Daytona / Stuttgart. After 24 hours on the Daytona International Speedway, Earl Bamber missed out on victory by just twelve seconds. Driving the Porsche 911 RSR campaigned by Porsche North America, the Le Mans winner from New Zealand had held the lead at the long-distance classic in Florida up until 36 minutes to the flag.
After a fierce battle with gripping wheel-to-wheel duels, Bamber and his teammates Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) took the flag in third place and earned all-important championship points to kick off the season.
The second podium spot for Porsche at Daytona went to the new Porsche 911 GT3 R campaigned by the Black Swan Racing customer team in the GTD class.
At the traditional opening race of the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the GT classes in particular were immensely competitive and exciting down to the wire. Breathtaking fights for positions and constant changes at the lead treated fans lining the world-famous racetrack to some enthralling motor racing, both day and night.
The 911 RSR Racecars in the GT Le Mans Class
Right up until the last hour of racing, none of the competitors was able to build a decisive gap. In the end it came down to a nerve-racking three-way battle between the Porsche 911 RSR with Earl Bamber in the cockpit and a pair of Chevrolet Corvettes. By this stage, BMW and Ferrari were no longer in contention.
After the last round of pit stops, the 470-hp 911 RSR held a narrow lead. Despite Earl Bamber’s valiant assault, he had no choice but to let both Corvettes overtake him, and went on to score the last podium step.
“Until shortly before the finish, I tried everything to fend off the Corvettes, said Bamber. “We had a great fight, but they were simply faster today. Third place is a great result for the team. The GTLM class is so competitive. The races this year will definitely be super exciting and just as tough as this one.”
“That was a good start to the season,” added Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport. “To finish just twelve seconds down after 24 hours is not really losing. It was a tough battle to the flag and we were always amongst the front-runners.”
In the sister 911 RSR, the No. 911 car campaigned by Porsche North America, Le Mans winner Nick Tandy (Great Britain) had started from pole and taken the lead of the strong GTLM field, which his French teammates Patrick Pilet and Kévin Estre also managed to defend.
But with five hours of racing to go, their 911 RSR was hampered by a faulty drive shaft which relegated them down the pack to finally finish in eighth place. Nevertheless, they too took home important championship points from Daytona.
“We haven’t experienced technical problems for a very long time, but that can happen sometimes in motorsport,” Pilet pointed out. “Now we can take a quick breather before we turn our full attention to Sebring.”
“My first race as a Porsche works driver was a fantastic experience,” said Kévin Estre. It’s great to work with such a professional team. We didn’t make any mistakes. I’m certain that we will win some races together this season.”
The 911 GT3 R Racecars in the GT Daytona Class
The new Porsche 911 GT3 R mounted with the new ultra-modern four-liter flat-six with direct fuel injection celebrated a successful racing premiere at the 54th edition of the long distance classic. Competing in the 500-hp customer racer from Weissach for Black Swan Racing in the No. 540 racecar, Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA), his compatriots Timothy Pappas and Andy Pilgrim as well as Dutchman Nicky Catsburg secured second place.
“I was certain after the [ROAR] tests that we would do well at this difficult race,” opined Patrick Long, the sole American Porsche factory driver. “But I didn’t anticipate that the new 911 GT3 R would be so fast and so good to drive. The car is simply phenomenal. Black Swan Racing also worked faultlessly under pressure. We achieved our goal and we’re simply happy. Congratulations to the winners from Magnus Racing. In Sebring we’ll do our utmost to turn the tables.”
Porsche has designed the 911 GT3 R for worldwide GT3 series based on the production sports car 911 GT3 RS. In developing the vehicle, the engineers at Weissach paid special attention to lightweight design, improving aerodynamic efficiency and reducing fuel consumption.
“I’m completely satisfied with the debut of our new 911 GT3 R customer racer,” declared Sascha Pilz, Manager GT Customer Racing. “Congratulations to Black Swan Racing on an enthralling and flawless race, for which they were rewarded with second place. The strong showing of our customer teams and the good performance of the new car allows me to look to the future with positivity.”
The next race of the season is the 12 Hours of Sebring, on March 19, in Sebring, Florida.
1. Gavin/Milner/Fässler (GB/USA/CH), Chevrolet Corvette, 722 laps
2. Magnussen/Garcia/Rockenfeller (DK/E/D), Chevrolet Corvette, 722
4. Pier Guidi/Serra/Premat/Rojas (I/BRA/F/MEX), Ferrari 488, 721
5. Werner/Auberlen/Farfus/Spengler (D/USA/BRA/CDN), BMW M6, 721
6. Fisichella/Rigon/Vilander/Beretta (I/I/SF/MC), Ferrari 488, 709
7. Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/D/F), Ford GT, 690
9. Briscoe/Westbrook/Mücke (AUS/GB/D), Ford GT, 560
10. Shaytar/Bertolini/Bruni/Calado (RUS/I/I/GB), Ford GT, 557
1. Potter/Lally/Seefried/Rast (USA/USA/D/D), Audi R8, 703 laps
3. Keating/Robinson/Mosing/Foss/Faulkner (USA/USA/USA/USA/IRL), Dodge Viper, 703
4. Dalla Lana/Lauda/Lamy/Stanaway (CDN/A/P/NZ), Aston Martin, 702
5. Ineichen/Basseng/Konrad/Wilsey/Babini (CH/D/D/USA/I), Lamborgini, 702
6. Marsal/Martin/Palttala/Krohn (USA/B/SF/SF), BMW M6, 701
Coverage of the Next Race, The 2016 Twelve Hours of Sebring
Broadcast coverage of the 12 Hours of Sebring starts on Saturday, March 19, at 10:30 AM ET on Fox Sports 1. The 12-hour marathon can be seen alternately throughout the day on Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 and at imsa.com. Complete entry lists, exact television-broadcast times, the blow-by-blow event schedule and ticket info can also be found at imsa.com.
The 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Race Schedule
Mar. 19 – Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida *
Apr. 16 – Long Beach Street Circuit, Long Beach, California
May 1 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, California
Jun. 4 – Detroit Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan (only GTD & Prototye classes)
Jul. 3 – Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, New York *
Jul. 10 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario
Jul. 23 – Lime Rock Park, Lime Rock/Connecticut (only GTD & Prototye classes)
Aug. 7 – Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Aug. 28 – Virginia International Raceway, Danville, Virginia
Sep. 17 – Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
Oct. 1 – Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia *
* These races count towards the North American Endurance Cup.