Porsche Makes Good On Daytona 24 Promises
With a GTD class win for the Allegra Motorsports GT3R and a GTLM podium for the mid-engine 911 RSR, Porsche must be pleased
While Cadillac was making the headlines at the front with the victorious debut of their new prototype, with Jeff Gordon at the wheel no less, Porsche was quietly pounding out laps in the GT ranks and slowly working their way toward the front. In either of the GT categories, Porsche looked on the back foot for most of the event. For hours at a time, they would barely break into the top five. With about four hours to go, the factory-backed GTLM cars were ranked last in class, and the top GTD Porsche was seventh. Sometimes in an endurance event like Daytona, it takes 20 hours of survival before you can mount an all-out four-hour attack on the victory.
Daytona is an interesting race, with much of the lap spent at full chat, and attrition a strong competitor in and of itself. If you don't succumb to an on-track battle, you may suffer at the hands of failure. It is nearly impossible to make it anywhere near the end of the race with a shot at the victory if you're not on the lead lap at sunrise. As the race closed down to the final hour, the #911 GTLM Porsche RSR had Patrick Pilet aboard, and the #28 GTD Allegra Motorsport Porsche GT3 R had factory driver Michael Christensen aboard. Both cars were dicing through their respective classes, aiming their two very different Porsches toward the front. Their competitors gave no quarter and the Porsche chariot masters neither asked for nor gave one in return.
Christensen made a charge through a crowd of Lamborghini, Audi, Ferrari, and BMW to take over the lead before the final full course. He'd already been in earlier that hour to fill up his fuel tank, and the period of yellow allowed him to save a bit more in an effort to have some in reserve for a full power run to the flag. Luck was in Allegra's corner for this race as their fuel strategy paid off and Christensen made the run to the checkered flag nearly unchallenged. On the final lap, one could see the Land Motorsport Audi in second place was gaining time in hand-over-fist increments, but ultimately finished a few tenths behind at the flag. Team owner Carlos de Quesada knew going in that the cards were stacked against his team winning, but knew he'd still give his all. Carlos and his son Michael shared their Porsche with Daniel Morad, Jesse Lazare, and Porsche-ace Christensen. Allegra Motorsports won the GT category at Daytona, also in a Porsche, exactly a decade ago.
In the Factory-supported GTLM class, victory is a monumental task for a brand new car. Porsche's new mid-engine RSR runs in this category against Ford's GT, Chevrolet's Corvette, Ferrari's 488, and BMW's M6, all of which are at least vaguely factory-affiliated. Ford launched an all-out assault on Daytona this year, bringing a four-car contingent of the mid-engine turbocharged quasi-prototype, so it is hardly a surprise that it was the Blue Oval that came out victorious in this category. As fast as the Ford quartet had been in the early running, it was the final hour that really mattered. With seven cars still on the lead lap, and the top five running basically line-astern, it was Pilet's aggression and calculated risk-taking strategy that moved Porsche up the roster. Pilet's teammates, Dirk Werner and Fred Makowiecki, got him this far, it was up to him to see this thing through. With a couple marginal hip-check moves and the ability to make hay while the sun shone, Pilet was within shouting distance of the win with just minutes remaining. Having pushed the leading Ford for a handful of laps, whether to preserve tires or fuel, Pilet was forced to back off on the final lap and followed the Ford to a respectable podium place. Close, close enough to smell it, and yet no cigar.
With a victory in one hotly contested class and a podium in the other, it's safe to assume they'll be heading home with their heads held high and some additional hardware for their trophy case, not to mention the brand new 'Roley' on their wrists.
“I’m incredibly proud of my boys. The entire team spent 18 months giving their utmost so that we could tackle this race with a competitive car. Whether in Weissach, with our tyre partner Michelin, or with our squad, every single person did everything they could. Today we reaped the rewards for this. It was an extremely gripping race to the finish. In the beginning we had some slight problems with the tyres because we first had to find out where our limit was with the setup for the decisive final phase. But we never gave up and we fought back. The fighting spirit shown in the team made this possible. I’m incredibly proud of our works driver squad. They are our greatest asset. These guys don’t make any mistakes and always deliver top performances.”
“That was a typical Daytona race. I knew that not a lot would happen in the first 20 hours and the decision always goes down to the wire. That’s why I didn’t take too many risks, and didn’t fight for every position come what may. I possibly made some team member nervous by taking this approach, but I knew exactly how things work here. Then during the last two hours I pulled out all stops and squeezed every last ounce out of the 911 RSR. Now I’m pleased. It was the maiden outing for our new car and the one little drawback was that we didn’t win. Still, it was an important step. Now I’m looking forward to Sebring.”
“That was a fantastic weekend. I’m amazed that my team performed so brilliantly at their first race with the 911 GT3 R – and in Daytona of all places against such strong competition in the 27-strong field in the GTD class. My final stint was definitely one of the best in my career. I knew what was at stake for the team, I didn’t want to damage the car, and I’m thrilled that we were able to achieve this fantastic result together.”