Neel Jani says he’s open to a future in GT racing with Porsche, although stressed there’s still “things under discussion” on whether he will take a seat in the manufacturer’s FIA World Endurance Championship program in 2021.
The 2016 FIA World Endurance champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner is making his first GT start in this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19 alongside reigning IMSA GT Le Mans class champions Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor.
Jani, who got the call up last week to join the No. 912 crew as a third driver, enters the weekend with limited RSR experience, having been part of a group test with five other drivers at Vallelunga last month.
Sportscar365 understands Jani, who was dropped from Porsche’s Formula E lineup for the 2020-21 season, is in the frame to replace an existing driver in the manufacturer’s GTE-Pro lineup next year.
While downplaying such prospects, Jani admitted that a full-time switch to GT racing could be in the frame.
“It’s a possibility; that’s why I did that test there, to get a first feel and get to know how it is,” he told Sportscar365. “My experience was zero.
“I remember at Vallelunga I got in the car and waited for someone to belt me. No one turned up and they said, ‘Here you have to belt yourself.’
“It’s little things but it can have a big impact. It means that I have to reset the mind a bit.
“Obviously I came from FE and then drove the GT… I like the direction it’s going because in the end I’m a high-grip, high-downforce driver. That’s where I came from [in racing prototypes].
“From that point of view I’m in the middle between Formula E and LMP.”
When asked directly whether he will be back at Sebring in March for the FIA World Endurance Championship race, Jani said “we’ll see.”
“There’s still some things under discussion,” he said. “I think the test which we had in Vallelunga was important to see and I think it wasn’t a bad test.
“After Bahrain we’ll know more hopefully.”
Jumping into Porsche GT Team a “Huge Challenge”
Jani admitted that his first laps of Sebring in a GT car on Thursday was an eye-opening experience, in having to look in his rear view mirrors for the first time in his racing career.
“It’s a huge challenge because it’s not like I’ve driven the car a lot either,” he said.
“I’ve still got a bit of experience but obviously nothing compared to my [teammates] and my GT experience is unfortunately zero.
“[Thursday] was the first time I ever drove with traffic like that where I had to watch my mirrors.
“It’s a different mindset because you need to be focused to the front but at the same time you cannot forget what’s happening on the rear.
“I was always used to just looking [forward] and never cared what happened [behind] me.
“It’s not that easy to really stay fully focused on what you do. Right now it’s a lot of things coming in on me and I’m just trying to [learn].
“I know Sebring well but all my references — how I drove and how much speed I take into [the corners] — I need to start from zero.”
The Swiss driver said that at the moment he’s not scheduled to run in the night-time hours in Saturday’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale in what will also mark the final race for Porsche’s factory IMSA program.
“I’m just here to help Earl and Larry to have a better strategy,” Jani said.
“We all know that in the end they can attack and go for the win so I hope to just give them the car on the [lead] lap so they’re there and can go for it.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report