Robby Foley has explained his “very last minute” drive with Team Project 1 after initially being on the 24 Hours of Le Mans entry list with fellow GTE-Am entrant JMW Motorsport.
Foley, who currently leads the IMSA GT Daytona class championship with Turner Motorsport, is set for his Le Mans debut with Project 1’s Porsche 911 RSR-19 alongside Norwegians Dennis Olsen and Anders Buchardt.
It comes after the 25-year-old New Jersey native looked set to miss out on a chance to take part in the French endurance classic after an opportunity in JMW’s Ferrari 488 GTE Evo dried up just a few weeks ago.
“I had been talking to JMW since last year about doing the race,” Foley told Sportscar365.
“We couldn’t get everything sorted correctly and JMW had to go in another direction, which I understood.
“It was disappointing to think at the time I was not going to be doing the race. I was like, ‘Hopefully next year I can do it.’
“Fast-forward to the Road America [IMSA] weekend [on Aug. 6-8] and I got a call saying there was an opening in the No. 46 [Project 1] car.
“I was a Silver that had all of the proper credentials to do the race, which is not always easy because you have to do the sim and that kind of stuff.
“Max Root wasn’t able to do the race — for whatever reason I don’t know — and basically they needed a last-minute solution.
“Axel [Funke], the team manager and everyone on my side got together very last minute and said, ‘OK let’s do it.’
“Sunday after the race at Road America, I got the earliest flight back to New York, re-packed my bags, Monday night flew to Paris to then get to the sim and through all of the ACO procedures.
“It’s been a lot to learn and pick up, with new teammates and new team. But it’s been a great experience. They’ve been very welcoming.
“For me, it’s just a dream come true to be here and to start the race and get the experience.”
Foley turned his first laps of the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe and the mid-engined Porsche in Sunday’s test day.
“It was almost like Indianapolis, like a rookie orientation,” he said.
“You go out and you start going super slow, figure out where to go, then you get your feet wet and start to push.
“Sunday was great for me, just to get used to everything.
“It was actually a good experience for me to have a couple of those [International] GT Open races in different cars and different teams.
“I felt a little bit more confident in something totally new.”
Foley said he’s adapted well to the German squad, particularly with Porsche ace Olsen, who took part in the 2019 running of the race in a factory GTE-Pro entry.
“There’s not much in terms of compromise for me in the car,” Foley said.
“[Dennis] knows what he needs out of the car on this track and in only seven or ten laps already had a good read on the situation and was quick enough to get the car going in the right direction.
“Having someone to lean on like that… For me if I had to lead the situation I’d have no idea where to take the car or what to expect, where he’s been there and done that.
“For me, I can just focus on myself and still give feedback on what I want out of the car but the good thing is that Dennis and I are saying the same stuff and Anders as well.
“I’ve watched this race as a kid and I think it’s unpredictable at times.
“Obviously you have to have the pace and be running at the front to do well. I think just having a solid race with no mistakes, with attrition gets you pretty far.
“Especially for my first one, I just want to get through with no mistakes, learn as much as possible and do a good job for these guys that will give us a good car.”
Le Mans Drive Adds to Foley’s Busiest Season to Date
Foley said he hasn’t been back home to his apartment in Miami since Memorial Day weekend, having had races, testing or coaching sessions virtually non-stop through the summer months.
In addition to his WeatherTech Championship and Michelin Pilot Challenge drives with Turner, Foley also competes in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS alongside Michael Dinan, with the two having taken part in several International GT Open races this year as well.
“It’s been a bit crazy,” he said. “I’ve kinda gotten used to it. [This year] has been my first time traveling overseas to Europe consecutively, like I did GT Open at Spa, then flew back for the double-header at Watkins Glen, then flew to Hungary.
“It was a lot of time change and a lot of stuff that has been a great experience. I now know how to handle it. But it’s never easy your first time with jet lag.
“Honestly those two weekends, just in terms of the procedural things with COVID traveling and having the correct paperwork and all this kind of stuff, made the Le Mans experience a little bit smoother for me, because now I know what to expect coming to Europe.
“Right after Le Mans is Road America SRO, so I’m straight back into another race weekend!”
Foley said he’ll have between 30-32 race weekends under his belt by the end of the year.
“When I grew up racing in MX-5 Cup, I did maybe 6-8 races a year,” he said.
“But driving all the time, driving different cars and driving at a high level has been great to develop yourself and have confidence in any kind of category and different cars.
“It’s been a great experience. I’m sure at the end of the year I’ll enjoy a week or two off but for now I’m loving the craziness.”