Porsche has accrued a massive number of victories at the famed 24 Hours of Daytona, but all of their representative teams were completely shut out of the winner's circle in 2015. As you'll recall, the race was nearly a comedy of errors for Porsche drivers, as the two factory cars hit each other, the Falken team suffered an engine failure while leading, and the Magnus car in GTD even hit an opossum. Porsche is hoping a change in GTD regulations and a new year will bring a change to their 2015 luck and bring back some of their previous winning juju. Here's a breakdown of each Porsche entered in the race, and how we think they might fare.
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Porsche In The GTLM Category
#911 and #912 - Porsche North America with CORE autosport
This is the third year that Porsche has brought out a pair of 991 RSRs to take on all comers in the GTLM category at Daytona. As the higher of the two GT categories, GTLM is set up for a very good year of competition, so Porsche had better bring their A-game if they hope to work in another victory. 2015 saw a lot of success from this program, including multiple championship victories and ending the season on the highest of notes with an endurance race overall victory at Petit Le Mans. Porsche's RSR program has been quite good, and there should be no reason to believe otherwise for 2016. As good as Porsche has been, though, the competition keeps getting stronger.
In the 911 car, Porsche has Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, and newcomer Kevin Estre. In the 912 car slots Earl Bamber, Fred Mako, and Michael Christensen. Interestingly, at the pre-season test "The Roar Before The 24", Christensen was consistently the quickest of all the Porsche drivers, and the margins were quite thin. Consistency, speed, and staying out of trouble are the biggest factors in winning this race, and if any team can do it, it's this one.
Unfortunately, as strong as the Falken team was last year, they are no longer competing in the USCC and will not be running a 911 RSR this year, leaving only two bullets in Porsches GTLM gun.
Porsche In The GTD Category
#22 and #23 - Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle
As usual, the #22 AJR car has one of the best lineups in GT racing history, and they just keep going from strength to strength. Cooper MacNeil is one of the better amateur drivers out there, and when you team him with Lehman Keen, Shane Van Gisbergen, and Gunnar Jeannette, you have a wickedly quick lineup. David MacNeil is also on the driver roster, but I'd venture he will likely limit his time in the car to a short single stint.
In years past, the #23 has played second fiddle to the #22, as they've always been just a little bit slower. This year that might change, as they've each improved as drivers, and they've added a mega talent. Ian James, Mario Farnbacher, and Alex Riberas return to the team with steadily improving results. The surprise here, however, is the addition of Porsche ace Wolf Henzler to the team. With Wolfy on the prowl, that team should have some excellent results. I'm impressed.
#30 - Frikadelli Racing
Frikadelli is a little bit of an unknown quantity on these shores, however they've been running endurance races for years in Europe, and they will put that knowledge to good use at the 24 hour. Patrick Huisman is a mega talent in a Porsche Supercup. Frank Stippler and Sven Mueller are perfectly suited to driving almost anything quickly. Nürburgring ace and possible future host of Top Gear, Sabine Schmitz, has been popping up in endurance races for the last decade and usually finishes well. This is another healthy roster of drivers on Porsche's side.
#73 - Park Place Motorsports
Park Place is a team that has really improved since they were introduced to the Porsche world a few years back. They have been floating just outside the reach of superstardom for a few years, and this might be their year. At Daytona, Porsche has been generous enough to put Jörgg Bergmeister in their car, which certainly cannot hurt. Pat Lindsey, Matt McMurry, and Norbert Seidler round out a perfectly capable lineup for the twice-round-the-clock endurance race in sunny Florida.
#540 - Black Swan Racing
Black Swan might be the biggest surprise of the season if things go as well as they look they might. They're coming back to the Porsche game after a few years away in Vipers, Mercedes, and even a jaunt in LMP2, and it would appear that they could not be more welcome in the fold. Porsche has also thrown a factory driver the direction of Black Swan in the form of the mega-talented Patrick Long. Joining Pat are Nick Catsburg and Andy Pilgrim, as well as team owner Tim Pappas. Tim seems like a good guy, but he's definitely the slowest of these four drivers. As long as he limits his own time in the car, this quartet will most likely finish quite well.
WHO'S PORSCHE'S COMPETITION
This year, GTLM is poised to be one of the best seasons of GT racing we've ever seen. Two factory Corvettes have gone relatively unchanged, but both were quick last year and won Daytona, they should be watched closely. Two brand new BMW M6 GTLMs have appeared in the hands of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team, featuring a turbocharged engine, which should work quite well in the cooler overnight sections of the race. Also in the turbo game is Ferrari with a trio of new 488 GTE racers, entered by Risi Competizione, SMP Racing, and Scuderia Corsa. Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the brand new Ford GT program run by Chip Ganassi Racing. All of these new cars are relatively untested, but they've all shown to be quite fast at the pre-season test. I guess we'll see.
Porsche is down on entries this year, only represented by five GTD cars instead of the 9 that showed last year, and 12 the year before. That said, what they've lost in strength of numbers, they've gained in strength of talent. These are some pretty great cars and there is no reason to count them out before the race runs. With very few exceptions, nearly every one of the 22 cars entered in the class has a chance at the victory. With the new regulations allowing the use of FIA GT3 cars, this class is pretty much a roll of the dice for who your favorite might be to win. Sadly Magnus Racing has left Porsche for a shiny new Audi R8, and Paul Miller Racing has left Porsche for a shiny new Lamborghini Huracan. Both teams are strong and should be toward the front all race long. Stevenson Motorsports has returned to this style of GT racing with a pair of new R8s and possibly the strongest driver lineup I've ever seen. The Vipers look strong, the Ferraris still look fast, and Turner Motorsports' driver lineup is another one full of lap-time assassins. This is an exciting category, and sadly will still see the least amount of coverage.
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
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