Porsche has powered over 100 class victories at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and this weekend our favorite German sports car maker added two more to that tally in the 60th running of the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic. I just returned to my home from celebrating the win with the teams and fans in Daytona, so let’s talk about what went down, how it happened, and how the GTD Pro victory was almost lost on the final lap!
This was an uncharacteristically cold Daytona 24, but thankfully for all involved, it was dry and sunny on both Saturday and Sunday. It was a 61-car strong field, with more than half of that made up of GT cars, meaning there was traffic pretty much everywhere around the lap for the full race. It was absolutely bonkers to see, and I’m so glad I made it down there to watch the race in person. Before we continue, let’s all raise a glass to the GTD Pro-winning Pfaff Motorsports and the GTD-winning Wright Motorsports for flying the P-car flag!
How Porsche won the GTD Pro class
The brand new GTD Pro category, crafted to replace the now-defunct GTLM class, was absolutely dominated by Porsche. The Canadians at Pfaff Motorsports ultimately took the victory after a race-long knock-down-drag-out battle with Hong Kong’s KCMG squad. Porsche had run fairly well in the qualifying race the previous weekend, starting the 24 hour from second. From the drop of the green flag, it was obvious that this would be an all time classic battle between Porsche and Ferrari. There were a few interlopers that spent some time at the front, like the fast-but-fragile McLarens. That said, for pretty much the entire 24 hours, a Porsche 911 GT3 R was at or near the front of the GTD Pro class.
Both the Pfaff and KCMG cars spent time at the front, but after hours and hours of racing, it was a knock-down-drag-out fight for the final two hours at the front of the GTD Pro field between the two Porsches. After the last pit stop of the race, factory racers Mathieu Jaminet (Pfaff) and Laurens Vanthoor (KCMG) were separated by just half a second on the run. Shortly after that the 17th and final caution of the race came out, and we were treated to a half-hour battle to the finish with full fuel and fresh tires.
Over the final two hours there was a give and take between the two that saw Vanthoor setting up a pass for two or three laps, only to attempt to shove the car up into first, going a little too wide into a braking zone, or too late into the infield kink, and ultimately fall back a position. On the penultimate lap, however, he got a good run off the bus stop chicane, set up a nice pass at turn one, and the cars were alongside for several seconds before the KCMG car swept into the lead. On the last lap Jaminet made the same exact move work for him, getting back up into the lead. With only one shot left, Vanthoor sent it down the inside at the bus stop chicane on the last lap. It would be checkers or wreckers for the Belgian. Ultimately he was sent spinning off the track, Jaminet continued on, and the pair finished with a Ferrari splitting them at the line.
It was some of the best racing I’ve ever seen, and for those two cars to be as close as they were on the final lap was a true blessing for endurance racing. I mean, just watch this. It’s phenomenal nip and tuck battling!
So there you have it. The plaid Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R took the GTD Pro class win at the 24. With great strategy, great luck, and great driving, the trio of Jaminet, Matt Campbell, and Felipe Nasr won their Rolex Cosmograph Daytona fair and square. It was truly breathtaking racing, and I can’t wait to see what happens in GTD Pro at Sebring in just a few weeks.
How Porsche won the GTD class
Down in the GTD class, it was a little bit less of a sure thing. The Wright Motorsports Porsche was always going to be in contention, but there were a lot more cars ready to fight, including factory-fielded efforts from Lexus and Aston Martin among others. With Wright’s always-on strategy and performance, however, Jan Heylen, Richard Lietz, Zacharie Robichon, and Ryan Hardwick managed to pull through and push to the finish. For the last couple of hours, it was again a Porsche versus Ferrari battle at the front. During that last round of pit stops, however, the Ferrari ran too fast down pit lane and was forced to serve a drive-through penalty, effectively ending its pressure on the Wright team, allowing them to push to the finish without worrying about pressure from behind.
“Customer racing at a factory racing level – that’s what we witnessed today at Daytona,” said a delighted Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “That finale has left me speechless. We can only emphasize how difficult this race was and the high level of professionalism of the teams running all seven vehicles. Victory in the GTD class and first and second in the GTD-Pro class! That’s no picnic in a race with 35 GT vehicles. It’s a well-deserved reward for the teams, the drivers and Porsche.”
The WeatherTech Racing team suffered electrical faults early on, plus a scad of penalties and shredded bodywork. It was not a good debut for the team, and we can only hope the red/white/blue Porsche comes back stronger at Sebring. Similarly the Hardpoint Porsche had multiple incidents and penalties, pushing their finish no higher than 10th in class. The TGM customer team was visibly the slowest car on track all weekend, but somehow put together a 7th place in class finish by simply not hitting anything, running a sound strategy, and keeping the nose of the car clean. The GMG Racing car suffered a crash on Saturday and retired the car before sunset.
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9):“The last lap was certainly spectacular, but so was the unbelievable duel over the last two hours. I drove my heart out every single lap. I really gave it everything I had. Obviously, I know Laurens well, he’s my team colleague at Porsche. I know how strong he is. He tried again and again, and our cars touched again and again. But I said to myself: ‘He’s not getting past me today!’ In the last lap, we both ended up on the grass. Luckily I managed to avoid a spin. That was it. The KCMG colleague had a slightly faster car, but thanks to perfect teamwork and my teammates’ outstanding drives, we ended up at the front. That was great promotion for motorsport and a perfect start to the season for us.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9):“I can only shake my head in disbelief at this show. I’m full of adrenaline and emotions. It was exciting and exhausting to witness the duel from the pit wall. I take my hat off to Mathieu. He fought hard to achieve this victory for us. We won the 24 Hours of Daytona today – incredible!”
Felipe Nasr (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “I can’t believe it. I join Porsche and win my very first race at the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 R. It’s like in a fairytale. Mathieu and Matt did an incredible job, and so did the Pfaff Motorsports crew. I really wanted to win Daytona – and now it’s happened. There’ll be big celebrations tonight with my teammates and the squad.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #2):“I had a clear goal: After my wins at the Nürburgring, Spa and Le Mans, I was determined to win the 24 Hours of Daytona and round off the quartet. I did everything I could to make this happen but unfortunately it didn’t work. I’ll definitely replay the scenes from the last laps in my mind for a long time. I cried on the way back to the pit lane: I tried everything but didn’t win. The better guys won today. That was Pfaff Motorsports. Congratulations to my team colleagues.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16):“Not bad, right? Our car ran really well over the whole distance, the team did a perfect job. Our Porsche 911 GT3 R crossed the finish line without a single scratch – and that was the secret to our success. Our car was still almost at the end. A big thank you to our Wright Motorsports team and my teammates. It was great fun and left us wanting more.”
Jan Heylen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “We’ve tried our luck so many times at Daytona and often stood on the podium – but never as the class winners. Today everything came together. We finally scored our first victory at this great race. We’re absolutely over the moon. The team deserves more than this. Thanks to Ryan Hardwick who put this group together. And also thanks to Porsche for the excellent support. I’m overwhelmed!”
Result GTD-Pro class
1. Campbell/Jaminet/Nasr (AUS/F/BR), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 711 laps
2. Pier Guidi/Calado/Serra/Rigon (I/GB/BR/I), Ferrari 488 GT3 #62, 711 laps
3. Vanthoor/Olsen/Imperatori/Pilet (B/N/CH/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #2, 711 laps
8. Andlauer/Picariello/Cairoli/MacNeil (F/B/I/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #79, 673 laps
Result GTD class
1. Hardwick/Heylen/Lietz/Robichon (USA/B/A/CDN), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 707 laps
2. Lally/Potter/Pumpelly/Adam (USA /USA/USA/GB), Aston Martin #44, 707 laps
3. Andrews/Skeen/Davison/McAleer (AUS/USA/AUS/GB), Mercedes-AMG #32, 707 laps
7. Giovanis/Trinkler/H. Plumb/M. Plumb (USA/USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #64, 697 laps
10. Ferriol/Legge/Wilson/Boulle (USA/GB/GB/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #88, 672 laps
21. Washington/Bachler/Sofronas/Bleekemolen (USA/A/USA/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #34, 88 laps