The new GTD PRO class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship got off to the most spectacular start possible.
Mathieu Jaminet and the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R emerged from a door-banging clash Sunday afternoon with the similar No. 2 KCMG Porsche driven by Laurens Vanthoor through Daytona International Speedway’s Le Mans Chicane on the very last lap of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The two factory Porsche drivers waged an intense duel over the final two hours of the 60th running of North America’s most iconic endurance race. The action jumped off the chart in the closing five minutes, as Vanthoor’s constant pressure finally paid off and he gained the lead and held it for three intense laps leading to the white flag.
But Jaminet fought back. The Pfaff driver repeated Vanthoor’s pass around the International Horseshoe hairpin to regain the lead on the final lap before vigorously defending the position into the newly renamed Le Mans Chicane on the backstretch of the Daytona oval. The two Porsches negotiated the initial left-hander side-by-side before coming together as they entered the next right-hander. Both skirted the grass to the inside in a synchronized drift; Jaminet maintained control while Vanthoor skidded to a stop before quickly resuming.
By the time they reached the finish line of the 3.56-mile road course less than a minute later, Jaminet had a 2.185-second advantage over the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi. Vanthoor claimed third place, 4.687 seconds behind the winner.
“This was crazy!” marveled Jaminet, a 37-year-old Frenchman who was a GT Le Mans class winner with Porsche last year at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans. “It was difficult to realize what happened on the last lap – actually the last two hours. I was just driving for my life for these two hours.
“Even when he passed me, I thought, ‘I’m not going to give this thing,” Jaminet added. “It was too much hard work for one hour and 55 (minutes) to let it go in the last few laps. I had to give it everything and just go for it.”
Jaminet shared the winning car with Matt Campbell and two-time Daytona Prototype international (DPi) champion Felipe Nasr, who made a victorious debut as a Porsche factory driver.
Eight of the 13 GTD PRO entries led laps over the course of the 24 hours, and it wasn’t until the final quarter of the race that the Porsches truly separated themselves from the field.
It was a difficult GTD PRO debut for two-time defending GT Le Mans class champions Corvette Racing. The Nos. 3 and No. 4 Corvette C8.R GTDs encountered delays and finished sixth and 10th in class. Similarly, the first race for BMW Team RLL’s new M4 GT3 model was not trouble-free, resulting in a seventh-place finish for the No. 25 car and ninth place for the No. 24.
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