Pfaff Motorsports showed how resilient this entire team is when confronted with setbacks
THE ROLEX 24 WAS A DIFFICULT START TO THEIR SEASON AND THINGS LOOKED BRIGHTER FOR SEBRING UNTIL QUALIFYING AND THEN THEY MANAGED TO WIN THE SEBRING CLASSIC FOR THE SECOND TIME IN THREE YEARS
Even though the performance was nowhere near their competitors from the first practice session at Daytona with the new Porsche 911 GT3 R (992), Pfaff Motorsports kept working with what they had on hand and made the best out of the package they had by finishing in fifth place of the GTD PRO class only one lap behind.
IMSA having adjusted the BOP for Sebring, gave a boost in performance to the Porsche teams and especially for the #9 Plaid Porsche as the times were back to being competitive constantly within less than four tenths of a second from fastest times in GTD PRO.
Everything was set for a good qualifying battle on the Friday until the unfortunate incident at corner one when the car ended in the tire barrier. But the team did what they do best in working together and putting the long hours to get the No. 9 Driveway Porsche 911 GT3 R ready for the twelve hour race the next day.
The team took a page from its winning ways in 2021 to start from the back of the pack and come out on top by day’s end. Pfaff’s win will also go down in the record books as the first for the new-for-2023, 992-generation race car.
The trio of Pfaff Motorsports drivers – Klaus Bachler, Laurens Vanthoor and Patrick Pilet – each played a role in the team’s victory. Bachler, making his first start at the Twelve Hours, expertly avoided a handful of incidents at the start of the race – even on the first lap by mere inches – to keep the car clean during each of his stints.
Klaus Bachler: “I’m out of words, honestly. After qualifying where I made a minor mistake, lost the car and hit the barriers, it was really hard for the whole team and especially myself. It was the worst thing you can have in qualifying, but the team did an amazing job and repaired the car. I’m so happy that we could race today. We just bet on a strategy that worked out fully for us and the team is just so good in all these kinds of things – strategy, pit stops. We made zero mistakes. We bet, we were lucky, but in the end, we won the race. After yesterday, it is really a rollercoaster and I’m super happy and proud to be part of this team.”
Vanthoor, part of Pfaff’s winning effort in 2021, faced some of the fiercest battles of the day to gain on-track position and powered through a double duty weekend with Porsche, having also competed in the FIA WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring the day prior.
Laurens Vanthoor: “It’s a bit surreal because I showed up this morning at 6:30 after being involved in the Porsche LMDh WEC program (during the week). The guys briefed me, gave us a good car and when it got dark, the car came alive and we were quick. We had a great strategy and we won against what we expected. But it shows the strength of the team, which they’ve showed a lot of times in the past and will continue to show.”
It was the Frenchman, Patrick Pilet, though, who managed to stretch one tank of fuel for one hour, 51 minutes to keep the Driveway Porsche out of the pits and atop the leaderboard. The team bet on multiple cautions as the clock wound down and implemented a fuel-save strategy to outlast the quicker competitors. A multi-car incident with 20 minutes left in the race all but sealed the team’s fate, and Pilet was given the green light to sprint to the checkered flag during the last five minutes of action.
Patrick Pilet: “For me, it was really emotional. My last time here was four years ago and I got a chance from Porsche to be with the Pfaff team this year. They trusted me from the first day. We’ve really become friends, like family. We had so much disappointment after Daytona, but it was not our fault. We had a perfect race and we’re right here with a perfect attitude, good atmosphere, good mood.
“We managed to win the race by being clearly not the fastest, and just because a complete group of people believe in us, believe in hard work and give 100 percent. At the end, for sure it was a gamble, we needed a yellow to be sure to finish. It was a risk only this team can take. It wasn’t even a risk, I feel so safe and so much support from the team on the pit stand. It was a group of friends working altogether and it paid off. I’m super happy.”
Pfaff Motorsports moves up to third in the GTD Pro championship standings ahead of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 14 – 16.
Excerpts from Pfaff Motorsport press release
Images : Pfaff Motorsports/Lenssen Photos