Pfaff Motorsports mechanics put the finishing touches on their plaid-painted Porsche 991.2 GT3 R race car at a vehicle shop in Vaughan, Ont., on Saturday.
They fine-tuned the suspension, checked the aero settings and tuned the fender angle, all before loading the car into a long-haul truck for the trip to Daytona Beach, Florida, a city synonymous with motor racing in great speed. .
The Greater Toronto Area-based motorsport team is heading to the United States to take part in a grueling 24-hour endurance race for the fourth time.
The 24 Hours of Daytona, also known as the Rolex 24, will begin with the wave of a green flag at 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 28 at Daytona International Speedway and end the following day at the same time. Drivers will rush around a 5.73km (3.56 mile) course, stopping only for pit stops, with some cars reaching speeds as high as 280km/h.
“Race one is our biggest race, so we start the season with our Super Bowl,” said Steve Bortolotti, general manager of Pfaff Motorsports. “It’s two hours out of 24. There’s no break in between.”
Pfaff Motorsports is one of only two Canadian-owned and operated professional motorsport teams competing in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Their Canadian roots inspired the car’s paint job, Bortolotti said, making them easily “fan favorites” among the mostly American crowd.
After pausing the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 lockdowns, Pfaff won the championship on his return to racing last year for best overall performance throughout the 2021 season.
It was a challenge, especially given the pandemic at borders and travel restrictions. Nine of their 10 races in a normal year are in the United States
“We have accumulated enough time in quarantine or in cross-border travel to qualify as cross-border workers,” Bortolotti said.
This year, after moving from a mixed pro-amateur category to a full-fledged professional category, the Pfaff team hopes to step onto the podium in front of tens of thousands of fans.
“We were successful in some sections of the 24 Hours of Daytona. We led several laps. We were fast,” said marketing director Laurance Yap. “It’s our chance to prove ourselves over the 24 hours.”
The Porsche, a factory-built race car that has 530 horsepower, will be driven by a rotation of three “factory drivers”, one each from Australia, France and Brazil. They take turns at the wheel, changing every three hours or so during pit stops.
Yap said the key is for everyone on the roughly 20-member team — from engineers and mechanics to drivers and the pit-stop team — to be hyper-focused on their tasks and avoid doing errors.
“If that happens, all the pieces fit together and you have a great weekend,” Yap said.
“Looking for that extra tenth of a second”
Technical Director and Chief Engineer Andrew Marangoni is responsible for ensuring the car is in its best possible condition, because “you’re always looking for that extra tenth of a second”.
But valuable time can also be saved by practicing the pit stop routine until it’s perfect.
“To put it into perspective, you go to a lube shop to get your oil changed, your brakes fixed. You’re there for an hour or two – these guys do it in 45 seconds,” Marangoni said. . “It takes a lot of effort and choreography to get to that speed.”
In two weeks, they hope all the preparation will push the Porche plaid over the finish line – ahead of the competition.