STRONG TEAM, QUALIFIED EIGHT, CONSISTENT PACE BY DRIVERS, UP TO FIFTH PLACE, TECHNICAL ISSUES AND AN UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT IN INCLEMENT WEATHER ENDED THEIR HOPES
This sums up Pfaff Motorsport’s weekend.
IMSA has put together rules and regulations to promote competition on track. The GTD class had 23 entries for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. When looking at the time sheets throughout the sessions, there was on average 1.7 seconds between first and last.
So, anything can happen during the race, especially a 24 hour one. Even though it is said to be an endurance race, it looks more like a sprint race as drivers are battling for position every lap. The Pfaff Motorsports no. 9 started the race in eight position and before the end of the first hour they had moved up to fifth then ran consistently in the top ten in the following hours. Zach Robichon (CAN), Scott Hargrove (CAN), Lars Kern (GER), and Dennis Olsen (NOR) taking turns at the wheel.
“We were spot on with the pace of the car, and we really had a great setup for the race,” Porsche Young Professional Dennis Olsen said. “We were quick, and I believe we were the fastest Porsche. Everyone was putting in consistent lap times, so we were exactly where we needed to be.”
“The car performed well, especially in the infield sections,” chief engineer Andrew Marangoni said. “The drivers were able to make up a ton of time, and when they came off their stint they would compliment how the car was behaving and it seemed to be getting better.”
Into the night came back the gremlins. The team had dealt with electrical issues during practice. Zach Robichon was behind the wheel when the car lost headlamps, dash and shift indicator. “Fortunately the track was lit pretty well, so that part wasn’t much of an issue,” Robichon said of his night stint. “Then the dash disappeared and didn’t say anything – I didn’t have shift indicator lights or anything, so I was driving the car by feel and sound – I didn’t know how fast I was going, but I kept driving as fast as I could. It was actually kind of peaceful, but the electrical issues continued, and we had to go back to the garage to get those sorted and the lights back on.”
The car was brought back to the garage to fix the issues and when they came back to the track, they were 20 laps down. They kept fighting and were now looking for a top 10 finish.
Around 4am, Mother Nature decided to let it rain. And rain it did. By 9am, because of the poor conditions, IMSA officials decided to suspend racing as they brought out the red flag. After a lengthy wait, drivers got back in the cars and, for many laps, followed the pace car around to try to evacuate the standing water on the track.
When racing resumed, visibility was very poor due to the mist of all the cars at speed. Coming out of the last chicane and onto the oval, one car spun in the middle of the pack and unfortunately Zach Robichon did not stand much of a chance. “There was spray coming from everybody around me, and we were all approaching so quickly,” Robichon said. “I couldn’t see five feet in front of me around the back stretch, and then all of a sudden I see brake lights. I jumped on the brakes to try to avoid it, but with the surrounding traffic, my choice was to either hit the prototype, hit the Ferrari, hit the wall, or go for a gap that I thought might be big enough. Unfortunately the speed was too high, and that gap was smaller than I’d hoped.
“I feel terrible,” he continued. “It’s one of those could’ve, would’ve, should’ve things, but at the end of the day I really don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. I’m more than happy to take the blame for the incident, but I feel horrible for the guys who’ve put so much time and effort into this effort for the last month and a half – and the crew and drivers did a great job with everything throughout the entire race. With that said, I have a feeling we’re going to come back with a chip on our shoulder when we go to Sebring. When you fall off the horse, you want to get right back on it – and after that crash, I kind of wish Sebring was tomorrow.”
With this, Pfaff Motorsports had to retire the car with heavy suspension damage.
The next race for the Pfaff Motorsport team will be the 12 hours of Sebring March 13-16.
Images credits: Pfaff Motorsports/Lenssen Photo
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Photographer & Editor