Pfaff Motorsports Resiliency Tested Thoroughly At This Year’s Rolex 24
MULTIPLE CONTACTS WITH COMPETITORS AND UNFORTUNATE CONTACT WITH THE WALL AT PIT EXIT MADE FOR A BRUISED PLAID PORSCHE THAT STILL WENT ON TO A 12TH PLACE FINISH
Plaid Porsche fans across the country were rooting for the #9 Motul Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R team to get the win in GTD class. And for good reason. Pfaff Motorsports had a positive weekend at the Roar showing good pace and with the four high caliber drivers (Zach Robichon, Laurens Vanthoor, Lars Kern and Matt Campbell) to take on the Rolex 24 starting from the outside pole, everything was possible.
And it did start well with Zach Robichon taking the green flag and followed by Laurens Vanthoor who, on lap 32, recorded the teams fastest lap of the race for the #9 Porsche.
Then, it all started to go South. Lars Kern, having just taken over from Vanthoor, was hit from behind incurring substantial damages to the rear bumper, exhaust and diffuser. Although Lars was able to continue and maintain a consistent pace, several places were lost because of that.
As it states in Pfaff Motorsports’ press release, “Pfaff’s early race misfortunes continued when Campbell was contacted by a prototype, damaging the front-right aerodynamics. The problem would be exacerbated just past 3:00 a.m., when the team was running in fifth position. Contact with another prototype in the pits damaged the front-right suspension, causing an alignment issue, and forcing a stop just four laps later.”
“It was certainly not the 24 we had hoped for going into the race. We had quite high hopes and it looked very promising in the lead-up. We were all very happy with the car, but it just didn’t go according to plan. We had quite a few incidents and the car wasn’t perfect, but we were able to make it work with the lead group, running fifth or sixth. It was very unfortunate to have that incident there with four hours to go, but a major credit to the team who were able to fix the car multiple times to get us back out there to finish,” commented Campbell.
They did ended up fixing the car. By then, it was all about the points. The team had to keep running to maximize on available points. Which they did as we saw there pace back to competitive times with those ahead in the GTD class.
As if it was not enough, with four hours to go and running within the top six, Zach Robichon was coming out of the pits on cold tires as the #9 Porsche slid onto the wall at pit exit and suffered sustainable damages to the right side. This pit exit has been the nightmare of many drivers throughout the Rolex 24 as it is a very tight left turn. And when there is not heat in the tires, this pit exit has proven to be very treacherous.
“It was action-packed at the beginning, and everything that seemed like it could happen, happened,” said Robichon. “But we were resilient – we had damage on the car and we still came through. Towards the end, it looked like we finally had the car where we wanted, but I made a mistake and that was definitely tough. It hurts to have those things happen, but what’s done is done, and the crew really showed what we’re capable of. It was important to get back out there and score some championship points, so now we look onward and forward to the next one.”
Robichon took a shortcut and brought the car to the garage for repairs. The crew worked efficiently to replace the mechanical and bodywork components in just 20 minutes to bring the car back to the pits. Robichon and Vanthoor drove the remainder of the race to bring the car to a 12th place finish.
For Lars Kern, the result was not the one expected at all but now focuses on Sebring: “For the moment, we did everything we could. We knew from the beginning that we could only be our biggest enemy. From the early part, the car was already wrecked all over, so we were always fighting to get back what we had – then the final hours were just the cherry on top. We had a lot of trouble from the outside as well, but finishing 12th is not what we came here for, so we’ll chalk this one up and just focus on preparing for Sebring.”
Team Manager, Steve Bortolotti, despite the misfortune during the race had only good words towards every team member of the #9 Plaid Porsche: “It felt like we were fighting from behind most of the race. It wasn’t the result we wanted, nor the result I felt we deserved, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Despite everything, I’m really proud of the team and everything they did and how everyone came together on such short notice. We have a lot to be proud of as a group. Sebring isn’t far away and we have a lot to build on and look forward to there.”
Newly signed for the 2021 season with Pfaff Motorsports, Belgian Laurens Vanthoor summed up the Rolex 24: “We had great preparation for the race and were very confident in the first couple of stints. We were really strong and the car was really good, but then had a lot of incidents that kind of ruined the plan. So we missed our chance for a good result – we might not have had the speed to win, but a podium was definitely possible, so we’ll analyze all of the data and build on that for Sebring.”
We already can’t wait for Sebring to come around.
Image credit: Pfaff Motorsports/Lenssen Photo