DAYTONA, Fla., (January 25, 2023) – The longest event on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicks off the 2023 sports car racing season this week, and AO Racing is revved up and ready for the series debut of the new No. 80 Porsche 911 GT3 R (type 992). Sporting a tribute livery inspired by the 1983 race-winning Porsche 935, AO Racing hopes to celebrate victory of their own in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, a 24-hour endurance event that will begin Saturday, January 28 and conclude the following afternoon.
Drivers PJ Hyett, Sebastian Priaulx, Gunnar Jeannette, Harry Tincknell, and the hardworking team just completed the Roar Before the 24, the first official several-day test of the new season. The test gave competitors the opportunity to conduct a thorough rollout of the new Porsche 911 GT3 R, the latest engineering feat from the German manufacturer. The Porsche is one of seven in the GTD class, racing against six other major manufacturers and 24 other entries. With the official test of the pre-season complete, competitors await the latest adjustments in the Balance of Performance (BoP): the restrictions the sanctioning body mandates in an effort to level the playing field of the various manufacturers.
The competition will be strong in this year’s race as the best drivers in the world converge on Daytona International Speedway for the prestigious endurance racing event. Though AO Racing is new to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Rolex 24, Priaulx, Jeannette, and Tincknell have completed 20 Rolex 24s between them, working with IMSA veteran mechanics and engineers as well. Their combined experience at one of the most challenging sports car races in the world will prove to be helpful in the rapidly approaching event. While AO Racing and the other Porsche entrants had hoped to receive some technical requirement changes (Balance of Performance) to bring them closer to the class’s other competitors, no changes were issued after the Roar Before the 24. Racing against established, championship-winning teams may be an intimidating endeavor for some, but the quality of drivers and crew combined with the reliability of the Porsche machinery will play into the hands of the Illinois-based squad, who will start the race from 21st.
As previously announced, the team is using the 40th anniversary of the No. 6 Swap Shop ANDIAL Porsche 935’s race win to pay homage in their IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut. Jeannette’s father, Kevin worked on the car in 1983 as the crew chief, and AO team owner Hyett currently owns the historic 935. The 1983 race winner came to the circuit with its modern-day counterpart and will be driven on track by Gunnar Jeannette in Saturday’s Heritage Expedition. The full-season No. 80 entry, with drivers PJ Hyett and Sebastian Priaulx, will change into a different livery for the remainder of the year following the Daytona event.
The 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona will begin airing live Saturday, January 28 at 1:30 PM ET on NBC and Peacock, ten minutes before the field takes the green flag. Sixty-one entries will compete across five different classes on the road course for 24 hours, rotating drivers though, paying careful attention to minimum and maximum drivetime requirements. Crew will strategically rest between pit stops, saving energy for tire changes, possible mechanical work, and equipment preparation. The 40-plus hour workday will put man and machine to the test, delivering one of the most exciting races of the year. IMSA Radio will continue to offer comprehensive coverage of all sessions and the entire race without breaks on imsaradio.com.
It was obviously a tricky qualifying session, but that was inevitable with how it’s been going at the moment. I’m looking forward to the race, of course. It’s one of the biggest ones in the world, so I’m looking forward to it. The team did a great job getting us to this point with the new car, and we’ll certainly be strong. We have a lot of time ahead of us to make gains on the competition.
I’m very excited to finally be getting to the Rolex 24 race week. All the guys at AO Racing have been putting in a huge amount of effort to get here, so to see our GT3 R on the track in the Swap Shop tribute livery is truly awesome. We’ve learned a lot over the Roar test days, so we’ll apply that and give it our best shot to get a watch.
It’s not where we wanted to qualify to begin the year, but the Porsches have all been clearly struggling with the Balance of Performance we’ve been given. We’re hopeful we’ll have a car to be competitive with come race time, because right now, it’s a different class compared to the leaders. I feel we worked well as a team all week. We missed the set up a little bit in qualifying, but ultimately, it’s a 24-hour race, so we’re not too worried about starting position. We’ll be working over the next few days to analyze everything and put our best foot forward going into race week.