Laurens Vanthoor says there’s “nothing holding back” Porsche’s factory GT Le Mans team in its final year of competition in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Vanthoor, who won the GTLM title last year with Earl Bamber, suggested ahead of this weekend’s return to racing at Daytona that recent news of Porsche’s impending withdrawal will only serve to motivate the team.
Porsche confirmed last month that its North American venture with the 911 RSR-19 would be scrapped at the end of this year.
The manufacturer has been in the GTLM class from the start of the post-merger IMSA series in 2014, while its partnership with CORE autosport has heralded 17 race wins and three manufacturers’ championships to date.
Vanthoor told Sportscar365 that while the news of the withdrawal came as a shock, it should help to galvanize the team in the early stages of its double title defense.
“On the one hand you could say that it’s a big disappointment for everybody and it came as a very big surprise,” he said.
“It was the last thing we were expecting, even a week before it was decided. So you could say that we are disappointed, which definitely we were on the first couple of days, but on the other hand it’s also a moment to prove a point.
“I think there’s nothing better, for our mechanics, our team and ourselves, to go out with a boom and to show that last year wasn’t a coincidence.”
Vanthoor suggested that the whole team is keen to turn the disappointment of the program ending into a positive set of results on the track.
“Obviously with the future being unforeseeable, some of the group will have to pursue new routes in their careers,” said the Belgian.
“So it’s best if we’re even more motivated than before to show what we can do, and in the end there’s nothing holding us back anymore. It’s definitely going to be a little bit different.
“I was a bit worried in the beginning about how the atmosphere would be.
“But I’ve been really surprised how our guys on the No. 912 have been really motivated and how keen they are to go back, and to show everybody who they are.
“That’s really positive to see, and I hope we can carry that through the season.”
Training for the Florida Heat
Ahead of the first IMSA race in five months, Vanthoor and Bamber have spent the last week or so in quarantine together in Dunedin, near Tampa, where they have been adjusting to Florida’s hot summer climate.
Bamber said they have been going on bike rides at peak hours to train for the conditions they will be driving in, although he reckons the next round at Sebring will be a tougher physical test than this weekend’s WeatherTech 240 at Daytona.
IMSA usually visits both tracks in the first three months of the year when temperatures are cooler, but schedule adjustments have resulted in two summer races being added.
“I think Daytona is going to be alright because you get a bit of a rest on the high banks, but Sebring is going to be the real brutal one,” explained Bamber.
“It’s difficult enough in normal conditions to do a stint or a double, but now we’re going to have to do it in the heat.
“It’s going to be something to factor into the strategy, and also how our concentration levels go the first time out. If someone does a double stint, how does their concentration go after so long out of the car?
“It’s definitely going to be tough, but I think we’re geared up for the challenge. We’ve been doing a few bike rides together at four in the afternoon, just to make sure that we get the full brunt of the heat.
“We’re in Florida at the Laurens Vanthoor cycling academy for the next two weeks. I’ve done more miles than ever on the bike, so feeling sharp from that point of view.”