After spending 2016 campaigning an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar series, Jon Fogarty says he is feeling more at home in Pirelli World Challenge with the new GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Team and driver alike fought through a tough start to their first PWC GT season last year in their McLaren 650S GT3, but managed to turn the corner in their performance in the second half of the campaign.
Now armed with a year of experience in the series, and with Fogarty’s wealth of Porsche experience to draw from, the Californian driver and Texas-based team expect to have the new Red Dragon contending at the front of the PWC field.
“I felt like by the end of the year we had a pretty good grasp of the McLaren which, admittedly, was for me a difficult car to get a handle on,” Fogarty told Sportscar365.
“So now we’re back to learning something new again, so there’s challenges associated with all of that.
“My initial feel with the Porsche is positive. Literally the car gives me more feedback than the McLaren. That always gives a driver confidence.
“With Balance of Performance, the outright performance of all the cars is very close, so now figuring out the little things we need to do with the Porsche to get outright performance within the BoP is still a work in progress and something we have to learn.
“I feel like we should be able to achieve that more quickly with this because the feedback is more direct. I have experience in 911’s, so that’s all helping the cause.”
Fogarty broke into sports car racing, driving a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for Flying Lizard Motorsports for three races in the American Le Mans Series in 2004, and spent all of 2005 with the team as well.
Although he had transitioned primarily to driving Daytona Prototypes in Grand-Am for GAINSCO/BSR by 2006, the two-time DP champion continued to make selected appearances in Porsches for several years, most recently at Petit Le Mans in 2013 with JDX Racing.
While several years had passed since his last race in a Porsche, Fogarty said there were still similarities to be found in the current car but noted that there were differences too.
“In a lot of ways, yes, it’s very similar,” he said. “Things like visibility, the auditory experience, all of that stuff is really similar.
“The longer wheelbase that his car has compared to Porsches I’ve driven in the past does what you’d expect. The old 911s were so good in the hairpins. This one feels a little more like a normal race car.
“The other one had just awesome rotation, both have really great traction, but it’s just a little bit harder to get this one turned around the slow corners.
“It does seem to have more stability and downforce than the past Porsches that I drove so the high-speed stuff is a bit more easy to deal with.”
For Fogarty and the team alike, a year of experience in PWC has helped lessen the challenge of switching manufacturers, but Fogarty said there is still plenty of learning to be done.
The Terry Wilbert-led squad is set to primarily focus on the PWC Sprint races only this year, with the centralized focus also potentially playing to their advantage.
“Knowing the series is important,” Fogarty said. “Last year, we probably didn’t focus enough on qualifying early on, which was a mistake that we won’t repeat.
“The second year in the series is helpful. In both instances, being a one car program has been a challenge. We’re going at it on our own, which is never easy, but when we get something we like we’re very focussed.
“It’s not as much of a learning year, but it’s still a learning year.”