You can’t have a much better year than the Porsche GT Team did in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Between the team’s two 911 RSR race cars in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, the team won more than half of the season’s races (six of 11) and finished 1-2 in the final WeatherTech Championship standings. So, what’s the team going to do for an encore in 2020?
For starters, it’s going to introduce a brand-new race car to the WeatherTech Championship, the new generation 911 RSR. It’s also going to shift Frederic Makowiecki from IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup duty to full-time action in 2020, joining Nick Tandy for the full season in the No. 911 Porsche.
Tandy finished second in the GTLM championship in 2019 alongside co-driver Patrick Pilet with three victories – the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.
They finished the season 13 points in arrears of their championship-winning teammates, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor, who won the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio and the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the No. 912 Porsche.
“It’s going to be difficult to follow up what we did this year,” Tandy said. “Obviously, we won pretty much everything, the manufacturers’ and the drivers’ championship with Porsche, so it was a good season. It’s not often you have years like this, but we’ve got a new car coming. It’s an evolution rather than a revolution, so hopefully it won’t take a lot of time to get to know the new car that we’re going to be debuting in the IMSA series in Daytona.”
As Tandy points out, this RSR is not revolutionary as its predecessor was. That car made history as the first “midengined” 911 race car, but it also took a little while for the team and drivers to fully come to grips with the car as it clearly did in 2019. The “revolutionary” car in the 2020 GTLM field will be the new Corvette C8.R, which for the first time will be midengined itself after decades of front engine success.
“It’ll be interesting,” said Vanthoor. “We are coming with a new 911 RSR and the Corvette guys are coming with quite a drastic new car. There will be some new stuff around, which will be, I think, pretty cool to see at the Roar (Before the Rolex 24 on Jan. 3-5). For Corvette, it might be more different than for us. I remember us going from a completely different car and a different placement of the engine, and it took a bit of time to get used to it.
“So, I secretly hope it’s about the same for them,” Vanthoor laughed.
One of the races the Porsche GT Team didn’t win in 2019 was the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It’s especially high on Vanthoor’s radar, and he’ll go in search of that title again next month with two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner Bamber and endurance teammate, Mathieu Jaminet, who was confirmed as a full factory driver for Porsche over the weekend.
“It’s one of the biggest 24-hour races in the world and it would mean a heck of a lot to me,” said Vanthoor of a possible Rolex 24 victory. “It’s been my goal for a couple of years now. I haven’t succeeded, unfortunately, but I always had a dream to win the four big 24-hour races, which are Spa, Le Mans, Nürburgring and Daytona. I have three and I’m missing this one, so I’m pretty keen on getting that one.”
Tandy, on the other hand, does have a Rolex 24 victory on his résumé from 2014, as well as an overall 24 Hours of Le Mans victory in 2015, as well as multiple victories at Sebring and Motul Petit Le Mans and a Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen win. What’s missing from his résumé is a championship, which is what he’s got his eye on for 2020.
“We’re going racing because we want to win, so right from the start, we’re going to be hoping for a victory (at Daytona) and backing out with a consistent season like we did this year with lots of good results,” said Tandy. “Championships follow after that, of course.”
It’s likely to come down to how well the new 911 RSR performs in the WeatherTech Championship. It got off to a good start in the FIA World Endurance Championship, winning the season opener at Silverstone in September as well as the most recent round last month at Shanghai. That could be a good omen for the U.S.-based program.
“It was a great start for the car,” Tandy said. “It’s proved reliable. We’ve obviously done lots of testing with the car before we started racing. The good thing for us debuting it in January is it’s already going to have four races under its belt in WEC before we even roll out for our first race of the season.
“We can take onboard lots of the things that they’ve learned. That’s the advantage of having two factory operations on two different sides of the world. We gain experience from both sides where we can give feedback from what we learn and vice-versa. Then, of course, we go to Sebring and we all meet together. Yeah, it’s good to have this big Porsche family and all these great cars racing around.”