Back for Full Season, Pfaff Motorsport Driven to Challenge in GTD
By John Oreovicz
Pfaff Motorsports has seen a lot in more than 50 years of participation in auto racing. The Toronto-based team was still taken by surprise by what unfolded in 2020.
After a difficult run to 13th place in GT Daytona class (GTD) at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona last January, Pfaff was essentially parked for the rest of 2020 by COVID-19 and strict Canadian border crossing restrictions.
About 85 percent of Pfaff’s personnel is based in Canada. It wasn’t until travel rules were slightly relaxed that the team was able to rejoin the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in October for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Zacharie Robichon led a strong performance that netted the No. 9 “Plaid” Porsche 911 GT3 R a top-five class finish.
Robichon, a 28-year-old Ottawa native, returns to Pfaff for his third year with the organization. More importantly, Pfaff Motorsports is committed for the full 2021 WeatherTech Championship, with long-time factory Porsche driver Laurens Vanthoor joining the effort.
The 29-year-old Belgian claimed five IMSA GT Le Mans (GTLM) wins for the Porsche GT Team from 2017-20, as well as the 2019 GTLM championship. Vanthoor also shared the winning GTE Pro Porsche in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The reinvigorated effort puts Pfaff in position to contend for the WeatherTech Championship GTD title.
“Last year was, for myself, for the team, and for a lot of people in general, a very difficult year,” Robichon said. “When the season resumed (in July after a five-month hiatus), unfortunately we weren’t able to rejoin. I admit I didn’t watch the first few races because I was frustrated that we weren’t there. But I think overall it was the right decision, given the situation at home and with our team.
“Going into 2021, I can’t say enough how lucky I feel to be able to compete again,” he added. “We lost a lot of time, but the motivation to be back will bring us together. We’ll make that last year go away and pick back up where we started.”
Full-time drivers Robichon and Vanthoor will be augmented at this year’s Rolex 24 by a pair of factory Porsche drivers: Australian Matt Campbell and German Lars Kern.
The Pfaff Porsche has shown steady improvement at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, placing eighth, fifth and second in class in the three test sessions before Robichon qualified sixth in GTD for Sunday’s Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race. Vanthoor clocked the car’s best lap at 1 minute, 46.805 seconds (119.994 mph) in the test sessions, showing he is adapting quickly from the GTLM Porsche to the GTD Porsche.
“For sure it was an adaptation,” Vanthoor said. “I’m here learning new people, new teammates, a new or slightly different car. But I heard good things about the Pfaff team and about Zach. I definitely think we have a very good environment where we can fight for a championship. That’s definitely the target.
“We’re still learning each other as we go on,” he concluded. “But that’s what the Roar Before the 24 is for, so we can prepare for next week.”
Canadian regulations require visitors to the United States to quarantine for two weeks upon return to their home country. Robichon and the Pfaff team believe they will be able to work around that logistical challenge but remain flexible.
“It doesn’t look like that (the quarantine regulation) is going to change, but we’ve taken the steps necessary to accommodate it,” Robichon said. “The travel restrictions can change every day, but we will adapt as required.
“If there’s anything that anybody has learned from this last year, it’s don’t try to predict what is going to happen,” he added. “Because you’ll get it wrong. No point in trying to figure it out until it’s in place, then cross that bridge when you get there.”