Last weekend the Grand American Road Racing Association kicked off its 2005 season with the 24 Hours of Daytona. There have been some rule changes since last year that have significantly altered the make up of the GT class. The GT3RS Porsche has been effectively legislated out of the series and the Porsche GT3 Cup car has taken its place as Porsche's standard bearer in the class. From a driving perspective there is not a huge difference between the two cars. The Cup car has an ABS equipped braking system, a little more body roll due to a higher minimum ride height requirement, and a little bit less horsepower. Otherwise, from the cockpit there aren't many differences.
The Cup car that I drove at Daytona was the #37 TPC Racing Porsche. Fortunately, I will be contesting the entire fourteen race series with TPC Racing My co-driver for the season will be Manuel Matos. I have driven with Manuel on a number of occasions, including the 2002 and 2003 24 Hours of Daytona. I expect we will make a very competitive duo.
Our other co-drivers for the Daytona round were Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi. The Porsche was a fairly new experience for them, but they both have very successful track records in all types of racing, so we welcomed them as teammates.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
TPC Racing ran the Cup cars in the SGS class last season on the Hoosier racing tires, so they had a lot of data to draw on going into the new season. Their philosophy tends toward a very stiff car, whereas I prefer a softer set up designed to maximize grip. We tried the stiff set up during the test weekend, as well as the first practice day of the race weekend. We were having a difficult time keeping the rear tires under the car for more than a few laps, so on Thursday night after the first qualifying session we gave up and threw a dramatically softer set up at the car. I drove it for a few laps in night practice and thought it felt great.