The motorsport season makes its annual start with the ROAR Before the Rolex 24, January 3 – 5, at Daytona International Speedway. The three-day test session launches the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race season and title defenses by two Porsche motorsport programs. The Porsche GT Team factory effort looks to return to the top of the GTLM class standings with a new-to-North America Porsche 911 RSR race car while Pfaff Motorsports targets a second GTD team title with its Porsche 911 GT3 R racer. While no championship points will be awarded for the multi-day test on the 3.56-mile Daytona Beach, Florida-race track, a qualifying session for each class will help set the stage for the first competition round, the 58th Running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 25 – 26.
In total, five Porsche 911-based race cars are entered at the required IMSA test. Two of the new Porsche 911 RSR (Model Year 2019) race cars will debut in the GTLM class at the “ROAR” with the Porsche GT Team factory effort. In the Pro-Am style GTD class, three teams will take-on the challenge of the grueling Rolex 24 in the Porsche 911 GT3 R customer car: Pfaff Motorsports, Wright Motorsports and Black Swan Racing.
A pair of “works” Porsche 911 RSR seek to defend the 2019 GTLM class Team (No. 912), Driver (Earl Bamber/Laurens Vanthoor) and Manufacturer championships with a race car that has yet to compete in the WeatherTech championship’s most competitive class. The Porsche 911 RSR (model year 2019) debuted last summer in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and has earned three podium results – including two, one-two finishes – in the first four races of the season. The evolutionary machine – which produces approximately 515 hp depending on the series mandated air restrictor – is based on the high-performance 911 GT3 RS road-going sports car. The race car received improvements to areas such as drivability, efficiency, ergonomics and serviceability over its IMSA and WEC championship-winning predecessor. Approximately 95 percent of the car is new. A normally aspirated 4.2-liter, six-cylinder boxer engine powers the 911 RSR. The previous iteration of the Porsche 911 RSR was first introduced in 2017 and ran through Petit Le Mans, October 2019. In three IMSA seasons the race car ran to ten career IMSA victories including six in its final season.
In the No. 911 Nick Tandy (Great Britain) will have a new full-season teammate, Frédéric Makowiecki (France). The year-long drivers will be supported at the Rolex 24 At Daytona by Matt Campbell (Australia). Sharing driving duties in the No. 912 car are returning 2019 IMSA champions Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium). Mathieu Jaminet (France) again joins the team at the endurance events starting with the “ROAR” and Rolex 24.
Pfaff Motorsports debuted in the WeatherTech GTD class in 2019 earning two wins (Lime Rock Park and Road America) and the inaugural WeatherTech Sprint Cup for Team and Driver (Zach Robichon) as well as helping Porsche to the Manufacturer title for races under six-hours in duration. Robichon (Canada) returns with eyes on not only securing a second Sprint Cup title but to add the full-season and Michelin Endurance Cup (for the four races of six-hours and longer) championships as well. The young Canadian will be paired behind the wheel of the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R racer for the season with Dennis Olsen (Norway). The duo raced to Pfaff’s first WeatherTech win at Lime Rock Park in 2019. Sharing driving duties at Daytona will be Porsche Test and Development Driver Lars Kern (Germany) who is entered for the endurance races as he was in 2019. Scheduled to make his GTD class debut is Porsche factory ace Patrick Pilet (France).
Wright Motorsports makes its series return after a season away. The John Wright-owned operation has an all-star driving crew scheduled to take-on the twice-around-the-clock classic in the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R. Porsche Motorsport factory driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) has raced with the Ohio-based team in IMSA and/or SRO GT World Challenge America the last several seasons earning multiple IMSA race wins and SRO victories and championships. Long will head the driver lineup with full-season co-driver Ryan Hardwick (Atlanta, Georgia) and Wright Motorsports teammate Anthony Imperato (Brooklyn, New York). Porsche specialist Klaus Bachler (Austria) was recently announced in the No. 16 as the fourth driver for Daytona.
Black Swan Racing returns for 2020 Rolex 24 Hours. The No. 54 Porsche 911 GT3 R will be led by driver/owner Timothy Pappas (Boston, Massachusetts) while 2019 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Platinum Champion Trenton Estep (San Antonio, Texas) will make his Daytona debut at the ROAR as one of the quartet of drivers. The remainder of the lineup for the Black Swan program is made-up of Porsche factory driver Sven Müller (Germany) and veteran Jeroen Bleekemolen (The Netherlands).
Porsche holds the distinction as the most successful manufacturer in the 57 previous 24-hour events in Daytona. The German sports car manufacturer has 22 overall race wins dating back to 1968 – the most recent in 2010 – and the most class wins, 78, with a Porsche last in victory lane in 2017.