Pfaff Motorsports ready to battle for the highest honours in GTD at Rolex 24 at Daytona
WITHOUT A DOUBT PFAFF MOTORSPORTS HAS FOUR OF THE BEST DRIVERS IN THE GTD CLASS FOR THE ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA
Coming off a IMSA debut season that included back-to- back wins and a GTD Sprint Cup championship for rookie driver Zach Robichon, Pfaff Motorsports enters its second full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this weekend. The team is setting its sights on the 2020 GTD championship, building on the momentum, from its debut season.
The team’s first challenge comes at the season-opening 24 Hours at Daytona, which also happens to be the biggest race of the calendar.
A busy off-season of preparation, led by manager Steve Bortolotti, engineer Andrew Marangoni, and crew chief Gary Penission, was aimed at bettering last year’s results. During pre-season testing at the “Roar before the 24” in Daytona earlier this month, both team and drivers completed their entire test checklist, putting the Motul-sponsored Porsche 911 GT3 R second on the timecards.
Pfaff enters the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech season with a one of the strongest driver lineups in the class: Canadian Zach Robichon is paired with Intercontinental GT champion, Norwegian Dennis Olsen for the full season, while Porsche development driver Lars Kern returns from Germany for the team’s North American Endurance Championship (NAEC) rounds. Frenchman and Porsche factory driver Patrick Pilet will join the team for Daytona.
Building on its experience and results from last season, the new-look team feels confident and comfortable as it readies for its return to Daytona and the season ahead.
“We’re much more prepared than we were last year, and we have a great group of drivers and crew members in every role,” Bortolotti said. “Preparing for the unknown is the hardest part of this race in particular – but we were able to execute our test plan perfectly during the Roar. So for us, it’s about applying those lessons, sticking to the plan, and getting to the finish.”
For Olsen, who raced with Pfaff at last season’s 24 Hours, as well as helping to deliver the team’s inaugural series win with Robichon at Lime Rock, there is a marked difference in the team’s mentality heading into this season.
“We’re all feeling pretty confident going into the 24,” he said. “We have one of the best drivers on the grid in our car [with Patrick Pilet], and we have the best crew around us. We prepared ourselve very well during the Roar, and myself and the other drivers have been analyzing data and onboard camera footage since the test to better prepare ourselves for the race.”
Kern, a Porsche development driver and production car lap record holder at numerous tracks, including the Nordschleife and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, stressed the importance of a clean race at Daytona.
“The most important thing is making it to the last four hours,” the German said. “Really, it’s on us drivers to keep our eyes open and avoid getting involved in anything risky – then we have a chance at the final sprint of the race. These are big points for the overall [GTD] championship, and we want to give Zach and Dennis the best chance at fighting for the season title. Everyone obviously wants to win at Daytona, but our aim is to be in a good position to fight in the end for the guys.”
For Robichon, he returns to the track where he made his rookie debut last season, but with more experience and a driver’s championship to lean on.
“Following the Roar, I’m definitely much calmer than this time last year,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot over the last year and I’m really just looking forward to the opportunity of being in this race without the stress and pressure that I felt last season, given that it was my first race at this level. As a whole, the team has really gelled and continued to fine tune itself over last year. Going into this season, there’s calmness and confidence in the way we approach and execute, and I think that’s very important heading into this season and a race like this.”
The 58th running of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona kicks off with events beginning on Wednesday, January 22. Qualifying takes place on Thursday, January 23 at 4:15 pm ET. The race goes green on Saturday, January 25 at 1:35pm ET.
Full coverage of the race will be broadcast live on IMSA Trackpass on NBC Sports Gold (US only), as well as during select periods on NBC SN in the USA, NBC Sports Gold in the USA and Canada, Discovery Velocity in Canada, as well as the main NBC network in both Canada and the USA. Complete broadcast details can be found under the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona schedule on www.IMSA.com.
Content and images: Pfaff Motorsports / Lenssen Photo