No. 9 Plaid Porsche Outlasts No. 2 KCMG Porsche in Slugfest
No. 16 Porsche Finds Wright Way to Win Rolex 24 at Daytona GTD Class
The new GTD PRO class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship got off to the most spectacular start possible.
Mathieu Jaminet and the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R emerged from a door-banging clash Sunday afternoon with the similar No. 2 KCMG Porsche driven by Laurens Vanthoor through Daytona International Speedway’s Le Mans Chicane on the very last lap of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The two factory Porsche drivers waged an intense duel over the final two hours of the 60th running of North America’s most iconic endurance race. The action jumped off the chart in the closing five minutes, as Vanthoor’s constant pressure finally paid off and he gained the lead and held it for three intense laps leading to the white flag.
But Jaminet fought back. The Pfaff driver repeated Vanthoor’s pass around the International Horseshoe hairpin to regain the lead on the final lap before vigorously defending the position into the newly renamed Le Mans Chicane on the backstretch of the Daytona oval. The two Porsches negotiated the initial left-hander side-by-side before coming together as they entered the next right-hander. Both skirted the grass to the inside in a synchronized drift; Jaminet maintained control while Vanthoor skidded to a stop before quickly resuming.
By the time they reached the finish line of the 3.56-mile road course less than a minute later, Jaminet had a 2.185-second advantage over the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi. Vanthoor claimed third place, 4.687 seconds behind the winner.
“This was crazy!” marveled Jaminet, a 37-year-old Frenchman who was a GT Le Mans class winner with Porsche last year at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans. “It was difficult to realize what happened on the last lap – actually the last two hours. I was just driving for my life for these two hours.
“Even when he passed me, I thought, ‘I’m not going to give this thing,” Jaminet added. “It was too much hard work for one hour and 55 (minutes) to let it go in the last few laps. I had to give it everything and just go for it.”
Jaminet shared the winning car with Matt Campbell and two-time Daytona Prototype international (DPi) champion Felipe Nasr, who made a victorious debut as a Porsche factory driver.
Eight of the 13 GTD PRO entries led laps over the course of the 24 hours, and it wasn’t until the final quarter of the race that the Porsches truly separated themselves from the field.
It was a difficult GTD PRO debut for two-time defending GT Le Mans class champions Corvette Racing. The Nos. 3 and No. 4 Corvette C8.R GTDs encountered delays and finished sixth and 10th in class. Similarly, the first race for BMW Team RLL’s new M4 GT3 model was not trouble-free, resulting in a seventh-place finish for the No. 25 car and ninth place for the No. 24.
No. 16 Porsche Finds Wright Way to Win Rolex 24 at Daytona GTD Class
Ryan Hardwick watched his Wright Motorsports Porsche race in last year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona from a hospital bed, sidelined with a concussion. The view was much more rewarding this year.
The No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R owned the last hours of GT Daytona (GTD) action at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, winning by 12.542 seconds over the No. 44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Veteran driver Jan Heylen drove the lengthy final stint, warding off bids from the Aston Martin and the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3.
Heylen held strong and pulled away to deliver the first Rolex 24 win for himself, Hardwick, endurance driver Zacharie Robichon, and Wright Motorsports. Porsche driver Richard Lietz earned his third Rolex 24 watch, coming after a 2012 GT win and 2014 GT Le Mans triumph.
“It’s just so hard to win any race, let alone a 24-hour race,” Heylen said. “At the end with two or three hours to go, we had a good lead and I was sure in my mind that it wasn’t going to be that easy. We had good speed in the car and we just had to control our race and not worry about the GTD PRO cars. We’ve come here many times and tried, so to finally be on the top step is an amazing result.”
The No. 16 drivers methodically worked their way to the front from the 11th starting position in GTD. They didn’t lead until more than four hours into the 24-hour race. The car came alive overnight and controlled the late stages, leading 120 of the last 125 laps.
A critical strategy decision saw the No. 16 crew call the car in for its final pit stop with 52 minutes left in the race, just before a full-course caution for the No. 19 TR3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 stopped on track. The No. 44 Aston Martin and No. 21 Ferrari had to pit under yellow and were unable to threaten the Porsche the rest of the way, much to the happiness of Hardwick.
“For me, it was a little bit of redemption coming back to this track and not only competing at a high level but ultimately winning,” Hardwick said. “Just blessed to be a part of a great team and exceptional driving by all of these guys, especially through the night and at the end of the race with Zach and Jan really pushing hard when the game was on.”
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented By Advance Auto Parts, March 16-19 at Sebring International Raceway.
Rolex 24 At Daytona - GTD PRO Winners' Interview Transcript - Sunday, January 30, 2022
Steve Bortolotti, Chris Pfaff, Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet. Felipe Nasr
THE MODERATOR: GTD PRO winners, No. 9 Porsche, come on up.
We're pleased to be joined by Pfaff Motorsports at the 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona. Co-drivers of the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche, Mathieu Jaminet, Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr. First Rolex 24 for all three drivers. First win also in the Rolex 24 for Pfaff Motorsports. The 70th and 71st wins at the Rolex 24 for Porsche. They won both GTD PRO as well as the GTD class.
Let's start with the drivers, with Matt Campbell. Matt, put into some words, if you could, what it means to you to get this win.
MATT CAMPBELL: Holy shit (laughter).
Obviously extremely happy to be able to bring home the win. We were watching in the last couple hours, it was pretty hectic at times. Yeah, extremely happy to be able to win the race with these two guys, also bring the win home for Pfaff Motorsports.
It's a fantastic start to the year, super happy. Been able to do the Rolex a couple times now. Had a podium and also a very new win. Now to be able to finally clinch it in the first year is an amazing feeling.
Super happy. Hopefully we can try to get a couple more of these as well. Absolutely stoked.
THE MODERATOR: Mathieu, what a battle.
MATHIEU JAMINET: Yeah, these last two hours have been maybe the most stressful of my life. Yeah, I mean, what a crazy fight with Lawrence. We all know how good he is, one of the best GT drivers out there in the world. We had a great fight. It was sometimes on the limit, maybe even over.
In the end we took care, let's say, and tried to made it to the end even though we had some small contacts. Last chicane was kind of crazy.
Yeah, for us, we made it so I'm really pleased. Just can't thank the team, first race for me in the team. Yeah, thanks to everyone. Thanks to the boys. They did an amazing job on strategy, on fuel especially. This what bring us back to the front.
These two guys, especially Felipe, has been a wild road for you. I mean, he just jumped in. We know how tough is it for the Prototype drivers, single-seater drivers to jump into the GT car. Especially the Porsche with the rear engine, it's tough. He did a pretty good job. Hats off to him and to Matt who bring the car back to the front. Yeah, great race until the end. This is what people want to see.
THE MODERATOR: To your right, Felipe Nasr. New to GTD Pro racing, new to Porsche. Can you think of a better way to start your relationship than this?
FELIPE NASR: Well, I have to say this guy made us go crazy the last laps. We were really jumping out of our seats. I've lost my voice. It's hard when you're off the car, you're just watching. What an incredible race. Those final laps were proper racing.
I have a huge respect for the class, so this transition from the DPi to GTD Pro was probably one of the most challenging things I've done in the last few years, getting out of my comfort zone. I was so used to the DPi.
I have to say everybody within Pfaff Motorsports, two incredible teammates, they helped me through every session, through every kind of procedure. Every time I was out in the car, had more laps, I just felt very comfortable.
Winning the race was like, Wow, what an incredible feeling. To finally have that on the list, I've been very close a couple of times at this race, but finally being able to win it feels incredible.
I just want to thank those guys for the opportunity in my first-ever race for Porsche as well, couldn't have gone a better way of starting this relationship. Pretty good beginning of the year. Thank you very much, guys.
THE MODERATOR: Pfaff Motorsports owner, Chris Pfaff. First win. What does it mean for you?
CHRIS PFAFF: It still isn't sinking in. It was an exciting finish. Larry drove for us last year so we knew how good he was. He actually played a big compliment to you Mathieu, about how you guys are very competitive. We saw that on the track. It was a lot of fun.
Steve to my right here, he runs the team. I'm more the commercial guy, the structure guy. He's got a great thing going on. We won Sebring, Daytona championship last year. We have great momentum. I'm proud of the team. They work so well together.
THE MODERATOR: Finally we go to Steve Bortolotti. Steve, big win for you guys. How nerve-wracking was it on the box for you guys?
STEVE BORTOLOTTI: Yeah, my voice is nonexistent these days (smiling).
We knew as the last two hours was unfolding, our strategist Bruno, he's an incredible strategist, he was thinking of things. I trust you. Big part of hiring people is you trust them to do their jobs. I don't get it, but we're going to do it, save fuel.
Every pit stop, the gap would go from 30 seconds to 15 seconds, 15 seconds to seven and a half seconds. Every time it's being cut in half. This guy is onto something here.
The problem is, when the gap was smaller, the margins between us and the 2 car were very small. When we went the final stint there, All right, this is how it's going to go down. Like Chris said, we worked with Larry last year, we kind of knew where he was at. We felt like we had a superior car for the race, although it felt like he might have had some space. Jam Jam was getting everything. We made our brake change a bit too early which kind of handicapped Mathieu, but he drove the wheels off it, yeah, brought us home the win in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Steve, we saw your car factory supported Porsche. I don't think we've seen that close of racing between two manufacturer cars. Were you guys given any direction from Porsche? Was it go for the win?
STEVE BORTOLOTTI: These are the only three Porsche employees in my program. It's all the same people as last year. The support is these three individuals on the stage.
Hats off to Chris on the commercial side for helping us put this all together. We don't have people from Manthey. This isn't a Porsche factory program. This is our Pfaff Motorsports team, the same group that some of us started working together in Porsche Cup Canada in 2014. We appreciate the confidence Porsche had in our team, giving us the three amazing drivers we have on the stage.
This is our people, this is the talent we've groomed over the years. This is kind of the result of our hard work.
Q. I was referring to the drivers in general.
STEVE BORTOLOTTI: Yeah, the drivers were plug-and-play. There was no conversation. Just don't embarrass us on TV was the only text I got (laughter). I don't think we did that, so that was good.
Q. Take me through the banging and beating which was the second-place car at the time.
MATHIEU JAMINET: Well, difficult to say. I mean, I was just like trying to stay calm, but I know also the mate I have behind me because I race with him. He hit us quite some time.
I knew it's going to be a hard fight until the end. That's going to come down to the last lap. Yeah, when he pass me, I knew, Okay, maybe I'll get another chance, but it's going to be only one and not more. I just went for it, like he did on me. I just did the same.
I think that was a great battle. Yeah, was good fun, for sure very stressful for the people watching and also for myself. In the end was a great achievement for Matt especially and myself. The young guys also today could show we can be up there and prove to the people that we can get the job done.
Q. Going into the bus stop on the last lap, pretty much his last chance, what is going through your mind at that point?
MATHIEU JAMINET: At that point I didn't know it was the last lap, to be honest. I was just on the inside. I braked like very late. He was braking later than me, so I knew this is not going to work (laughter).
We basically both tried to make the corner. Yeah, we just couldn't make it. He hit my rear right. I kind of lost the car. We touched and he spun. I nearly spun as well. In the end went for the grass on power again.
It just worked out. For sure it was an edge.
Q. As you're watching this tussle on the last few laps, what is going through your mind?
MATT CAMPBELL: Yeah, I don't know. Mixed emotions for sure. To be honest, I was quite calm the whole time until the last lap. That's when I knew shit was going to get wild. I knew something was going to go down for sure. I know both of the drivers well. Someone was going to win the race.
Yeah, we were all going crazy as soon as it started to go down at turn three. Obviously racing hard, battling. Larry was giving us a fair few touch-ups. It was about time we gave one back. Mathieu brought it home for us.
I think I've never screamed so hard in my entire life. Yeah, it was bloody crazy. I think Felipe can back me up on that.
Q. Were you concerned at any time by the Ferrari or any of the other competitors? Did you really think it was a two-car race?
STEVE BORTOLOTTI: When we were sideways in the bus stop, everybody was celebrating. Guys there's a 62 car coming that wasn't that far back. Trying to get everyone calmed down. Stop, we got to get there first.
Yeah, we were certainly concerned about it in the overnight period. They were so fast overnight. How is this even possible? Obviously they were in a different class year. We saw them have tons of speed overnight. They seemed to fall off in the hotter weather.
When the sun came up, we felt like it was between us and the 2 car as the strategy was playing out. Yeah, thankfully Mathieu brought it home for us.
Q. Matt, this is the first race for GTD Pro. You're running for the championship. Initial thoughts on the category and prospects for the rest of the year?
MATT CAMPBELL: Yeah, I think I can speak on behalf of Mathieu as well. First of all, we're extremely excited to be in an effort with IMSA. We've been in the series for quite a number of years now, but obviously the endurance races or one-offs or something like that.
To finally be in the full-season effort is exciting, especially with first half, it's a new era with GTD Pro. That's also something new. We've been driving together for the last couple years. IMSA is always an our radar. Now to be doing that, starting off the year and season like we did in such a fashion with Mathieu behind the wheel, it's really great feeling.
Obviously only really getting more excited for the remainder of the year as well. I think it's going to be extremely tough. You look at the competition, the teams involved. I think it's a really good thing for the category.
Q. How does a 24-hour race come down to the final laps like that?
MATHIEU JAMINET: I don't know (smiling).
Yeah, I mean, obviously the performance between the cars is super close, between the drivers as well. In the last hours there's not been many, many yellows. Even though we race for I think the last 31 minutes, but before that we were also super close with the KCMG.
In the end this is also why we love American racing and IMSA as a driver. It was really for me a target to race full season for this kind of racing, for this kind of season you can see in Sebring, Petit Le Mans in the dark where everything can happen till the last lap.
This is why in the end we love the sport. We are here to race. We love the speed. We love the risk. Then we try to put on a good show.
Q. Felipe, you closed last year two and a half months ago with a championship, then you win the Rolex. Did you see that coming?
FELIPE NASR: Not at all. As I said, great way to start the year. What an incredible year I had already in 2021, winning the DPi championship. I love the IMSA dynamics of racing where everything is decided by the last few laps. I was there at Atlanta to prove that. It's just so intense. Anything can change.
Once again, I have huge respect for these drivers that never been on the GTD class. These guys are on it. I've learned a lot this weekend. Jumping in the car for the first time as well. Hey, hopefully Sebring, another one. What can I say? I hope we can stay at the top.
These guys had a fantastic run here so far. As I'm only doing the four endurance races, my job this year coming here was not to (expletive) it up, let's say. I feel like I've accomplished a goal of being in a car with very little time, just getting used to everything. Just feels amazing. What a great time to be here racing, getting ourselves prepared for the future.
Q. What are your thoughts about the ageless Helio Castroneves?
FELIPE NASR: Fantastic. What a great day for all Brazilian drivers. Helio won on the DPi class. Myself on GTD. Fraga has won the LMP3 class, as well. What a great day. I guess it's time to celebrate soon.