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The #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki leads the GTLM class
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki leads the GTLM class off at the start of the race

The 2019 season opener at Daytona will certainly go down in history as memorable, but perhaps not for the reasons that the race organisers would have wanted. The race got underway at 14h35 local time (20h35 CET) as planned, but the race organisers and teams all knew that a storm was heading their way. Little could they have known that before the end of the race, they would be counting the cost of the Rolex 24 at Daytona as the track would resemble a demolition derby.

The #911 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki leads a pack of GTLM cars
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #911 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki leads a pack of GTLM cars

The pole position #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Tandy, Pilet and Makowiecki remained part of the lead group from the start of the race on Saturday afternoon, and well into the night. Their colleagues in the #912 car, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet staged a remarkable comeback after their car had to pit with a defective front splitter mounting. Thanks to some determined driving, the four-lap gap was closed within just four hours, that translates into some serious motoring.

#912 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Earl Bamber, Mathieu Jaminet and Laurens Vanthoor
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: #912 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Earl Bamber, Mathieu Jaminet and Laurens Vanthoor

The rain arrived at just after 04h30 on Sunday morning and within a half hour, the going had changed from good to almost undriveable. As the race progressed, neither the heavy rain nor a stop to change the brakes could dislodge the two Porsche 911 RSRs from the lead group. At 06h00 the two works Porsches lay in second (#912) and fourth place (#911) in class, while in the GTD class, the #540 Black Swan Racing customer team was within striking distance of the lead, in third place. In tenth place was the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche while the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche was 20 laps in arrears. The #99 NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R was out earlier with just 47 laps on the board after suffering a technical defect.

The #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki calls into the pits
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki calls into the pits

There was carnage all around the track as the only area that drained were the banked sections, otherwise standing water was encountered on almost every corner. The race was red flagged at 07h20 (after almost 17 hours) due to torrential rain but restarted again after one hour and 45 minutes for just one lap, at which stage the two Porsche 911 RSRs were lying in third and fifth places. One of the other problems, apart from the heavy rain and standing water, was the visibility due to the combined rain and spray, reducing driver visibility to just a few yards.

The #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki pushes on through the night
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki pushes on through the night…and the mist and spray

Despite the difficult conditions, the race continued, punctuated by innumerable full course yellows. In an attempt to avoid getting caught up in a subsequent mass collision, the #912 Porsche 911 RSR lost three positions. With nineteen hours on the board and 509 laps completed, the two factory cars lay in positions four (#911) and five (#912). The #9 Pfaff was classified as NRF with 470 laps completed.

The #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Patrick Lindsey, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell and Nicholas Boulle
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Patrick Lindsey, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell and Nicholas Boulle

At just after 12h00 noon on Sunday, a huge collision ensued when the #63 Scuderia Corse GTD Ferrari driven by the vastly experienced Toni Vilander rear-ended the slow-moving #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche at the Bus Stop. This was due to visibility being down to little more than a few yards. The resulting contact put the Ferrari out of the race and ended the team’s day and with that car immobile, and IMSA declared yet another full course yellow. At this stage, teams and drivers would just be in survival mode, but that said, it was certainly the same for all competitors.

#540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Timothy Pappas, Marco Seefried, Matteo Cairoli and Dirk Werner
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Timothy Pappas, Marco Seefried, Matteo Cairoli and Dirk Werner was involved in an accident towards the end of the race

At 13h18, the second red flag came out, making this the first time a Daytona race has been red flagged twice in the same race, and at 14h24, the race was called by Race Control. The #73 Porsche could well have finished much better than eighth in GTD but a puncture and the unfortunately ill-timed pit stop at the end put paid to any chances of a podium finish. But their car was undamaged at the end of the day, and the Park Place Motorsports team was able to bag some valuable team points.

#9 PFAFF Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Scott Hargrove, Zacharie Robichon, Lars Kern and Dennis Olsen
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #9 PFAFF Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Scott Hargrove, Zacharie Robichon, Lars Kern and Dennis Olsen showed great promise in the team’s first Daytona 24 Hour race

When the race was called, only three of the original six Porsches were still running. Finishing in third place in GTLM was the #912 works car of Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet, with colleagues Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki in fifth place in the #911 car. Occupying eighth place in the GTD class was the #73 Porsche of Patrick Lindsey, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell and Nicholas Boulle.

#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Patrick Lindsey, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell and Nicholas Boulle
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Patrick Lindsey, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell and Nicholas Boulle was the sole surviving Porsche in the GTD class

While most of the teams and drivers involved with the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona will want to forget the race and put it behind them, the engineers would have gathered much valuable data in the endless quest for learning more about their cars in adverse conditions. The total red flag time was 3 hours 25 minutes – the first red flag session lasted 98 minutes, the second was 107 minutes. The total full course caution time amounted to a staggering 6 hours 44 minutes and 11 seconds.

#912 factory Porsche 911 RSR driven by Earl Bamber, Mathieu Jaminet and Laurens Vanthoor
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: The #912 factory Porsche 911 RSR driven by Earl Bamber, Mathieu Jaminet and Laurens Vanthoor finished third in the GTLM class

Class winners in the 2019 Rolex 24

Class # Car Drivers
DPi 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac Kamui Kobayashi, Renger van der Zande, Jordan Taylor, Fernando Alonso
LMP2 18 DragonSpeed Ryan Cullen, Roberto González, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastián Saavedra
GTLM 25 BMW M8 GTE Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Colton Herta
GTD 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Mirko Bortolotti, Rik Breukers, Christian Engelhart, Rolf Ineichen

(From L-R) Mathieu Jaminet, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor finished third
Rolex 24 at Daytona, 26-27 January 2019: (From L-R) Mathieu Jaminet, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor finished third in the GTLM class in their #912 Porsche 911 RSR

The teams will now all set sail for Sebring which is scheduled for 13-16 March, where the drivers will no doubt be hoping for a dry race. Don’t forget, the next race will be the Super Sebring weekend featuring the combined IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship on the same bill. The FIA/WEC 1000 miles of Sebring will take place on Friday 15 March while the 12-hour IMSA race will occupy its traditional slot on Saturday 16 March. Stay tuned…!!
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche Motorsport

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