Last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona was one of the most “impressive” GTE/GTLM races of all time according to Porsche’s factory motorsports director Pascal Zurlinden.
The German manufacturer scored a double podium finish in the 24-hour race debut of the new-generation Porsche 911 RSR-19, in what came after a race-long fight with the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GTE as well as challenges from Risi Competizione and Corvette Racing.
While BMW Team RLL ended up claiming back-to-back Daytona class wins, Zurlinden said Porsche walked away satisfied with a trouble-free run to begin its IMSA GT Le Mans class title defense.
The No. 912 Porsche of Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet finished 14 seconds behind the class-winning No, 24 BMW of Jesse Krohn, Chaz Mostert, John Edwards and Augusto Farfus.
“For sure for us, with a brand-new car, it was our first 24-hour race,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365.
“We had a bit of a step back and question mark after Bahrain because we had issues on both cars within ten minutes [of each other] but now it’s confirmed that everything is in the right direction.
“The team was disappointed because we were always fighting with the leader but finishing second or third was a really good result.”
The only issue to befall either of the CORE autosport-run entries was a cosmetic problem with the livery wrap of the nose of the No. 911 Porsche, which was ripped off early.
Despite the depleted seven-car field, following Ford’s withdrawal from the class, Zurlinden was still left impressed with the level of competition.
The race featured more than 40 class lead changes.
“The race was one of the most impressive races from GTE,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365. “GTE is always impressive and close but this year it was even closer with the battles.
“Even Ferrari, which was sometimes in the back foot, but when they were in the top-four, they were fighting. This was really impressive.
“In the last hour, the BMW seemed to be on the top of everyone. We’ll have to understand what they did wrong or what they did right.”
When asked if he felt the BMW had a power advantage in the closing hour, Zurlinden said he’s sure IMSA will “answer these questions”.
Strong Result Sets Tone for Sebring
Zurlinden said the Daytona result puts the team in a good position heading into next month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, where the German manufacturer will be seeking to repeat its GTLM class win from a year ago.
“We did a 44-hour endurance test at Sebring in November and we had no issues. It worked out in Daytona and we think we’ll be well-prepared,” Zurlinden said.
“Having both teams in Sebring for Super Sebring will be really good because they’ll be learning each other, which will probably be an advantage to the other [GTE] manufacturers.
“Both teams in WEC and IMSA are working even closer than last year together. They’re really one. We can now say it.
“I think we will benefit the most with two cars in each championships.”