Change is constant in life, and change has been constant for Pfaff Motorsports the last several years.
Yet what the team faces heading into the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season might mark its biggest change yet in the five-plus years since entering the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class in 2019.
While Pfaff’s “Plaid Porsche” became an instant fan favorite from the moment it debuted at the 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the only real changes outwardly were the driver lineup. The team rotated through a handful of co-drivers alongside team stalwart Zacharie Robichon, culminating in a first GTD championship during the 2021 season with Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor.
Flash forward to 2022 and Vanthoor had to beat Pfaff in a head-to-head Porsche battle to kick off the GTD PRO class at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but he came up short in his entry versus the car driven by Mathieu Jaminet. Jaminet shared that car with full-season driver Matt Campbell and third driver Felipe Nasr, with the pair of Matts going on to capture the team’s second straight title.
With Campbell, Jaminet, Nasr and Vanthoor all assigned to Porsche Penske Motorsport prototype seats in either IMSA or the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2023, Pfaff had to flip things around again. Patrick Pilet and Klaus Bachler took over the full-season seats in the team’s new Porsche 911 GT3 R (type 992) but fought through season trying to find pace, consistency or both. After the back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022, Pfaff fell to fourth out of five full-season GTD PRO entries in 2023 with only a single, fortuitous win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
That’s when the change register reached its highest point for the Chris Pfaff-owned and Steve Bortolotti-led program, with several tweaks set forth for 2024.
First up is a switch to McLaren, bringing the 720S GT3 into GTD PRO competition in IMSA for the first time. They’re embracing the change head on and with humor, with Bortolotti, Pfaff Motorsports general manager, poking fun at “mean comments” about the change in manufacturers in a team-released video on Instagram.
Next up is the change in driver lineup, Pfaff’s fourth different full-season lineup in as many seasons.
After Robichon and Vanthoor, Campbell and Jaminet and Pilet and Bachler, Pfaff has again plucked two different type drivers from the sports car pool in Oliver Jarvis and Marvin Kirchhoefer, who will turn 40 and 30, respectively, in 2024.
Jarvis is best known to the IMSA paddock for his prototype success, having long served as part of the factory Mazda effort and most recently with Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura en route to the 2022 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) championship. But he hasn’t made an IMSA start in a GT car since the 2014 Rolex 24, in an Audi R8 LMS.
Jarvis is not a stranger to GT cars, though. He had some international touring car seasons prior to joining Audi’s factory lineup, he won the 2013 Rolex 24 in an Audi GT car, and he also raced Bentley and Nissan GT cars internationally within the last several years. He even made a one-off GTE Pro appearance in a rare blue Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE with Pipo Derani and Jules Gounon in the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Kirchhoefer has the opposite situation: not a stranger to McLaren, but newer to America. With a career path similar to many young drivers, the German followed the European junior open-wheel path before diverging into sports cars and finding success with McLaren overseas. He made his IMSA debut at the 2023 Rolex 24, finishing on the GTD podium as part of the Inception Racing McLaren lineup.
Completing the quartet are James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi, who double as IndyCar drivers/hosts/podcasters and have extensive sports car experience.
Hinchcliffe, set to compete at Daytona, Sebring and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, has five Rolex 24 starts on his resume from 2012 to 2017. All were with Mazda, split into two GT starts and three prototype appearances. Hinchcliffe did test a Kellymoss with Riley Porsche at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last fall.
Rossi also has five Rolex 24 starts, including a 2021 overall victory with Wayne Taylor Racing, but they’ve all been in prototypes. They range from the DeltaWing coupe in his first start in 2014 to four successive starts from 2019 to 2022 in the Acura ARX-05 DPi.
On the “Off Track with Hinch and Rossi” podcast confirming the co-hosts would also be teammates, Hinchcliffe provided Rossi some additional insight in how to prepare for his GT debut.
“So, this will be the first time I’ve done Daytona or any IMSA race not in a prototype,” Rossi said. “I’m gonna have to learn how to use mirrors.”
Hinchcliffe responded, “Mirrors are good; spotters are better. I’ve done it in both prototype and GT, and it is so much more mentally taxing doing it in a GT car more than a prototype, because you’re literally having to watch your mirrors as much as out of the windscreen.
“But a good spotter in that race helps you turn down the amount of attention paying behind you by 50 percent to free up the mental capacity for what you’re doing.”
How will all the changes come together at Pfaff? That will begin once the team takes delivery of its new chassis and prepares for the new season ahead.