DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (January 31, 2024) – AO Racing’s GTD PRO-class debut appearance in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship ended on a high note Sunday afternoon at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The drivers and crew of “Rexy,” the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 R not only secured their first pole position but finished in second place in the grueling 24-hour endurance racing event.
The team raced in the GTD class in 2023, and advanced to the GTD – PRO class for the following season, while also expanding into the LMP2 class. The effort showed great pace in both programs at the Roar Before the 24, where Sebastian Priaulx secured pole position for Saturday’s big race start, a career-first for him in the WeatherTech Series. Over the course of the 24-hour race, Priaulx shared the driving duties with Laurin Heinrich and Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen. The Porsche effort ran error-free throughout the 24-long event, making a strong debut performance despite being on the losing end of the series-mandated Balance of Performance restrictions. Through focusing on safe and consistent driving and fast and efficient pit stops, the team behind the Porsche was able to position themselves to run for a top-three position in the final hour.
“It’s been a very long lead-up and off-season of preparation to get to this point,” said Team Principal Gunnar Jeannette. “It all seems surreal. We’ve done our first race in 2024 with two cars, two programs, and two characters. It was great to see both programs lead their classes at various points in the race. With that, the team operated absolutely flawlessly. We spent the least amount of time in pit lane, and that’s a strong testament to the pit crew, the engineering calls, and to the drivers.”
The team’s first outing as an LMP2 team with the No. 99 Oreca known as Spike the Dragon produced a formidable foe to the competitors, starting seventh out of 13 cars. Once the entry of PJ Hyett, Paul-Loup Chatin, Matt Brabham, and Alex Quinn climbed to the top of the field, it stayed near the top five, despite not always having the outright pace. Though the car ended the race with a seventh-place finish, to alone have a finishing result was a positive outcome after such a chaotic event.
“The crew did a fantastic job,” summarized Jeannette. “As did the drivers and engineers. In the end, a couple of mishaps dropped us down the running order, but to make it to the finish with both cars was very special.”
The team’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship effort will race next with both cars at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, March 13-16.
The team did a great job, and my teammates did a great job too. Unfortunately, I got a bit sick during the race and couldn’t contribute as much as I would have liked to, but I’m happy with the result. I’m sad we didn’t get our win, but like Laurin said, it just wasn’t there for us today.
Today we learned a second place in my very first Rolex 24 At Daytona, and my first IMSA WeatherTech race. It was a big success. Of course, to finish second always has a bitter taste, but I don’t think winning was possible with what we had. The team did an amazing job. The car was quick and had an amazing balance. We had no mistakes at all. My teammates supported me really well with all the questions I had before the race. We extended our package to the max. It’s a long season and we’ll see if we can get the victory in Sebring.
I’m very proud of this result. Even though we started from pole, this was the maximum effort we had. In the first hour of the race, we saw that our true pace was not there for a win. So we just had to stick together and stay clean throughout the race without any mistakes. Great job from the team. I think this was a great result for us.