Sanctioning bodies began racing sports cars at the Daytona International Speedway in 1962, just three years after it opened. Dan Gurney famously won that race, a 3-hour sprint, in a Lotus, but Bob Holbert quietly won the 2-liter sports racer class in a 718 RSK, marking the beginning of Porsche’s many successes at the iconic road course/oval. Porsche is the winningest marque in Daytona sports car history, notching up 18 overall victories as a manufacturer, and an additional four wins as an engine supplier. This year, though the German manufacturer had five entries in two different classes, not a single Porsche was on a single podium when the race ended at 2:40PM Sunday. It was historic, as it marked the first time since Daytona began that this haS happened. Porsche haS had unhappy years before, but this one in particular will be a race they want to forget.
How the race went wrong for the GTLM-class #911 Porsche Motorsport North America 911 RSR
For the first quarter of the 24 hour race, the #911 was on a pace to a very good finish. Just before the 6-hour mark of the race, there was a brief rain shower that left the track damp, but not full on wet. While the rest of the GTLM class pitted for rain tires, Patrick Pilet opted to stay on track for the 8-minute sprinkling with slick tires. Because Pilet is an absolute master of wet weather driving, he managed to save the team two full pit stops (one to install rain tires and one to switch back to slicks when it dried), and emerged with the lead of the race.
When Nick Tandy switched into the car, he mounted a charge to keep the car in the hunt for the lead, but it did not end well. Entering the Bus Stop chicane on the back straight of the massive track, Tandy lost control of the Porsche and once he was off on the still-wet grass, there was no stopping the car from heavily impacting the tire wall. Both ends of the car hit the wall, tearing up the nose and removing the rear wing from the car. When he returned to the garage, the team set to work to repair the Porsche, and they got it looking tip-top again in just 20-minutes, but in a competitive field like GTLM, a car 13-laps down will most likely never be in the hunt again, other than a 24 hour race. However, a second impact in the same section of the track later in the night took them out of contention completely.
The car finished 8th in GTLM, 30-laps in arrears of the class-winning Ford GT.
Nick Tandy, Driver, Porsche 911 RSR #911: “After such an unfortunate race we have to look at things in a positive light. For instance, one positive aspect is that the team pulled together as one unit this week. Everyone knew what they had to do. Plus we didn’t have any problems during free practice and were going well early on in the race. We now need to build on this. Daytona is an important race, there’s no question about that, but the season has only just begun.”
How the race went wrong for the GTLM-class #912 Porsche Motorsport North America 911 RSR
Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor, and Gianmaria Bruni split their time in the driver’s seat of the #912. In all honesty, they ran a relatively un-incumbered race at Daytona. The trio did not have any issues, mechanical or human, and simply pounded out laps in their mid-engine 911. Unfortunately, IMSA’s Balance of Performance did not fall their way this year, and the Porsches were only capable of a maximum-attack lap time somewhere about half a second slower than the class-of-the-field Ford GTs. Because the race was only stopped four times for caution in 24 hours (compared to 21 cautions in 2017), the field was not artificially bunched up as frequently as it had been in previous runnings. By that measure, once the team had lost their laps, they were completely unable to catch up. Ford was just too fast.
The car finished 6th in GTLM, 11 laps down from the lead.
Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, Porsche 911 RSR # 911: “Prior to the race we were all feeling very confident. We conducted very intensive tests here and managed to find a good setup for our 911 RSR on this racetrack. That makes this result all the more disappointing. Daytona was a strange race this year with very few safety car phases. We actually didn’t make any mistakes, however we were simply not fast enough in some passages.”
How the race went wrong for the GTD-class #58 Wright Motorsport 911 GT3R
Before the race even began, our favorite team to win was already in the garage making repairs. On the warm up lap, Robert Renauer was at the wheel and the car speared hard into the wall at Turn 5. While no official word has been made, rumor has it the crash was caused by a broken suspension component. The car was brought back to the garage and the team made it look brand new, but once the damage was done, they were simply there to get points and try to keep running laps.
They finished all the way down, 19th in class, completing only 666 otherwise trouble-free laps in comparison with the class-winning Lamborghini’s 751 laps.
Robert Renauer, Driver, Wright Porsche 911 GT3R #58: “I came out of the kink, went on throttle and suddenly the car turned to the left. I had wheel spin and couldn’t avoid the crash. I’m very sorry for the team. They’ve worked hard to prepare for this and now they’re going to have to work hard again. I’m sure they’ll fix it so we can go back out there and go for some points.”
— The Caution Clock ⚠️ (@CautionClock20) January 27, 2018
How the race went wrong for the GTD-class #59 Manthey Racing 911 GT3R
The Manthey car had a good start to the race, but did not finish strong. There is no official word from Manthey regarding their retirement other than “due to technical issues“.
Ultimately they ran 637 strong laps before pulling out of the race Sunday afternoon, they were classified 20th in class.
How the race went wrong for the GTD-class #73 Park Place Motorsport 911 GT3R
Park Place Motorsport suffered for nearly the entire 24 hours, causing the team to call the race a “test of will” for them. They had rear braking issues from Joerg Bergmeister’s first stint, which they dealt with for 24-hours straight. The braking issue caused Bergmeister to have an off at the international horseshoe. The team then had a second issue that ultimately cost them hours in the garage. Joerg also hit debris on course, during the same stint, which lodged the driver’s door closed. They spent two hours attempting to repair the damage and fit a new door. The new door, supplied in the team’s spares package, was not able to fit properly, and they were forced to come in a second time to fit another door supplied by Porsche Motorsport. When the clock ran out on the race, the team were still suffering with braking issues.
The team finished 18th, and completed 675 laps in the process.
Patrick Lindsey, Driver, Park Place Porsche 911 GT3R #73: “I said I wouldn’t get hopeful, but I did and maybe this is what I get for being hopeful,” Lindsey said. “In all actuality the team was great, the guys did a great job as always. Tim, Jörg and Norbert drove the best they could considering the car. We just didn’t have it this race. We fought with the brakes a majority of the time and then had debris hit the door which cost us a lot of time in the garage. It was a freak accident, the debris hit the door just right so that we couldn’t open it. One day, things will go our way here but yesterday was not that day.”
[Photos and quotes provided by their respective teams]