The countdown for the Daytona 24 Hours is on. At ‘The Roar before the Rolex 24,’ drivers and teams used this past weekend at the Daytona International Speedway to prepare for the season-opener of the IMSA SportsCar Championship on 28/29 January in Florida. At the three-day official test, the main focus for the Porsche GT Team factory squad was to set up the new Porsche 911 RSR in preparation for the 24 Hours of Daytona at the end of the month. Watch the video of ‘The Roar before the Rolex 24’ below:
The 2017 911 RSR is a completely new development: the suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept, engine and transmission have all been designed from scratch. The engine, now in front of the rear axle, enabled the designers to install a particularly large rear diffuser. Combined with a top-mounted rear wing adopted from the LMP1 919 Hybrid race car, the level of downforce and the aerodynamic efficiency were significantly improved. The serviceability has also been significantly improved, as entire elements of the carbon-fibre body can be exchanged completely in a very short time thanks to clever quick-release fasteners.
Another new feature in the 911 RSR is the so-called ‘Collision Avoid System.’ Even in the dark, with this radar-supported collision warning system, the faster LMP prototypes are detected early enough and misunderstandings can be avoided. The seat is fixed to the chassis which means that the pedalry must be moved to fit the driver, while safety is further enhanced with a new safety cage concept.
This past weekend, the Porsche GT Team put the two 911 RSRs through their paces. Sharing the #911 vehicle for the test and race were Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner and Frèdéric Makowiecki, with Laurens Vanthoor, Kévin Estre and Richard Lietz at the wheel of the #912 car. The same driver combinations will contest the second long-distance classic of the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the 12 Hours of Sebring on 18 March.
“This test is very important. It’s the starting signal for the new racing season. These three days are about re-examining and perfectly synchronising all the routines and procedures within the team,” said Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Manager for GT Works Motorsport. “Of course, there is still a lot to learn with the new 911 RSR and we need to try out various parameters. That’s exactly what we’re doing from session to session. We have a precise plan that we’re working through point by point. Hopefully we’ll be able to put a tick next to each one on Sunday, and know how we’ll tackle the race in three weeks.”
The setup of the new Porsche 911 RSR for the 24 Hours of Daytona was again the main priority for the factory team Porsche GT Team on day two. After a severe thunderstorm overnight, the racetrack was still wet on Saturday when the teams commenced the first practice session under cloudy skies. The weather did not improve. In fact, strong winds accompanied the occasional showers and the spring temperatures from the previous day plummeted to ten degrees Celsius. Only over the course of the second session of the day did the rain stop and the track dry up. However, the Porsche GT Team made the most of the changeable weather conditions. Day two may not have been particularly fun for the fans, but for the Porsche engineers the three Saturday sessions yielded new and important insights.
“For us today, it was particularly interesting to see how the 911 RSR performed in wet conditions. We’re running a new specification of wet tyre which worked perfectly and with which we found a good balance. We were fast in the rain as well. Only at the very end did we experience very cool temperatures and a dry circuit. These were precisely the conditions we had hoped for today,” Marco Ujhasi said.
Patrick Pilet (car # 911): “The new 911 RSR feels good. I had a lot of confidence in the car right from the start. The big uncertainty today was the weather. But we’ve seen that, like in previous years, we’re fast in the rain too. For a successful season, it’s very important to have a good car for all conditions.”
Dirk Werner (car # 911): “The 911 RSR is a new car for me so I have to first get used to it. It’s not hard to drive, which for me is a sign that a great deal was done right in its development. We have a lot of downforce and the grip level is great.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (car # 911): “The new car has a completely different character compared to its predecessor. We have more downforce and a better seating position. But you mustn’t forget that it’s still early days and there are still things that need improving. Nevertheless, we can be very pleased with the first real comparison against the opposition.”
Laurens Vanthoor (car # 912): “Obviously, I still have to get to know the car better, but it already feels very good to me. My teammates have contributed to the development and they know it inside out. I’m not at that stage yet but I’m already impressed with how well it performs.”
Kèvin Estre (car # 912): “The new 911 RSR is not as hard to drive. The improved weight distribution makes things much easier, and a lot has been done to make us drivers feel more comfortable in the cockpit. Thanks to the engine now positioned further forward and the larger diffuser, the new 911 RSR is more stable on the brakes and in fast corners than its predecessor.”
Richard Lietz (car # 912): “The first direct comparison of a new car with the competition is interesting for every driver and engineer. After every session, we discussed what we’ve noticed on the track and how the car handled. We’re very pleased with the 911 RSR and we already know that we’ve taken the right direction with its development. This makes double stints easier and more comfortable. Because the car is not so tough on the tyres it’s also better to drive over the distance.”
Under changeable weather conditions on Day 3 of the ‘The Roar before the Rolex 24,’ the 911 RSR drivers covered a total of 2936km on the Daytona International Speedway. “The test kilometres that we covered over the last three days in preparation for the race were very important,” said Marco Ujhasi. “We now have a much better understanding of the car on this racetrack. In addition, we experienced changeable and very diverse track conditions. It was dry and wet, warm and cold – precisely what you need in race preparations to be primed for all eventualities. We feel very well prepared for the race and the premiere of our new 911 RSR.”
Porsche Road & Race will bring you updates as we receive news of developments. For a report on the Daytona race, be sure to visit our site for regular progress updates.
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche