Porsche GT Team is arriving into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season with an “air of confidence” about its new GT Le Mans contender ahead of its race debut at Daytona, according to team manager Michael Harvey.
The latest edition of the Porsche 911 RSR made its North American public testing debut during the Roar Before the Rolex 24, which precedes the opening round of the new season on Jan. 25-26.
However, the German manufacturer’s new model has already completed four races in the FIA World Endurance Championship and was victorious in its global debut last September.
Harvey told Sportscar365 that the 911 RSR-19’s initial success with Manthey-run WEC squad, which has included GTE-Pro class wins at Silverstone and Fuji, is assuring the IMSA squad of its potential in North America.
“It’s extremely important,” Harvey told Sportscar365.
“This is the first time that we’ve not debuted the car because Daytona is the first event annually, but with the new WEC winter season they get to debut it first.
“It’s actually really nice that Manthey get to run the car and we get the benefit of knowing all the issues that they may have, although they haven’t had many at all.
“It gives us an air of confidence as we head into Daytona.”
The CORE autosport-run team has been intensively involved in the new Porsche’s development program and has ramped up its preparations in recent weeks for the start of the WeatherTech Championship season.
It’s included a two-day test at Daytona in October and further sessions at Sebring in November.
“The working relationship between Manthey and CORE is as close as it’s ever been,” explained Harvey.
“We did a test with them back at the beginning of this year, in which half of our crew were involved and half of their crew were involved. It is a very unique relationship that Manthey and CORE have.
“When we tested over here at Sebring in November, some of the Manthey folks were here integrated into our team. As much as it can be, it’s all one team.
“We’ve put quite a lot of miles on the car, specifically with the 24-hour race in mind. We need to make sure that it can go the distance.
“As we see it right now, we’re pretty comfortable with what we believe the car can do.
“Obviously, a 24-hour race is anybody’s guess but we have definitely put it through a good test program up to now.”
Porsche’s New Car “More of a Continuation”
Harvey described the 2019 version of the Porsche 911 RSR as an evolution of its predecessor that competed in three seasons from 2017 through to the end of last year.
“This one is more of an upgrade, in that it’s not revolutionary,” he suggested.
“It’s just better in all areas, but it’s not a massive jump. For the guys working on the car, the engineers running the cars, it’s not dissimilar to what they previously operated, which is good.
“In WEC, they were on the pace right away and hopefully we’ll be straight on the pace here.
“It’s because they didn’t have a bunch of new things to learn, it’s more of a continuation of what they have been doing.”
This continuity leads Harvey to believe that there’s no reason why Porsche cannot competitively defend its GT Le Mans drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles after a dominant 2019 season that delivered six class wins out of 11 races.
Full-season competition in the class this year will come from BMW’s two-year-old M8 GTE and the brand-new Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.
“It was a remarkable run of results, but that is through a lot of years of hard work to get there,” said Harvey.
“Can we emulate it again? Yes, absolutely we can, because the hard work started a number of years ago and has got us to this point. There’s no reason why we would stop that or back away from that.
“The crews, and I think I can speak for WEC as well, are operating at a very high level now.
“I can’t speak for our competition, and certainly over here with the new Corvette, it’s yet to be seen where that rolls itself out. They haven’t been sleeping either.
“There’s nothing like being beaten to motivate them to be a bit better. But we’re aware of that and we’ve been digging deep. We don’t intend to lose what we found last year.”