The last time I was able to check in with you guys we had come off a tough Petit Le Mans but we quickly shifted our focus to strategic preparation for the new Tudor United Sports Car Championship and a completely new, full factory, two-car effort in GT. As I’ve mentioned, this is an unprecedented program in the sense that we’ve never had a full factory effort to go up against the other factory teams from BMW, SRT Viper, Corvette, et cetera. It’s a dream opportunity. My heart lies in GT racing and in American sports car racing and this is what I’ve hoped for. It’s been a long time coming and it’s finally here.
It was very different to begin our full season attack at the Rolex 24. In previous seasons, the Rolex was often a one-time start for me with a team that was different from year to year. This year it’s Race 1 of a 13-race schedule, starting with the biggest and longest race of the season, so it’s certainly a new look and feel. The new 911 RSR has one season of racing under its belt which in modern day motorsport is not a ton of time and it’s a bit nerve-wracking to go into a 24 hour race with a relatively new car. It’s only 24-hour race up until the Rolex was last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans where not only was Porsche able to win, but they locked out first and second on the podium. That helped managed some of the season-opener nerves. We knew the car could do it.
The end result of the race was a Porsche victory. That’s all we need to celebrate. Our car had a mechanical failure at about the 20-hour mark and that’s incredibly disappointing. But the longer I compete at a factory level the more I understand that this is all about a victory for Porsche and ultimately my employer. So there is a lot to be happy about. Personally, it means with a DNF to start the season our backs are a little bit against the wall as far as the points scenario is concerned, but the way that the points pay out it’s not as detrimental as it might have been in past seasons. Again, we have to be optimistic and look at the complete package. We have a great two-car effort with our partners at Core Autosport and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year. My teammate for this year is one of the newest Porsche factory drivers and easily one of the most impressive that I’ve seen come through the door. Michael Christensen is 23 years old. He is Danish and comes from a list of countrymen like Tom Kristensen and Jan Magnussen, so certainly for a small country they have a huge amount of motorsport in their veins and Michael is no exception.
Our car was competitive the whole way. We traded the lead the entire race with our sister car. For the most part, the sister car ran absolutely mistake free, issue free. Just changed the brake pads and kept on hustling. That’s a huge feat for a new program and a relatively new version of the RSR. It was a monumental victory for Porsche and pays off everything that has been put into the effort. It’s the reason that we have two full factory cars this year; to stack the deck so that if one car slips up, then the other car still has a shot. We’ve not had that since the Alex Job days of 2003-2004. I’m excited. And it puts us on par with other factory efforts that are all multi-car teams.
That’s what it’s all about. Of course I want to win races personally and of course I want my car to win races, but the goal this year is to make sure that Porsche is on the top step of the podium as many times as possible. We understand that it’s not going to be easy. Daytona is renowned for being a track that Porsches do well on and our heads are down and fully focused on preparing for our next race which is another flagship race on the calendar. The Sebring 12 Hour requires a completely different mindset and a completely different set up. In some ways it’s tougher on the car and driver.
Outside of the Rolex 24, the off season was relatively short but I was very excited to head to Australia early this month to compete in the Bathurst 12-hour. It was the first time for me on one of the most iconic tracks in the world. Another bucket list event for me and I was very grateful to join a friend and neighbor, Australian born but living in Los Angeles, David Calvert-Jones. We were also joined by Alex Davison, a long time Porsche veteran, a guy that I lived with when I raced in the German Carrera Cup and a very close friend. We drove a stock 997 GT3 Cup Car. In the new generation of international GT3 racing, there has been a lot of momentum built around the Nürburgring 24-Hour, the Dubai 24-Hour, and the Bathurst 12-Hour. These are very internationally subscribed GT3 only races (no prototypes) and Bathurst is an icon that stands out next to tracks like the Nürburgring, Le Mans, and Sebring. It’s really a special space. It demands as much respect as any track in the world because it is so challenging. It’s high stakes, high risk, and it has a huge racing heritage. It is the Le Mans of Australia. Finishing second in class the first time out just makes me hungry to get back there next year!
This past November the Baja 1000 was another item to check off the bucket list. I was able to compete and we were able to bring a class victory away from racing in the desert. I don’t know what is next, but certainly the focus is on the PMNA factory entry in Tudor Sports Car and we’ll see what else comes our way.
Before I left for Australia I made a quick trip to Sebring to compete in my first Porsche Club of America Sebring 48-Hours since 2004. I drove with a friend of mine, Alan Benjamin, who resides in Colorado and needs no introduction. He’s a very passionate PCA member and a great friend. The car is a 964 Cup Car that’s in original condition from when Roland Asch raced it in the 1990 championship in German Carrera Cup.
So the year is shaping up great. It’s what I could only have dreamt of doing as a job and right now it feels a lot more like a sport than a job.