The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. Privateer entries from multiple different Porsche-driving squads showed up to the 24 Hours of Daytona intent on winning the whole shooting match, but the cruel hands of fate had other ends in mind. From the drop of the green flag, Porsche's bad luck reared its ugly head, taking the GTLM-classified WeatherTech Racing entry out of contention before the clock even started ticking. Later in the race Porsche-on-Porsche contact took two other GTD-classed contenders out of position to really score well. It was not Porsche's day, and the best that any of the P-car teams could accomplish was a fourth placed finish in the highly competitive GTD category.
That fourth-placed car of Wright Motorsports, raced by Patrick Long, Trent Hindman, Jan Heylen, and Klaus Bachler was not without its own difficulties. For one full stint, Patrick Long was left out in the car without any radio communication back to the pits, which seriously affected the team's strategic efforts. Despite that, after a handful of hours, the Wright car found itself leading the pack purely on pace alone. It was an incredibly competitive car with a good crew of drivers capable of winning, but then disaster struck. During the overnight hours, the #9 Porsche of Pfaff Motorsport collided with one of the DPi prototypes, sending it spinning into the Wright car. The car managed to continue, but it was heavily damaged on the left side of the chassis, forcing the team to fight back from a deficit of time spent on repairs. Ultimately, the win, and even the podium, were beyond reach.
“There were fierce battles like in a sprint race,” says Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “The collisions in this intense long-distance event resulted in a lot of repair work, and one of our cars even had to retire. We held our position in the top five over the distance, but unfortunately this year, we missed out on claiming a podium step by ten seconds. Congratulations to Wright Motorsports on finished a strong fourth. The points are very important for the championship. Next up is Sebring.”
The big story in the Porsche paddock during the race, however, was the start. Coming to the stripe in the WeatherTech Porsche, factory ace Kevin Estre was waiting for the pole-sitting Corvette to speed off toward the green flag, but it was the factory BMW behind which would light the burners first. The extra-large BMW M8 GTE shoved right into the back of Estre's Porsche, sending him spinning first up into the Ferrari on his right, and then down into the apron, thankfully not getting collected by anyone else.
Can’t believe it! We’ve lost the race before it even started... I was waiting for the pole sitter to go on power there and the BMW just went full throttle without looking ahead! Unbelievable...😡🥺 We’re trying to come back but the car isn’t as good as it was... #rolex24 pic.twitter.com/Koh5ob8D3Z
— kevin estre (@kevinestre) January 30, 2021
The #79 Porsche was taken behind the wall to affect repairs, but it was already 14 laps down by the time it was fixed. It's terrible to be taken out of such an important race, but to have your car out of contention before the green flag even flies is beyond the pale. The team managed to make up four of its laps, but that wasn't good enough to actually find the team any positions on track. It ultimately finished sixth in a six-car GTLM category. They used the race as an extended test session, getting the team some extra experience with the car.
The rest of the GTD-running Porsches also suffered extremely bad luck, with the Pfaff car suffering another bout of contact just four hours from the finish, the Hardpoint EBM team suffering a failed front splitter, and the TGM squad retiring quite early with a failed transmission. It's time to forget about Daytona and move our collective thoughts on to Sebring in March. Let's all do this, as a favor to ourselves.
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
17. Giovanis/Plumb/Plumb/Trinkler (USA/USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #64, 515 laps