DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When it comes to pure numbers, Porsche has the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship covered, supplying four of the 10 cars in the Rolex 24 at Daytona field.
Porsche is also the only one of four (soon to be five) manufacturers participating in GTP that currently sells cars to private customer teams in addition to fielding the two Porsche Penske Motorsport entries.
Those customer Porsches proved their worth Saturday at Daytona Int’l Speedway, as Phil Hanson turned the fastest lap of this year’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 test sessions in the No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963 in preparation for next weekend’s Rolex 24.
Hanson’s time of 1 minute, 35.216 seconds (134.599 mph) in the fourth sessions of track time since Friday paced a tight field in which the top five cars were clustered within about a quarter of a second.
Neel Jani and Connor De Phillippi came closest to Hanson on Saturday afternoon, clocking identical 1:45.329 laps in Proton Competition’s No. 5 Porsche 963 and the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8, respectively.
Hanson, a 24-year-old Englishman, was asked whether he felt the factory Penske Porsches that finished eighth and 10th in the same session were not yet showing their hand.
“I don’t think we’ve shown our hand yet, to be honest,” Hanson replied with a grin. “The JDC boys did a really good job of rolling out with a strong package this morning, and I think that showed in both practice sessions. We were very fast in the morning when my teammates drove, and that also translated into the afternoon.
“I think we’re in good shape, to be honest,” he added. “We’re just trying to learn as much as we can about the car. There are several other things we want to understand, foreshadowing the race weekend. There are going to be very different conditions, so we want to get as much data as we can now to adapt as best we can. The team is doing a really good job at the moment, and it’s nice to be at the front.”
JDC-Miller was the first customer team to campaign a Porsche 963, beginning in May 2023 in the race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The team’s full-time drivers this year are Richard Westbrook and 2023 carryover Tijmen van der Helm, joined at the Rolex 24 by Hanson and last season’s Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class champion Ben Keating.
Keating is performing double duty at Daytona, sharing the JDC-Miller Porsche in GTP while also anchoring the driver lineup in his full-time ride – the No. 2 United Autosports ORECA LMP2 07 in the LMP2 class.
He was fastest in LMP2 in the Saturday afternoon session, notching a 1:39.047 lap (129.393 mph).
Nicklas Nielsen turned the quickest LMP2 lap of the day in the morning with a 1:38.576 (130.011 mph) in the No. 88 Richard Mille AF Corse ORECA.
Keating shares the No. 2 car with Nico Pino, Ben Hanley and Patricio O’Ward. United Autosports also paced LMP2 on opening day of the Roar, in the hands of Paul di Resta in the team’s No. 22 entry.
“Obviously it’s early in the process of going through this event, but it’s looking like we’re near the top,” said di Resta, whose No. 22 Daytona teammates are Daniel Goldburg, Bijoy Garg and Felix Rosenqvist. “We’re being naive in the sense that we’re just concentrating on ourselves, trying to make the best possible car with the philosophy we think, and hopefully that will enable us to battle for the win.”
Klaus Bachler managed the fastest GT lap of the day, recording 1:45.799 (121.135 mph) in the afternoon session in the No. 86 MDK Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (type 992) that competes in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.
Tommy Milner produced the day’s best lap in the GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class in the morning, timed at 1:45.844 (121.084 mph) in the No. 4 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R.
Porsche finished 1-2-3 in GTD in the Saturday afternoon session, a year after a difficult debut for the latest generation of the 911 GT3.
“I would definitely take it if next Sunday we would end up in this position,” Bachler remarked, looking ahead to the Rolex 24. “Nothing else to say – it was a good session for us, and the car felt really good. Last year was really hard for us; it was honestly the longest and hardest 24-hour race I’ve ever had. This is different this year, for sure.”
Roar activities continue Saturday evening with a two-hour session under the DIS lights. A final GTP session is set for 1:25 p.m. ET Sunday, just ahead of Rolex 24 qualifying for all classes at 1:55 p.m.
Peacock has live streaming coverage of the Sunday practice and qualifying.
The 62nd running of the Rolex 24 takes place Saturday, Jan. 27. Flag-to-flag coverage is available on the NBC Sports platforms, with the race start airing live on NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.
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