The 24 hour race in Daytona remains Porsche territory: At the cliff-hanger 50th anniversary of the long distance classic in Florida/USA, the Zuffenhausen sports car manufacturer celebrated a convincing triple triumph in the GT class against strong opposition from the likes of Audi, BMW, Corvette and Ferrari. Victory went to Porsche works driver Richard Lietz (Austria) in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup fielded by Magnus Racing with teammates René Rast (Germany) as well as Americans Andy Lally and John Potter. After a thrilling finale in front of record crowds on the Daytona International Speedway, Lietz saw the flag 9.412 seconds ahead of his factory pilot colleague Wolf Henzler. The previous year’s winner from Germany shared the cockpit of TRG Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands), Marc Goossens (Belgium), Spencer Pumpelly (USA) and Steven Bertheau (USA). Scoring third place was Porsche works driver Marc Lieb (Germany) with Americans Hurley Haywood, Leh Keen and Andrew Davis in the legendary starting number 59 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup run by the Daytona-winning squad Brumos Racing.
“Today we all witnessed why Daytona is one of the world’s most fascinating races,” said Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG. “For me that was a 24 hour sprint. The front-runners were incredibly close right to the flag. I’m very pleased to see that we had virtually no technical problems with our cars and the teams and drivers did such a magnificent job under difficult conditions. Congratulations and well done to you all.” Porsche’s head of motorsport, Hartmut Kristen, commented after this latest success: “The 50th running of this classic was unbelievably exciting. For much of the time, there were ten GT cars in one lap. The spectators were again treated to some fantastic motorsport. And it’s great of course to celebrate an impressive victory in front of such spectacular crowds. The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup again brilliantly underlined its outstanding reliability at this extremely difficult race.” With its latest win, Porsche has now scored 22 overall and 74 class wins, making it the most successful manufacturer in the history of this race.
The anniversary race of the endurance classic in Florida, at which the new Porsche 911 ran as the safety car, was stronger than ever before. In the GT class alone, 45 cars lined up to start. “To beat so many great drivers, the crème de la crème of GT pilots, is simply awesome,” said the winner Richard Lietz. “Winning this race for Porsche is a highlight of my career, comparable only to my two victories in Le Mans.” His teammate René Rast, the two-time champion of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, to whom Porsche gave the chance to compete at Daytona in recognition of his excellent performance last season, said: “Everything ran smoothly. We didn’t experience a single technical problem. That was only the second 24 hour race of my career and undoubtedly the toughest. During one of my stints I spent three and a half hours at the wheel. That was incredibly exhausting.”
In the gripping final phase, Wolf Henzler again pulled out all stops, but the leading Richard Lietz managed to stave him off to the flag. “He was just too quick today,” Henzler stated. “But to climb the podium again after my win last year is a huge success for me.” With the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup fielded by Brumos Racing, which took off into the race from pole position, Marc Lieb pitted shortly before the flag for a ‘splash and dash’ refuelling stop. Despite having led the race for long distances up until this point, he was unable to rejoin the fight for victory. “We experienced a bit of bad luck towards the end with our race strategy,” he said. “But although I was rather disappointed initially, it’s still a great team effort to come third against such an incredibly strong GT field.”
Turning the fastest race lap of the entire GT field, Porsche factory pilot Marco Holzer (Germany) turned heads at the classic on the Daytona International Speedway. He didn’t, however, manage to reach the flag. “Everything was running beautifully with our car until the retirement,” he commented. “But we had a bit of bad luck under the yellow flag. Three times we came in to refuel just before a caution phase and lost laps because of it. That’s rough.”
Lady Luck wasn’t with Porsche works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) either. With the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup of Flying Lizard Motorsports, which they shared with American Seth Neiman and Mike Rockenfeller (Switzerland), they were holding their own with the front-runners early on, but fell back and had to settle for 15th place at the flag. “Early on in the race we were running in the top three,” said Patrick Long. “Our pace was very fast. But Seth’s collision with a Daytona prototype put us out of serious contention.”
1. Lietz/Lally/Rast/Potter (A/USA/D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 727 laps
2. Henzler/Bleekemolen/Bertheau/Goossens/Pumpelly (D/NL/USA/B/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 727 laps
3. Lieb/Haywood/Davis/Keen (D/USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 726 laps
4. Edwards/Bremer/Liddell (USA/DK/GB), Camaro GT.R, 726 laps
5. Beretta/Bertolini/Vilander (MC/I/SF), Ferrari 458, 726 laps
6. Franchitti/Bomarito/Hinchcliffe/Tremblay (GB/USA/CAN/USA), Mazda RX-8, 722 laps
7. Pilet/Farnbacher/Keating/Simonsen (F/D/USA/DK), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 721 laps
11. Armindo/Curtis/Lewis/Sofronas/Willsey (F/USA/USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 713 laps
14. Avenatti/Faieta/Poordad/Sweedler/Wagner (USA/USA/USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 707 laps
15. Bergmeister/Long/Neiman/Rockenfeller (D/USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 706 laps