Porsche’s first race with the new 963 prototype is coming up faster than you might think, as January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona is just four months away. To get a jump on things Porsche and Team Penske have been running in the new car at the World Center of Racing, spending two days at the track pounding out laps to acclimate car and driver and crew. Over those two days the car put in just over 1400 miles of lapping through all variety of conditions that Florida could throw at them. Not only was the test extremely hot and humid, but the occasional thunderstorm would roll in and drench the track for a while. It’s true that this 1400-ish miles of testing over two days is a far cry from the miles Porsche will have to run in 24 hours if it hopes to win the Daytona 24 next year (the distance record for he event was set in 2020 at 2965 miles!), but it’s an excellent starting point for the team to set some baselines.
With Roger “The Captain” Penske standing by, Porsche factory aces Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell, and Mathieu Jaminet split driving duties over the two days. Working with Team Penske engineers, the trio gave feedback about setups and used the test as an opportunity to make the car even faster. With hybrid drivetrains pushing out nearly 700 horsepower, Porsche’s new 963 is definitely going to be a quick one. Porsche claims the car went through all of those miles without missing a single step, running flawlessly for two full days of testing. If that’s the case, it sets up a good run for the 24. Now if Porsche can make sure the car stays trouble-free for at least twice as many miles as it did in this test, it could be a contender for the win come January.
I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely excited for this Penske/Porsche reunion. Roger Penske has been with Porsche for as long as he’s been involved in racing. The guy started out in an RS60 Spyder, which makes this story all the better. Through the success of the Can Am years in the 1970s to the bright yellow DHL-sponsored RS Spyder of the mid-2000s, Penske has kind of always been there in the mix of Porsche motorsport history. This marks the first time the two will go to Le Mans together, which is truly exciting.
Of course this isn’t Porsche’s first test with the new 963, it has been on track for several months now, but this run at Daytona is a big step forward for the car when it makes its North American debut. The 963 was originally scheduled to take part in the FIA WEC’s 8 Hours of Bahrain next month as an extended on-track competition/test event, but ultimately backed out to focus on solo testing like this event. There are far fewer variables to account for in a test than in a race, so it makes sense for now. Here’s hoping the strategy pays off!