Strong showing for Pfaff Motorsports at first Daytona 24 Hours marred by late-race incident in wet weatherJan 28th, 2019
Fan favourite Toronto-based team shows excellent pace in new Porsche 911 GT3 R, and overcomes electrical issues, before bowing out after 19 hours of racing
DAYTONA, January 28, 2019 // What began as a promising effort for the Pfaff Motorsports team at their inaugural 24 Hours at Daytona ended in heartbreak as the team suffered a collision in their Porsche 911 GT3 R in hour 19 under wet weather conditions.
Starting from eighth position in the IMSA GTD class, the team fought hard, climbing as high as fifth position within the first hour of the race, and staying within the top 10 through the late afternoon and into the evening. By midnight on Sunday, the Pfaff car was racing steadily in third position, just five seconds back from the class leader.
“We were spot on with the pace of the car, and we really had a great setup for the race,” Porsche Young Professional Dennis Olsen said. “We were quick, and I believe we were the fastest Porsche. Everyone was putting in consistent lap times, so we were exactly where we needed to be.”
As the night wore on, technical issues from the team’s earlier practice sessions began to reappear, cutting power to the GT3 R’s headlamps and eventually the dash and shift indicators – at one point leaving Canadian driver Zach Robichon without any instrumentation during his stint. The issues resulted in unscheduled pit stops and an eventual trip back to the garage for repairs at the the halfway point of the race around 2:00 am.
“Fortunately the track was lit pretty well, so that part wasn’t much of an issue,” Robichon said of his night stint. “Then the dash disappeared and didn’t say anything – I didn’t have shift indicator lights or anything, so I was driving the car by feel and sound – I didn’t know how fast I was going, but I kept driving as fast as I could. It was actually kind of peaceful, but the electrical issues continued, and we had to go back to the garage to get those sorted and the lights back on.”
The team worked diligently to rectify the issues and was able to return to the track 20 laps down, and a combined effort between drivers Robichon (CAN), Scott Hargrove (CAN), Lars Kern (GER), and Olsen (NOR), pushed the car back up through the field with a top-10 finish in sight.
“The car performed well, especially in the infield sections,” chief engineer Andrew Marangoni said. “The drivers were able to make up a ton of time, and when they came off their stint they would compliment how the car was behaving and it seemed to be getting better.”
Daytona’s skies opened up with heavy rain at 4:00 am, and by 9:00 am, the race was red-flagged due to poor track conditions and low visibility, resulting in nearly one-and-a-half hours of stoppage – and the team still aiming to continue their strong pace through the field.
As the harsh conditions continued, officials decided to resume racing with five hours remaining on the clock, with Hargrove jumping back in the car for a single lap before handing the reigns over to Robichon to get to his minimum drive time.
As he entered the final high-speed straight in heavy traffic, a competing Lamborghini spun in the middle of the track, forcing traffic ahead of Robichon to dodge the slowed car – and leaving him with almost no time to react. The result was a race-ending collision as the GT3 R suffered major suspension damage.
“There was spray coming from everybody around me, and we were all approaching so quickly,” Robichon said. “I couldn’t see five feet in front of me around the back stretch, and then all of a sudden I see brake lights. I jumped on the brakes to try to avoid it, but with the surrounding traffic, my choice was to either hit the prototype, hit the Ferrari, hit the wall, or go for a gap that I thought might be big enough. Unfortunately the speed was too high, and that gap was smaller than I’d hoped.
“I feel terrible,” he continued. “It’s one of those could’ve, would’ve, should’ve things, but at the end of the day I really don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. I’m more than happy to take the blame for the incident, but I feel horrible for the guys who’ve put so much time and effort into this effort for the last month and a half – and the crew and drivers did a great job with everything throughout the entire race. With that said, I have a feeling we’re going to come back with a chip on our shoulder when we go to Sebring. When you fall off the horse, you want to get right back on it – and after that crash, I kind of wish Sebring was tomorrow.”
The team is returning to Toronto and will begin repairs and preparations for the Sebring 12 Hours immediately, which takes place from March 14-17. Dubbed the “SuperSebring” weekend, the IMSA WeatherTech series will race the annual 12-hour event, joined by the European World Endurance Championship (WEC) for its own 1,000 Miles of Sebring that same weekend, offering fans a unique opportunity to see the best of sportscar racing from around the world.
Canadian viewers will be able to view the action live on the Discovery Velocity channel, while U.S. viewers can watch the broadcast on NBC Sports. In addition, TSN will be airing one-hour shortened telecasts of IMSA races throughout the season in Canada.
Follow @PfaffMotorsports, @PfaffPorsche and @PfaffAuto on Instagram, and Pfaff Porsche on Facebook for more announcements and behind-the-scenes content from the Roar Before the 24, and the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech and Michelin Pilot seasons.
Image credit: Pfaff Motorsports/Lenssen Photo