For Porsche, the 2009 motorsport season takes off with a real classic. At the 24 Hours of Daytona, the time-honoured season-opener to the Grand-Am Series in the USA, nine Porsche works drivers as well as the two Porsche juniors compete, and are determined to continue the great success the Zuffenhausen sports car manufacturer has enjoyed here: With 20 victories, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in the history of the legendary long distance race in Florida.
“This race is a huge challenge for our teams and drivers right at the start of the season,” says Hartmut Kristen, head of motorsport at Porsche. “The special appeal comes mostly from the fact that drivers come to Daytona from the most diverse racing series to compete on almost neutral ground.”
After securing two championship titles in 2007 and 2008 with the Porsche RS Spyder in the American Le Mans Series, Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) join forces with Penske Racing in the prototype class of the Grand-Am Series. For the twelve rounds this season, the successful team under Roger Penske fields a Riley chassis (start number 16) powered by a ca. 510 hp Porsche six-cylinder engine. The third driver in Daytona is Ryan Briscoe (Australia), who normally earns points for the Penske squad in the American IndyCar Series.
“The 24 Hours of Daytona has always been one of my favourite races,” says Timo Bernhard, the 2003 winner with a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. “You have the chance to compete against drivers from other racing series – pilots you’ve always wanted to race against. And if you can win, then that gives you the motivation and a tailwind for the rest of the season.”
Brumos Racing also enters two Porsche-Riley (# 58 and #59) in the class for Daytona Prototypes. The most famous driver in the Brumos line-up, alongside the Indy500 champion Buddy Rice (USA), is Hurley Haywood (USA). In 1973 he celebrated his first of five Daytona victories with Porsche, making him the most successful driver at this long distance classic. Other legendary Porsche pilots to grace the all-time honours list at the 24 Hours of Daytona are Rolf Stommelen and Bob Wollek, each with four wins.
Following a long tradition, Porsche is strongly represented in the GT class with its works drivers. Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Daytona winner of 2003 and 2006 Grand-Am champion, teams up with Patrick Long (USA) in a Porsche 911 GT3 fielded by TRG (No. 67). Manning the TRG cars (No. 66 and 65) are Emmanuel Collard (France) and Richard Lietz (Austria) as well as Porsche junior Marco Holzer (Germany). Wolf Henzler (Germany), reigning GT2 champion of the American Le Mans Series with Joerg Bergmeister, joins the driver crews of two 911 GT3 cars for Farnbacher Loles Racing (No. 85 and 87). Porsche junior Martin Ragginger (Austria) takes the wheel of the 911 GT3 for Autometrics Motorsports (No. 14). Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Patrick Pilet (France) compete for Wright Motorsports (No. 33). In the GT class, a total of 31 vehicles line up on the grid, 17 of which are Porsche 911 GT3.
The 24 Hours of Daytona takes off on Saturday, 24 January, at 15.30 hrs local time (21.30 CET).
The 2009 races
Twelve races in the USA and Canada make up the 2009 Grand-Am Series calendar:
24/25 Jan. Daytona 24 Hours
26 April Virginia
03 May New Jersey
17 May Laguna Seca
06 June Watkins Glen 6 Hours
20 June Mid-Ohio
03 July Daytona
19 July Birmingham
07 Aug. Watkins Glen
29 Aug. Montreal
20 Sept. Salt Lake City
10 Oct. Miami