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Porsche Aims for Sebring Breakthrough with New GT3 R

Drivers say Porsche 911 GT3 R is poised for an endurance breakthrough…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Patrick Long knows the Porsche 911 GT3 R can win races.

The American Porsche factory driver gave the car its maiden win in international competition in the opening round of Pirelli World Challenge at the Circuit of The Americas earlier this month.

His EFFORT Racing teammate Michael Lewis swept the PWC weekend at St. Petersburg one week later.

The next question: when and where will the car deliver its first endurance race win?

Competing this weekend at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring for Black Swan Racing, Long said the car’s success in PWC has him feeling confident that a breakthrough in endurance racing is very well possible.

“I think it gives you confidence in some ways, knowing that you have the ingredients,” Long told Sportscar365.

“As we continue to learn about this car and unlock potential, we know there’s always going to be evolution and improvement. And that’s what we focus on.”

Fellow Porsche driver Leh Keen, of Alex Job Racing, shared Long’s sense of optimism.

“When you see the car winning multiple races already, you know it’s a good platform,” Keen told Sportscar365. “We just have to do our part and make the most of it to go win a race.”

Both drivers agreed that the 911 GT3 R was a large departure from the Porsche 911 GT America that was campaigned in IMSA’s GTD category last year.

“If I compare how last year’s GTD car drove compared to this year’s, it’s a massive jump,” said Long. “It’s not so much performance over one lap, it’s more refined. It’s more user-friendly.

“The first impression I had [of the car] was here in Sebring in August, and when I jumped into this car, the most notable change is that you’re running ABS.

“And then when I started to lean on the car, I felt massive aero-gains, especially here at Sebring.

“Turning into Turn 1, when I come off the brake and sling the car in, I had so much confidence that the car was going to be stable, reliable, and quick.”

Keen added that the changes stemmed from a different approach from Porsche.

“Compared to last year, the car that we had was built on the assembly line in Stuttgart, in between street cars,” he said.

“The car we’re racing now was built in Weissach at the Porsche Motorsport facility.

“It has a lot more downforce, a lot wider track. Some of the suspension things have been tweaked. And we have [traction control] now and ABS, which makes a huge difference. It’s been a treat to drive.”

While Porsche’s 2015 IMSA GTD challenger was unique to U.S. competition, the new GT3 R is a truly global platform.

As a consequence, Keen said he has seen increased cooperation among Porsche teams from many different series.

“There’s a lot of focus from Porsche on this car all over the world,” he said.

“We’re all on different tires with different BoPs, but we can talk to other guys about things they’ve found that work really well. We try to be one big, happy Porsche family.”

In the car’s competition debut, Keen’s AJR team was leading in the final hour with Shane van Gisbergen when the rear wing failed, relegating the car to a finish outside of the top-10.

Despite the disappointing result, that experience has Keen eager for the rest of the season.

“We had a good run at Daytona, just came up short in the end,” he said.

“But it’s a new car, and it looks like the car is going to be poking around for a win at every race this year.”

Long’s Black Swan co-driver Nicky Catsburg brought the car home second at Daytona, less than five seconds behind the class-winning Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS.

“These guys made huge strides in small amounts of time, and I think that the evidence was in our finish at Daytona this year,” Long added.

“To be a few seconds out of a win against some very established cars that have years of running underneath them, that’s what we pride ourselves in.”

Long, Keen, as well as the two other Porsche 911 GT3 Rs in today’s race will be hoping to capitalize on that reliability and speed necessary for success at Sebring.

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based journalist and sportscaster, covering IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

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