Is Third Time The Charm For The Porsche GT Team?

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Porsche will be attempt to win the 12 Hours of Sebring for the third-straight year later this month. (IMSA Photo)
Porsche will be attempt to win the 12 Hours of Sebring for the third-straight year later this month. (IMSA Photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One of the first things you notice when walking along pit lane at Sebring Int’l Raceway are the names of manufacturers, their nation’s flags and the corresponding year of an overall victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

There’s one manufacturer whose name appears the most: Porsche, which owns 20 overall victories since 1958. But those wins only paint part of the German manufacturer’s illustrious history at Sebring.

Porsche also has – far and away – the most class victories in the Twelve Hours, totaling 96, including the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class the past two years. As a result, the Porsche GT Team – and even more specifically, the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19 squad of Frederic Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Matt Campbell – will be going for their third consecutive victory in the grueling endurance classic on Saturday, March 21.

Tandy and Makowiecki have both been a part of the team’s success the last two years.

Makowiecki, who is piloting the new car full-time in 2020 with Porsche veteran Tandy, is looking forward to getting back to the Central Florida raceway.

“Sebring is still my favorite race in the USA because it’s like a temple,” said the Frenchman. “Nothing’s changed really in over 50 years. What we always search for is maximum speeds and best lap time, but here, it’s so hard to achieve. That’s why you put in so much energy. You have so much fun and so much pleasure, you say, ‘I want to do it again.’”

Makowiecki and Tandy will be joined by Campbell, a 25-year-old Australian that has an impressive résumé in the endurance racing world, with class wins in both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Dubai in 2018 and an overall victory in last year’s Bathurst 12 Hours.

The young Aussie will make his Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring debut this year. He’ll also be making just his second-ever start with the Porsche GTLM team after finishing on the podium in the Rolex 24 At Daytona last month.

All three drivers, however, won’t have far to look for stiff competition in the GTLM class. Their sister car – the  No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19, driven by Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber and Mathieu Jaminet – won the 2019 WeatherTech Championship GTLM title, and is hungry to take home another big trophy.

“We succeeded, although it was a close battle against our teammates in the 911, we won (the championship),” said Vanthoor, who has yet to win an IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup race in his career. “I’m jealous they won Sebring, so in the end you want everything. This year we wanted Daytona. We came in second, unfortunately, so I want to make it up to them in Sebring.”

Vanthoor and the rest of the Porsche GT drivers will be making their first start at Sebring in the new RSR-19, a car that proved itself to be competitive at Daytona. Both cars finished on the podium in the 24-hour classic.

“It’s very encouraging,” Vanthoor said. “The performance the cars showed in Daytona. From the first time I drove it, I felt comfortable in it. It’s a clear step forward in every type. It’s not like we gained a second a lap, but we’re making our life easier to perform at 100 percent on every occasion. I think this car has a very big future and potential.”

Makowiecki and the rest of the No. 911 team showed speed in the new car as well. They finished the 24-hour battle a mere four seconds behind their sister car and only 18 seconds shy of the No. 24 BMW Team RLL entry for the GTLM race win.

“In general, the main difference is we’ve been focused on our weak point and are trying to cover that,” said Makowiecki when comparing last year’s 911 RSR to this year’s 911 RSR-19. “If you want to be consistently on top, if you want to be there every weekend and make a difference in the championship, you can’t have too many weak points. That’s what the RSR-19 is important for. It’s to cover that.”