Following a shift to sports car racing only one year ago, Connor De Phillippi is set to tackle two 24-hour races in the same month, all while making his around-the-clock endurance racing debut.
First up for the 21-year-old Porsche Junior, who is coming off a successful first season in Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland, is this week’s Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai, where the California native is at the wheel of a Porsche 997 GT3 R entered by Swiss squad Fach Auto Tech.
“I did the final VLN race with Otto [Klohs], who owns the car, with Manthey Racing,” De Phillippi told Sportscar365. “He and I got along very well and we spoke about potentially doing the 24 Hours of Dubai. He presented an opportunity to me and he spoke to Porsche and Porsche gave him the green light.”
De Phillippi is among a handful of American drivers taking part in the desert enduro and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, in what he hopes will be a step towards ultimately becoming a full-fledged Porsche factory driver.
After being touted as one of the sport’s rising open-wheel stars, De Phillippi went to Germany in 2012 to compete against nine European drivers in Porsche’s Junior Shootout program. He won a place on the grid for the hotly contested Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland and claimed Rookie-of-the-Year honors last year.
“Once I got the opportunity to be in the Porsche family, It’s kind of the once in a lifetime chance to do it,” De Phillippi said. “Patrick Long has been a big person I look up to and when it came to making the decision, he just really talked me through it and explained how it affected his career and how he never regrets doing anything he’s ever done.
“Hearing that from him and now getting these opportunities… I just want to drive, and to be able to do endurance races and drive for 24-hours with a few drivers is really a special thing. I never knew what it would really be like but now that I got my first taste of it, I’d definitely say that I love it.”
Teamed with Klohs, Sebastian Asch and former Porsche Junior Martin Ragginger, De Phillippi is upbeat about their chances in Dubai, especially after having been in the top-three on the time charts in testing and the opening practice sessions.
“It’s my first time here so it’s been a matter of learning the track,” he said. “So far, I’m happy with my performance and I think the team is as well. We definitely have a really strong lineup as a whole, and also I think Martin [Ragginger] will be able to post a fast time for qualifying.”
Once his first 24-hour race is in the books, De Phillippi will head to Daytona for his Rolex 24 debut at the wheel of a Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America in GTD. While his efforts in Carrera Cup Deutschland will again take priority for 2014, the rising star is also working to land a ride in Porsche Supercup and continue up the Porsche ladder.