Tudor USCC: 24 Hours of Daytona race report
Porsche has won the opening round of the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship after the factory Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz, and Patrick Pilet saw off a late surge from the Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW Z4.
Run by the new Porsche North America Racing team (a full works collaboration with CORE Autosport) the #911 911 RSR looked set for a comfortable two-lap triumph until a series of late caution periods closed the field up.
The final full-course yellow allowed the BMW to challenge Pilet on the Daytona banking as racing got underway with just under ten minutes of the 24 hours left to run.
However, the Frenchman survived the attack, regaining the lead under braking for Turn 1. From their, Pilet was able to pull away from the BMW, giving Porsche their 76th class win at Daytona by a mere 2.8 seconds.
The second works 911 RSR looked set to provide Porsche with a famous one-two on their US factory debut however, with Michael Christensen at the wheel, the #912 Porsche was forced into retirement with an oil pressure issue around the 22-hour mark.
Starting from second and fifth in the GTLM class, the 52nd 24 Hours of Daytona did not get off to a smooth start for either Porsche North America 911 RSR as they were forced to take avoiding action on the infield after a Prototype Challenge car was tipped into a spin on lap one.
However, with Nick Tandy at the wheel, the #911 Porsche 911 RSR was soon back at the sharp end again, running just behind the two SRT-run Viper GTS-Rs in third.
For the opening third of the race, Tandy, and Patrick Long in the #912, fought for the GTLM lead with the two Vipers, occasionally taking the lead as the pitstop phases cycled through.
As darkness enveloped the Daytona International Speedway, Porsche took control of the race, with Tandy, Lietz, and Pilet guiding the #911 machine to the head of the field.
Long, Christensen, and Jörg Bergmeister were not far behind as many of the GTLM competitors remained on the same lap. The #912’s cause was helped as the Vipers’ challenge faltered during the night.
Various mechanical gremlins dropped the SRT cars back, including a power steering leak for the pole-sitting entry of Marc Goosens, Dominik Farnbacher, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, allowing Porsche to lock out the top two positions as the race headed into its second half.
Despite looking comfortable, both pace-wise and mechanically, Porsche were still to be challenged. The remaining Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, with Oliver Gavin at the wheel, was closing in, providing the fans with an enthralling battle.
With the #912’s engine woes, the Corvette Racing car closed to within a few seconds at times of the #911 RSR’s tail however, Tandy continued to show prodigious pace, setting the fastest lap of the race with a 1m44.914s just before dawn.
When the Corvette eventually succumbed to mechanical maladies of its own, the surviving Porsche 911 RSR looked set for a comfortable win until the final safety car period set up a grandstand finish.
Victory provided Porsche with the perfect start to the new Tudor United SportsCar Championship. The win was all the more impressive considering it was the first race for a new team, running a new car.
“It’s a new championship with a newly-formed team who first had to get used to each other,” explained Head of Motorsport, Hartmut Kristen. “We couldn’t have wished for a better start to the season. Both cars were running in the lead for more than 14 hours.”
Tandy echoed his sentiments while praising the formidable reliability of his 911: “The 911 RSR ran perfectly for 24 hours, the team pulled out all stops and did a fabulous job. It was an incredibly tough race for us all, but it was great fun as well.”
Porsche North America Racing, and the rest of the United SportsCar Championship grid now have over a month to regroup before round two, the car-breaking 6 Hours of Sebring on 12-15 March.