P4 at the 2020 Rolex 24

January 28, 2020

After months of preparation, the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship officially began last weekend at Daytona International Speedway for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. With a new car and a new driver lineup, sports car racing team Wright Motorsports secured an impressive fourth place finish for the No. 16 1st Phorm Porsche 911 GT3 R. Drivers Ryan Hardwick, Patrick Long, Anthony Imperato, and Klaus Bachler drove a perfect race, flawlessly planned and executed by their strategists, engineers, and crew over the course of the 24 hour event.
“What a great job by everyone,” said Team Owner John Wright. “I’m so proud of how well everyone performed. We did everything right, but just didn’t have those final seconds of pace in the end. For a new combination of people to run trouble free for 24 hours, and finish within six seconds of the podium is something we should all be proud of.”

Ryan Hardwick took the green flag on Saturday from tenth position in the IMSA WeatherTech GTD class, which is known for being a highly competitive field of sports cars and world class race car drivers. The No. 16 1st Phorm Porsche was shuffled to sixteenth on the start, in an effort to keep the car clean and safe from contact in the opening laps. With the Wright Motorsports spotter watching the competition, Hardwick ran for the first hour and a half, completing 58 laps. Patrick Long took over next, putting on a clinic for the next three and a half hours. He brought the car up to fourth, and Anthony Imperato took the team into the night as the sun descended. He ran as high as third, setting up Klaus Bachler to race directly behind the class leader early into the night.

As the hours went on, the drivers continued to go through their rotation, taking time to rest and rejuvenate before the team called each one by one back to pit lane to resume his driving duties. Night continued on, and the temperatures at the circuit slowly became colder and colder with every minute. By 10:00PM, the ambient temperatures were in the low 50s, making the track incredibly slick on cold tires. Because of this, the drivers had to take extra care to allow the tires to properly warm up, racing cautiously to preserve the car.

In the wee Sunday morning hours, the team continued to press on in pit lane, enduring temperatures in the mid-40s. Despite the chilly temperatures, the Ohio-based team persevered, consistently keeping the car in the top seven. Just before sunrise, the engineers called the car into pit lane and the crew hopped over the wall to do a standard endurance race brake change in an impressive two minutes and 22 seconds.

After twelve long hours of racing under the cover of darkness, the sun finally began to light up the sky in stunning fashion by 7:00AM. After coming through the more challenging part of the 24 hour race, the team began to fight more aggressively for position as the track began to warm up again. After a record setting amount of green laps overnight, a series of cautions paused the competition throughout the morning, allowing the Wright team to gain ground on the leaders, running fourth in a four-way battle for a podium position. It was in the late morning that teams started to diverge on their fuel saving and pit stop strategies. At 10:00AM, and after 21 hours of racing, the No, 16 Porsche took the GTD class lead over the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing car. In the final three and a half hours, the team pitted at the perfect times, and continued to run flawlessly on track. However, in the end, the final caution flag that the team needed for their strategy to pay off never came, and they finished fourth, just 5.872 seconds from a podium position.

Thirty-eight cars began the grueling 24 hour endurance event, five of which retired before the race concluded on Sunday afternoon. Wright Motorsports finished the event as one of the few teams who ran mistake free, and brought their car across the finish line with the absence of any damage. In an event were finishing is a feat in itself, the team’s quality shown through though their determination and execution, the team’s fourth place result set the team up to enter the next round of the season in strong footing in the championship points.

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will take place March 18-21 at Sebring International Raceway, March 18-21. The second round in the full season championship, as well as the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup will take place over the course of hours on the road course known for its legendary bumpy surface. Details for the Wright Motorsports program at the Twelve Hours of Sebring will be announced at a later date.