The debut of the Porsche 911 GT3 R in North America went without a hitch today as EFFORT Racing (two cars) and Taggart Autosport guided their Porsche customer entries to competitive times on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course through downtown St. Petersburg, Fla.
EFFORT Racing, former regular entrants in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series, also makes its World Challenge debut, set the Porsche pace with Tim Bergmeister, of Langenfeld, Germany, driving the program in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, running 11th overall (in both sessions), while IMSA GT3 Cup veteran Michael Mills, Angleton, Tex.,13 th fastest overall and fourth in the new GT-Amateur (GT-A) class in practice times this afternoon.
North Carolina-based Taggart Autosport, with Jim Taggart , Cary, N.C., at the wheel, finished 13th overall and fourth in GT-A (both in this morningâ€™s practice). Taggart, who earned rookie of the year honors in the GTS class last year in a Lotus, had good things to say about his new mount, which faced competition for the first time in St. Pete after several private test sessions.
â€œEverything about this car has exceeded my expectations â€“ power, handling, braking and general excitement,â€ said Taggart after his initial practice run. â€œI spent about two hours total in testing time over the past few weeks, but climbing into this new Porsche and running nose-to-tail with the Lamborghinis, Audis, BMWs, Cadillacs, Ferraris and McLarens has shown me what lies ahead. And the support we are getting from the Porsche Motorsport engineers has been great.â€
In the GTS class, Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., in his #73 GTSport Porsche Cayman S, was fasted against competition from Mustangs, Aston Martins, Camaros and Audi TTs. Baldwin, a multiple IMSA GTU champion, narrowly lost out on last year’s GTS championship. But he won both St. Petersburg races in 2013 and seeks a repeat for this year.
The 911 GT3 R, based on the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, which was developed for the FIA GT3 racing class (the name GT3 is a class name, not associated with the Porsche GT3 designation) in Europe, has never raced in North America as the car has never met any of the current or past series rules. It features a four-liter, 500 hp engine (horsepower may vary with future balance of performance) with a 56mm restrictor for World Challenge, and features many of the latest tech innovations on the other Porsche race cars including a six-speed paddle shift transmission.
The Pirelli World Challenge Championships are thrilling 50-minute sprints, featuring top- notch drivers and teams, zero scheduled pit stops or driver changes. It is the only North American sports car series featuring a standing start and all of the top manufacturer brands from around the world that race in the series run on Pirelli P Zero Racing Slicks.