Just over a year after the presentation of the new hybrid prototype Porsche 963 LMDh, Porsche won the 24 Hours of Daytona! The factory-entered Porsche Penske with number 7 won the traditional opener to the endurance season just ahead of Cadillac. After a sobering ninth place at Le Mans in its first year of racing, this is the first success in a major endurance race for Porsche’s new hybrid racer.
For the first time since 2003, Porsche secured overall victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona. After a thrilling 791 laps, the #7 Porsche 963 LMDh entered by Porsche Penske Motorsport won by a tiny gap. Only two seconds separated them from the second-placed #31 Cadillac at the end of the 62nd edition of the endurance classic.
The driver quartet of Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell and Josef Newgarden fought a close battle with the Cadillac Racing prototypes for almost the entire race. Although in qualifying it initially looked as if the overall victory would only go to the local heroes from Cadillac. Their factory prototypes locked-out the front row with grid positions 1 & 2 ahead of the #7 Penske Porsche, which went on to win.
Matt Campbell took the lead in the Porsche 963 LMDh early in the morning. Penske’s lead car stayed out of trouble and kept it until the end. The sister car driven by Nick Tandy, Mathieu Jaminet, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor, on the other hand, was plagued by bad luck. Due to a time penalty and a spin on cold tires, the second Porsche works car missed out on the podium by just under four tenths of a second.
Member of the Executive Board for Development at Porsche, Michael Steiner celebrated Porsche’s first victory in a major endurance race with the new 963. “What a great win to start the year. The entire Porsche Penske Motorsport works team and everyone at the development center in Weissach worked extremely hard to lay the foundations for this success”, was Steiner’s conclusion after a whole day of racing in Daytona.
Porsche’s Head of Motorsport Thomas Laudenbach was also delighted. “I find it difficult to put the emotions into words. We won Daytona 2024 – amazing! I have never experienced such an intense battle. We won one of the really big races today”, summarized Laudenbach.
A year ago, Porsche’s top motorsport manager set the 20th overall victory at Le Mans as his goal. Perhaps this will now be achieved after a year’s delay. “Four Porsche 963s, two from Porsche Penske Motorsport and two from our strong customer teams, have driven through without any major technical problems – you have to achieve that first”, says Laudenbach, sharing his optimism.
Despite the great success in Daytona, it remains clear that Porsche Motorsport must be measured against its own goal of winning Le Mans. However, the regulations remain one of the key factors. These days, the regulations are much stricter than in the Group C era for example. With the so-called Balance of Performance, the rule makers keep the field as close together as possible. If a team is too fast, it can be slowed down by reducing engine power or adding weight, for example.
That’s why Porsche dominance like in the Group C era will certainly not be repeated. Instead, it is all the more important to execute the races without making any mistakes. And all this while the gaps between the top teams are often only a few hundredths of a second per lap, even during the race. In 2023, Ferrari managed this best at the Sarthe in the 100th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But one thing is certain: on June 15/16, 2024, Porsche wants to be back at the top of the podium of the world’s most famous endurance race for the first time since 2017. And with the 24 Hours of Daytona, at least the dress rehearsal went to the team from Zuffenhausen.
© images: Porsche AG