While Porsche has the same pair of factory-entered cars in the GTLM category this year, the story is completely different in the GTD class, where Porsche entries have dropped from five to just three. With last year's Daytona winners, Alegra Motorsports, moving to Pirelli World Challenge, CORE Autosport moving up to the Prototype category, and TRG dropping out of the series altogether, there are certainly a lot fewer Porsche entrants than Daytona has seen in quite some time. However, with Wright Motorsports effectively entering the class with factory-backing we're still confident that even with a reduced Porsche contingent, they'll still have a strong showing.
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PORSCHE IN THE GTLM CATEGORY
#911 and #912 Porsche 911 RSR - Porsche Motorsport North America
After a year of running the mid-engine configuration 911 RSR in IMSA and abroad in WEC, the team are well acquainted with the car for the 2018 Daytona run. They did well in Florida last year, and this race has the potential to be an incredible one for Porsche. Coming home in second place at the car's debut a year ago was a strong start for the 911 RSR program. If they've been studying their data well, they'll have a good idea for the strategy they need to implement in order to win this race.
The #911 Porsche will again be driven by Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy, who will be joined by Frédéric Makowiecki. Mako and Pilet are well versed with this car, having driven it in 2017 quite competently, with Mako scoring five podiums in WEC competition, and Pilet scoring a race victory in the #911 last year at Lime Rock Park. Nick Tandy, meanwhile, had his hands full with driving the #4 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car to seven podiums in nine rounds.
The #912 Porsche has a similarly competent trio of drivers for the Daytona 24 this year. Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, and Gianmaria Bruni will run the around-the-clock Florida classic together, and we're quite fond of this driver grouping. Vanthoor, for example, was the primary driver in Porsche's second car last year and works well with any number of co-drivers. In 2017 he started the season with Kevin Estre for three rounds, then Wolf Henzler filled in for a round before his ultimate partner Gimmi Bruni could be freed from his Ferrari contract to join the team for the remainder of the season. Earl Bamber, meanwhile, was busy winning Le Mans and three additional rounds of the World Endurance Championship in his 919 Hybrid LMP1.
Porsche's GTLM Competition
The competition will be quite stiff again this year, with a pair of cars each from Corvette, BMW, and Ford, a single Ferrari from Risi Competition. The Corvette was quite dominant for much of the 2017 season, and that trend should continue. The Ford GTs have essentially re-written the GTLM category rules as a hlogation special, and won a pair of races last year as a result. BMW, for 2018, has developed a brand new car, dropping the old M6 platform in favor of a new M8. Despite winning four rounds in 2017, BMW was unhappy with how heavy their car was and decided a new chassis was needed. The Ferrari was quite fast in 2017, but thanks to a big shunt at Le Mans, they were sidelined for much of the GTLM season. We think the Italian brand will come out swinging at Daytona.
PORSCHE IN THE GTD CATEGORY
#58 Porsche 911 GT3R - Wright Motorsports
Wright Motorsports of Batavia, Ohio have been supplying Porsche's Patrick Long with a championship-winning caliber chassis for the last couple of years in Pirelli World Challenge competition. Now that Pat has that challenge off his back, he's moving back to endurance racing with Wright behind him. The ostensibly Porsche-backed team will have last year's GTD champion Christina Nielsen in as the 'silver-ranked' driver in 2018. For Daytona specifically, Nielsen and Long will be joined by Robert Renauer and Porsche junior driver Mathieu Jaminet.
#59 Porsche 911 GT3R - Manthey Racing
Manthey Racing is technically owned, at least in part, by Porsche Motorsport. They're running a partial-season entry again this year with mostly the same lineup they had in 2017. This year the car will be driven again by Steve Smith, Harald Proczyk, Porsche factory ace Sven Muller, and Porsche junior driver Matteo Cairoli. Replacing Reinhold Renger for this year, however is Randy Walls. Unfortunately, the team DNF'd after just 61 laps last year, so we don't have much of an indication how they'll work together. Regardless of how the pros go, it'll be down to the gentlemen drivers to not screw it all up, and luck to be on their side. Manthey certainly knows how to set up a GT3R, so the car won't really be a variable.
#73 Porsche 911 GT3R - Park Place Motorsports
Park Place also suffered a DNF in 2017, but the team have pretty strong history in the GTD category, having taken Porsche's second class victory at Lime Rock Park last July. Patrick Lindsey, Norbert Siedler, and long-time Porsche GT champion Joerg Bergmeister are again running the black and red beauty. Instead of last year's run with Matt McMurry, the team have drafted Porsche fanatic and Black Swan Racing team owner Tim Pappas to the team. If Bergmeister is on his A-game, the team can certainly contend for the victory.
Porsche's GTD Competition
Even more than the GTLM class, this is a seriously competitive field with an awesome array of cars, driver talent, and factory-backed efforts. The depth of talent in GTD this year is greater than we've ever seen it before, and at least 3/4ths of the grid have a car and driver lineup to take the win if things fall their way. In particular, we'll be closely watching the Audis of Land Motorsport and Magnus Racing, the Acura NSXs of Mike Shank Racing, and the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari (Alessandro Balzan, in particular, is an absolute weapon in that car). Add in a field packed with BMWs, Mercedes-AMGs, Lamborghinis, and Lexus, and the race is pretty much wide open.
RESOURCES AND HOW TO WATCH/FOLLOW ALONG
The 2018 24 Hours of Daytona on Twitter for Porsche Fans
Timing and Scoring:
Saturday, Jan. 27
2-5 p.m. EST on FOX
5-10 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 2
10-11 p.m. EST on Fox Sports Go
Overnight (Jan. 30-31)
11 p.m. - 1 a.m. EST on FOX Sports 1
Sunday, Jan. 26
1-8 a.m. EST on FOX Sports Go
8-10:30 a.m. on FOX Sports 2
10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1