The two Penske Porsche 963 Hybrid Prototypes did not perform quite as planned in their IMSA debut during last week’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.  The Porsche Penske Motorsport factory team prepared long and hard in the pre-season.  But a spin-out and mechanical issues, respectively, dropped both the No. 6 and No. 7 Hybrid Prototypes far down the field during their maiden voyage at the 61st running of the venerable Daytona 24h endurance classic. 

Yet, despite lengthy repairs dropping both 963 prototypes back down in the field, the two cars managed to chalk up critical points in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. 

Seen here is the No. 7 Porsche 963 beneath a Daytona 24 waving US flag. Credit: Porsche AG
The No. 7 Penske Porsche 963 Hybrid Prototype of Matt Campbell (Australia), Felipe Nasr (Brazil) and Michael Christensen (Denmark). Credit: Porsche AG

Gremlins Wreaked Their Usual Enduro Havoc on the 963 No. 7 Prototype

But then, at approximately 7:00 pm local time on Saturday, it happened:  Just over five hours in, the hybrid system’s telemetry went haywire.  The pit team urged the No. 7 car to box for repairs behind the wall in the garage.  The mechanics feverishly replaced the high-voltage battery pack that went kaput. 

After all of that hard work, though, the No. 7 car of Matt Campbell (Australia), Felipe Nasr (Brazil) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) then sustained further near-catastrophic damage to its cooling system.  This forced the prototype to head back into the Porsche Penske Motorsport garage for more time-consuming, nail-biting repairs. 

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Depicted here in this sunset shot is the No. 6 Porsche 963 running on the 2023 Daytona 24 track. Credit: Porsche AG
The No. 6 Penske Porsche 963 Hybrid Prototype of Nick Tandy (UK), Mathieu Jaminet (France) and Dane Cameron (USA). Credit: Porsche AG

The 963 No. 6 Prototype Ultimately Suffered a Dreaded DNF

The No. 6 Hybrid of Nick Tandy (UK), Mathieu Jaminet (France) and Dane Cameron (USA) got off to a very promising start. Beginning the race from P9, Nick Tandy, factory team returnee and 2015 outright Le Mans winner in the Porsche 919 Hybrid, zoomed full steam ahead to run with the lead pack after night fell. He and his two teammates even led the field from time to time.

Then the No. 6 Prototype suffered a major setback when Tandy spun out. This freak mishap cost Tandy and the boys big-time, as the No. 6 car lost three whole laps. Nevertheless, the Porsche 963 fought its way back within striking distance of the top dogs at the front.

Tandy’s valiant efforts turned out to be all in vain, however. His car began experiencing braking issues emanating from the “degenerating” regenerative braking system mounted on the rear axle. He began careening deeper and deeper into the track’s braking zones, as the Prototype’s brakes continued to progressively fade.

Adding insult to injury, the car subsequently began spewing billows of white smoke. Thus, not unlike doomed Sisyphus and his tumbling boulder rolling down the hill, the No. 6 Porsche 963 started falling further and further back down the field: The gremlins struck for the final time — catastrophic gearbox failure.

So, after 700 laps, just 83 laps shy of reaching the checkers, the No. 6 Hybrid Prototype was forced to retire — Porsche’s first DNF of the young Championship season.

The No. 7 Prototype’s “Pyrrhic Victory”

The No. 7 car of Campbell, Nasr and Cameron suffered a Pyrrhic victory insofar as not scoring a podium, but exhibiting promise to be competitive in future IMSA Championship rounds. The Prototype took the GTP-class flag in seventh place overall in the Daytona 24h classic, a disheartening 34 laps down.

Consequently, it wasn’t in the cards this year for Porsche to turn this outing into the nineteenth win to increase Porsche’s previous 18 overall Porsche wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona — but there is always the next race for the first win of the year at the 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 18, 2023.

GTP Class Race Results:

1. Blomqvist/Braun/Castroneves/Pagenaud (UK/USA/BR/F), Acura ARX-06 No. 60, 783 laps

2. Taylor/Albuquerque/Deletraz/Hartley (USA/P/CH/NZ), Acura ARX-06 No. 10, 783 laps

3. Bourdais/van der Zande/Dixon (F/NL/NZ), Cadillac V-LMDh No. 01, 783 laps

7. Campbell/Nasr/Christensen (AUS/BR/DK), Porsche 963 No. 7, 749 laps

DNF — Tandy/Jaminet/Cameron (UK/F/USA), Porsche 963 No. 6, 700 laps

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