AS THE ROLEX 24 IS ONLY HOURS AWAY, WE SPOKE TO THE FOUR DRIVERS ABOUT THE BIG RACE
A year ago, Pfaff Motorsports was a fresh team who showed up for the Rolex 24 with a Porsche 911 GT3 R with a plaid livery that stood out from the rest of the field and that spelled attitude. They were coming to succeed in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
They have proven themselves throughout the 2019 season learning the ropes, ending up winning twice and driver Zach Robichon walking away with the driver’s title in the Sprint Championship.
We were fortunate enough to have the four drivers available for a chat.
Canadian Racers News (CRN): How are things with the team at the moment as we look from last year to this year, did you think you would be in this position as being this competitive and on Pole fo the Rolex 24?
Lars Kern(LK): “I think at the Roar everything was pretty nice. And the boys especially Patrick and Dennis, they were having like a pretty radical idea for setup, which helped us to be pretty quick on the straights whereas I did not like it at the beginning as it is less downforce making the car not easy to drive. It took longer for me to adapt myself to it but now it shows that it was the right decision to go and the car is quick and Zach showed it in qualifying.”
CRN: Lars and Dennis, you were part of the Pfaff Motorsports driver line-up last year at some of the races, how as the team evolve over the season and in preparation for this year’s Rolex 24?
Dennis Olsen(DO): “You know, coming to the first four days last year(2019 Roar, NDLR) and seeing how everything was and coming back this year again it’s from black to white. It’s absolutely a huge change and the structure in the team and everybody kind of find a role and they have got the experience from last year not only I terms of the mechanics you know and actually everyone within the team. Also in terms of the knowledge, they have so much more knowledge now compared to last year. We came here with a good base already and we could start to build on it. And this is what changed everything for us this year. This is why we can come back and be so much better than last year because we learned from the mistakes we did last year. Working with the knowledge gained last year and building on it at the Roar we took a direction in terms of the setup as Lars said and it seems to work out pretty well. I mean, with Zach’s amazing lap yesterday, it seems to be pretty strong. And also, balance wise for us as drivers has been let’s say easy to drive as it’s manageable and predictable. And this is probably the main thing for us for for a long race distance.”
CRN: Zach we spoke briefly yesterday and I mentioned you actually came out quite strong over last season. What has last season brought to you for this year’s Rolex?
Zach Robichon(ZR): “As Dennis mentioned, we talked a lot about just knowledge as a team. But personally, I think there’s a big difference in my confidence level. Last year was my first time at Daytona, first time driving a Porsche GT3 R as I had never even been in a GT3 R spec car until we got to the Roar. And when the race started, I think I’d done a total of like 28 laps, That’s half a test day. So that that was as much as I had gotten in that spec machinery. So going into the race, there were still some doubts on how everything was going to happen. But this year, the comfort level with traffic, the car and just with the interaction with the team has taken leaps and bounds so I think that makes the biggest difference for me.”
CRN: And how are you looking at the preparation for 24 anything in particular that you individually do in terms of preparing for your stints?
ZR: “For me personally, I try to just stay relaxed. I’m pretty good at psyching stressing myself out. So I try to stay disconnected as long as possible. And for 24 hours, you’re just soon as you’re out of the car, just kind of relax, take a step back, you know, eat some food and take a quick nap just to really take a step away from everything that’s happening because you can easily get yourself wound up if you don’t disconnect at all.
DO: “Yeah, I think like Zach said, we went through all cases, what can happen, what can stress you in the race. So we all know what we can do. We know what the team can do. So we all pretty confident and this really helps to prepare yourself for your stint because you know, you don’t have to be stressed because everything’s gonna be okay. The pace is going to be okay. The pit stops are going to be okay. So there’s nothing in particular we just tried to stay calm. We’ve gone bowling the last two days in the evening just just trying to have a good time. Just the four of us.”
CRN: Who’s the best bowler?
LK: We all s**k! (laughter)
ZR: “Roughly, yeah! Lars said it!”
LK: “Generally we are not really good, I think Patrick(Pilet) is the best one. Maybe he was the most lucky!”
Patrick Pilet(PP): “Bowling? No! We just took the wrong alley!” (laughter)
LK: “This was good. We were just having a good time us four.”
LK: “I think it’s the team atmosphere for sure between us drivers but also within the team? I think everybody’s positive and excited to get started in a race.”
You mentioned about the track itself to be prepared and talking about everything that could happen. What’s the toughest part of the Rolex 24 to win?
PP: “The last hour, the last lap. There’s nothing more difficult than winning here. Like I say in the end, you can do whatever you want before but the paycheck is at the end. On the the last stint would make the difference in the past. I mean, this year can be different because it’s not so much Cars. I’m prepared to go for a big fight at the end as this is more like a sprint race. But you have to keep the car in a good shape. So in between is just bout waiting and a bit of surviving.”
CRN: How’s your adaptation done with Pfaff Motorsport?
PP: “I mean, it was great. The atmosphere was really relaxed. They welcomed me very well. I was well prepared a few months ago as well. I was texting with Steve, the team manager, and he was really happy to have me on board. So it’s always cool to have people who are really looking forward to work with you. I hope they are not too disappointed! But now I like to say it’s a great atmosphere and we know each other, more or less, only Zach I had only met with a few times but we didn’t know very well before. And we all have fun. I mean, to be honest, is 90% of this is just enjoying what we are doing and pushing in the same direction.”
And having driven in GTLM is there something in particular that you bring to Pfaff Motorsports in terms of experience that can help the team?
PP: “A few small things. I mean, to be honest, they are really professional, really good organization and it’s on the details. I’m always a bit let’s say pushing the teams everywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s a private team or a factory team. It’s in my character because I am pushing myself as well. But to be honest for this a small team. It’s only one car. It’s a really small amount of people compared with what I have done in the past but everybody know exactly what they have to do. And from the base, this was exactly what I expected, something really professional, really friendly and quite relax. And, for example, at the Roar, we had some issues and immediately they fixed them. So that’s something I really like. And I just tried to bring some ideas, some inputs, some experience in the team and by communication, talking all together, we’re finding a lot of solutions. And that’s why I think we are in the position we are in now. Because we work well together. That’s the most important and we trust each other in terms of set up, driving and where we have to go and I think that’s why it’s a good match so far.”
Zach, Lars and Dennis had to step away but we had one more question to ask Patrick Pilet.
CRN: What would it represent to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona?
PP: “I mean it’s always something unique. First, it’s the first race of the season. So you always want to get a good start at Daytona as it’s a unique race track, it’s legendary. Personally is my first race I did as a factory driver. It was not official. But I signed my first contract at this track in 2008. I mean every time you go on the track, you go onto the banking you’re like, Okay, I’m in the legend because the track is a legend. And winning this race is just like a big accomplishment everywhere in the world when you say I won Daytona, everybody knows Daytona. So it’s something special. I have had the chance to win GTLM and it would be something really unique to winning in GTD which would be a second category for me.
The race starts at 1:35pm this afternoon, make sure to tune in to IMSA.tv and even better, follow us on IG @canadianracersnews and here on http://www.canadianracersnews.ca for race updates.
Image: Pfaff Motorsports / Lenssen Photo
Photographer & Editor