The Porsche GT Team is looking to turn its fortunes at the site of its greatest achievement: the Petit Le Mans. In 2015, the Porsche GT Team triumphed in what was presumed to be unattainable, bettering a field of the world’s best prototype and GT machines to win one of the most challenging motorsport events on the planet. In a relentless deluge that ended the race early, the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR crossed the finish line first to carve its name into the history books as a “giant killer”. The 10-hour classic, which will be celebrating it 23rd running on October 17, will see the two-car GTLM class factory effort return to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta looking to redeem a season of unrequited effort. In the customer-focused GTD class, Porsche privateer Wright Motorsports comes to the Braselton, Georgia-area on the opposite side of the pendulum having secured three consecutive podium finishes in recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races. The recognized patriarch of modern sports car racing, Porsche has a record-setting 24 class victories in the Petit Le Mans, including the unprecedented 2015 overall victory and three class victories in the one-make GTC category. Porsche has participated in every Petit Le Mans held since 1998.
The No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R leads a two-team contingent of race cars in the Pro-Am style GTD class. The Ohio-based operation headed by John Wright adds veteran Porsche pilot Jan Heylen (Belgium) to the cockpit mix with full-season regulars Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) – North America’s only Porsche factory driver – and local driver Ryan Hardwick (Atlanta, Georgia). The trio started a three-race streak of top-threes here at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn track in a six-hour race on September 6. The consistent success has moved them into the championship hunt – tied for second-place – with three races remaining. The program had their highest finish of the season to-date – a second-place with Long/Hardwick – at the most recent round held on the October 10 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Returning to the series this weekend will be Pfaff Motorsports. The No. 9 “Plaid Porsche” of the Canadian Porsche dealer has been unable to compete due to restrictions involving COVID-19 since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. Their 500+ HP machine will be piloted by Zach Robichon (Canada), Dennis Olsen (Norway) and Porsche Test and Development Driver Lars Kern (Germany).
If 2020 has been a year of frustration, 2015 was a season of celebration. Then in its second season as a factory team in IMSA, the North American arm of the GTLM class “works” program, commanded the all-manufacturer class winning the Driver, Team and Manufacturer Championships culminated by the Petit Le Mans overall victory. After a trying season thus far in 2020, the two-car “works” team comes to “Petit” looking for redemption on the hills and valleys of one of the most dauntingly fast tracks on the planet. Nick Tandy (Great Britain) was part of that 2015 success in the wet. This weekend he will be teamed for ten-hours with full-season driving mate Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and endurance race addition Matt Campbell (Australia) in the No. 911. In 2019, Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) clinched the GTLM drivers’ championship at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. On Saturday, they will challenge for their first win of the season in 515 Hp No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19 with Mathieu Jaminet (France) providing support.
Drivers’ comments prior to the race
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “It’s good that there’s no time to ruminate after last week’s disappointment. We head straight into a real classic – the ten-hour race at Road Atlanta. We’ve always been strong over such big distances. For this reason, I’m heading to Petit Le Mans feeling confident. Whenever I go there I’m reminded of our overall victory of 2015 – an experience I’ll never forget, and one that motivates me for the task ahead.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “When we contested the six-hour race at Road Atlanta in early September, we had problems with tyre wear over the full stint. We then took a good look at this issue with Michelin during tests at the track. I think we’ve made good progress in this area, and we can feel optimistic about the upcoming race. We’ll do our absolute utmost to finally climb to the top step of the podium.”
Patrick Long, Driver, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“We love the thought of endurance racing because it allows us to expand on the strengths we have as a team. But we are also very realistic that our competition is getting stronger every weekend. There is no time to rest on our laurels. We can’t think that our results from the six-hour at Road Atlanta or the last few races is anything to just sit back and reflect on. We are looking ahead. We know we have to hit our marks. There is going to be heavy competition as the season’s conclusion starts to take shape and as a team, we have to keep racing hard all the way to the end of the year.”
Ryan Hardwick, Driver, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I call Atlanta home, and I’ve been coming to watch this race for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a dream of mine to one day compete in this great race, and ultimately win it! Our team has some great momentum going right now and it couldn’t be happening at a better time. There are only three races left in the championship, and two of those are endurance rounds, which is where our Wright Motorsports team really shines. I’m also super pumped to have Jan Heylen back with us for these last couple of endurance races. I think we’ve got the people and the tools in place to battle for the top spot on the podium this weekend and be right there in contention for the championship at season’s end.”
Steve Bortolotti, Team Manager, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I couldn’t be more excited to return to the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship this weekend for Motul Petit Le Mans. We had a solid test at CTMP on Saturday and are looking forward to a strong showing for Motul, Pfaff and Porsche at this historic event. Our team has been keeping busy within Canada since putting our IMSA program on hold in March, but we are thrilled to see the Motul Plaid Porsche back in action on one of North America’s best road courses at Road Atlanta.”
Lars Kern, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“It’s just amazing to be back after such a long break. It has been a strange thing for me to be following IMSA and not see our car. I have been cheering for the GTLM factory guys and the Wright team but it is great to be back. We have some unfinished business after Daytona, so we are all really looking forward to going back racing in the U.S. Last year we finished third and we want to put the Pfaff car back on the podium. The Nürburgring 24 is just around the corner for Dennis and myself. Conditions have been super cold and rainy [in Germany]. It’s going to be great to race in Atlanta without skiing underwear! I am looking forward to a great weekend.”
Dennis Olsen, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I can’t wait to get back to racing in IMSA again. After a long break it will be great seeing everyone at Pfaff Motorsport – it’s been a long time coming, but I’m super confident about the weekend and stoked to work with the team again. I’m looking forward to exploring a new track and getting back to speed. The guys have put a huge effort into making this race happen, so from the drivers’ perspective we want to give it 110% and go for the win.”
Zach Robichon, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“To say we’re excited to be back would be an understatement. I’ve been looking forward to getting our Pfaff Porsche back on track since January! It will be a difficult task having missed so many races, but the team was able to shake the rust off in a short and positive test at CTMP last week. I’m sure this will help everyone and myself get back up to speed quickly after our time away from the championship.”