adjust to this as best we can.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 GT3 R #79): “We performed really well in the qualifying race so I’m feeling confident for the big task ahead. It’ll be the same as all 24-hour races: keep out of trouble during the first 20 hours and stay in the lead lap. Only then do you have a chance in the grand finale. Our team is doing a great job. We have a good driver lineup and the Porsche 911 GT3 R handles beautifully on the track. So, all the ingredients for success should be there.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “With 22 vehicles, our GTD class is the category with the most competitors. This makes the competition exciting and worth watching but it also makes winning all the more difficult. Our car is great. It’s important that the vehicle has a perfect setup to the conditions during the last four hours of racing. All up, there are 61 cars contesting the race, so heavy traffic plays a role and also there’s a high likelihood of many caution phases. Therefore, our motto is: take care during the first 20 hours then attack with our powerful Porsche 911 GT3 R.”