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Welcome to the Club, Sport; New Porsche Gets Great Start in Michelin Pilot Challenge

Hopes Are High for the 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport that Claimed a 1-2 Finish at Daytona

By John Oreovicz

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – No manufacturer offers a greater breadth of customer racing options than Porsche.

From the latest generation of the 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport that made a victorious debut in January at Daytona International Speedway to the upcoming LMDh prototype that will compete in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Porsche covers the spectrum when it comes to turnkey motorsports programs.

Last month at Daytona, where the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge shared the bill with the WeatherTech Championship, 14 customer Porsches were in action, resulting in three class wins. In the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports 911 GT3 R won in the GTD PRO class while the No. 16 Wright Motorsports 911 GT3 R was victorious in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. The Michelin Pilot Challenge race, the BMW M Endurance Challenge, saw the No. 28 RS1 718 GT4 RS Clubsport claim the overall and Grand Sport (GS) class win.

The BMW M Endurance Challenge marked the competition debut of the 982-generation of Porsche’s 718 GT4 platform. Stevan McAleer took the lead from the similar No. 64 Team TGM Porsche driven by Owen Trinkler with less than 15 minutes remaining in the four-hour contest to lead a 1-2 finish that “exceeded expectations” for Volker Holzmeyer, CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America.

“It was the first outing for the car, and as a manufacturer, you are always a little nervous,” Holzmeyer said “A new car sometimes has bugs that you don’t find out in development, but this time it ran really well. That’s fantastic, because we handed the cars to the teams only in December or January so they had not much time to prepare, just a little testing.”

Nine of the new Porsches took the green flag for the race, with Andrew Davis putting the No. 8 McCann Racing Porsche on the pole. Porsche claimed four of the top six positions at the checkered flag, with the No. 93 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing entry finishing fourth and the Team TGM’s sister car, the No. 46, placing sixth.

After fielding Chevrolet Camaros in the Michelin Pilot Challenge last year, Team TGM owner Ted Giovanis elected to switch to Porsches in 2022. The 76-year-old entrepreneur cited his familiarity with racing Porsches elsewhere, including the team’s foray into the WeatherTech Championship at the 2021 Rolex 24.

The TGM Porsche failed to finish the 24-hour enduro a year ago but returned to claim a seventh-place finish in the GTD class this year with the driving shared by Giovanis, Trinkler and the Plumb brothers, Hugh and Matt.

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“Every so many years you’ve got to re-evaluate what your platform is, and I seem to adapt better to the Porsche than to a longer-wheelbase car,” Giovanis said. “Broadly, we look for reliability, competitiveness and manufacturer support across a variety of things when we make our decision. We weren’t trying to end our association with the prior manufacturer – you always want to be running to something rather than from something!

“The reliability of their cars and the level of customer support is what differentiates Porsche,” he added. “Porsche has a great factory testing program, so by the time they start pumping out race cars, they’ve run thousands of miles, whether at Weissach, Nurburgring or wherever they take it. It’s usually a great piece and this car was no different. The GT4 ran flawlessly, and I have every expectation that it will continue.”

Holzmeyer believes that Giovanis – who obtained his SCCA Pro racing license at age 46 and first entered the Michelin Pilot Challenge when he was 60 – is the exact kind of customer that the 718 GT4 RS Clubsport was designed for. The production 718 Cayman is known as one of the most user-friendly cars on the market in terms of achievable performance, and the racing version is no different.

“We have to keep in mind that this car is for gentleman drivers, and therefore drivability is very important,” Holzmeyer said. “We wanted the race car to be close to the street car to make the entry into racing. The 911 Carrera Cup car is quite a tough car to drive, whereas the GT4 was designed to make it easy to access racing. That was always the target for this car: not to scare people from racing, but to help them get into racing.”

Holzmeyer was directly involved in the planning and development of the RS Clubsport version of the 718 GT4 prior to his appointment to the CEO role at PMNA. He is proud of Porsche’s role as a leading supplier and supporter of customer racing programs at every level.

“There is a steadiness to Porsche – we have always been there, and we will always be there, with our one-make platforms, with our GT racing and now going to LMDh,” Holzmeyer said. “We have the biggest motorsport pyramid. It is copied quite a lot, but I think we are the only ones that go from proper GT street cars that are ready for track use all the way to LMDh.

“It’s a unique assortment that nobody else has, and in the U.S., we have a dedicated company just to service customer racing. That’s a big asset for the customers, to have a local warehouse, to be in the same time zone, to have local engineers who travel to all the races.”

Porsche teams will be back in action in full force March 16-19 at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. In addition to the WeatherTech Championship 12-hour headliner on March 19, the Michelin Pilot Challenge races March 17 with the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 and the Porsche Carrera Cup North America single-make series opens its season with a pair of races also on March 17.