The Porsche 963 fielded by Porsche Penske Motorsport extended Porsche’s impressive number of victories at the 62nd Rolex 24 at Daytona, the biggest endurance race in North America. Factory drivers Felipe Nasr, Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell and Josef Newgarden secured Porsche’s 19th win at the American race, equalling its record-breaking success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In a race fraught with suspense, the two Penske Motorsport Porsche 963s regularly traded the top spot with the #31 Whelen/Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R. Not long after sundown on Saturday evening, the #6 Porsche took the lead for the first time. However, the car, shared by Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy, Laurens Vanthoor and Kevin Estre, was set back by a number of penalties. Then Kévin Estre’s small slip when exiting the pit lane on Sunday morning dashed the crew’s hopes of victory with their hybrid prototype.
Porsche prevails at the end of a fierce battle
The quest for victory went down to the wire, pitting the Porsche driven by Felipe Nasr against Tom Blomqvist at the wheel of the #31 Cadillac in a heart-pumping 32-minute duel. Despite worn tyres, Nasr managed to fend off his rival’s onslaught and cross the line in first place. “What a fantastic win to start the year,” says a delighted Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Development at Porsche. “The entire Porsche Penske Motorsport works team and everyone at the development centre in Weissach have worked extremely hard to lay the foundations for this success. My sincere thanks to all of our employees. We never gave up and didn’t let the tough setbacks from last year rock us. Now, we’re reaping the rewards of our hard work. I found the race absolutely thrilling, as I’m sure many motorsport fans around the world did.”
At the end of the race, Felipe Nasr said: “Right after crossing the finish line, I had to take a moment and let it all sink in. To have the decision in a 24-hour race come down to the very last few metres in a head-to-head duel – unbelievable. The Cadillac was very strong, especially in the final phase as temperatures rose. We gave everything tactically and driving-wise to take this victory. It worked. I’m super proud of everyone in the team.”
At the 62nd Rolex 24 at Daytona, Porsche was up against Cadillac, Acura and BMW. There were four 963 on the starting grid: two factory entries and two others fielded by Proton Competition and JDC Miller Motorsport. They all made it to the chequered flag, demonstrating the car’s reliability. In contrast, Cadillac and Acura each lost a car to mechanical issues. With 138 days to go to the 92nd 24 Hours of Le Mans, this performance puts Porsche firmly on the list of favourites. However, the Stuttgart-based marque will be contending with Ferrari, Toyota, Cadillac, Peugeot, Alpine, BMW and Isotta Fraschini in La Sarthe. It’s worth remembering that the 963’s first appearance was marred by reliability problems last year. Porsche promised to make improvements and come back stronger in 2024. We will be able to gauge the progress made by the German hypercar over winter at the 1812 km of Qatar, the first round of the FIA WEC Endurance World Championship on 2 March.