BATAVIA, Ohio, Jan. 21 — Batavia, Ohio-based Wright Motorsports is in the final stages of preparing a brand-new Porsche 911 GT America car, the Universal Industrial Sales #58, that is Snow Racing’s entry in the 52nd annual Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., this weekend, Jan. 25-26.
The race is the inaugural event in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, sanctioned by IMSA. A total of 67 cars are entered among four classes. The Snow Racing Porsche that Wright Motorsports will service before, during and after the race is one of 29 cars in the biggest class, GT Daytona.
Snow Racing has elected to use three drivers: the reigning IMSA GT3 Cup champion, Madison Snow, of Lehi, Utah; Jan Heylen of Tampa, Fla., and Marco Seefried of Amerbach, Germany.
As far as the series’ records show, Snow, 18, will be the youngest driver in the field for the second year in a row. Heylen, a former Champ Car driver who is making his fourth Rolex 24 start, is 33. Seefried, a Porsche test driver who finished fourth in the 24 Hours of Debai Jan. 10-11, is 37. He’s making his third Rolex 24 start.
What’s making its first start is the UIS #58, which arrived at Wright Motorsports’ headquarters in December. Getting it ready for such a strenuous test has found Wright Motorsports’ personnel registering many long hours that will hopefully pay off come race day.
Despite the time crunch, the Snow Racing #58 showed extremely well at the series’ pre-Rolex 24 test, called the “Roar Before the Rolex 24,” Jan. 3-5 at Daytona. Heylen, a native of Geel, Belgium, posted the second-fastest time for the entire class when he took only 1:48.228 to cover the 3.56-mile road course.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” said John Wright, head of Wright Motorsports, about the Roar Before the Rolex. “The test didn’t go as smoothly as we would have liked it to have gone, but the car has a lot of potential and our drivers and crew are getting more comfortable with it every day.”
Madison Snow explained it in more detail.
“We worked on setting the car up to make it faster, but what we really focused on was the ergonomics of the car,” he said. “We wanted to make it the best fit for everyone inside the car, as that would make it much easier to drive for a longer time during the race. We did work on set-up, but we knew the weather could be very different on race weekend, so we didn’t set the car up for the race; we just got it to the point where we all liked it.”
“It’s a brand-new car for everybody — the team, the drivers — so we’re all learning how to drive it and how to make it reliable,” Heylen concurred. “We came away from the test with a lot of good information to prepare for the race.”
All three drivers are impressed with their new ride.
“This car is very stock from Porsche compared to the car we had last year, which we had to massively modify in order to make it comply with the rules,” Snow said. “This just makes it a much cleaner design. Also, the dash and the seat are entirely different. They are both very nice, as the dash is easier to read and you feel safer in the seat, but they just take getting used to, as anything new does.”
“The new car is very different than the previous version,” Seefried said. “There are plenty of changes, but to break it down to the biggest ones it’s the new paddle-shift system; the new car has a longer wheelbase and track width; and third, it has a different aero efficiency.”
“I think we have one of the best driver line-ups in the field, and the best Porsche team prepping the car,” Heylen said. “I believe we have all it takes to compete with the best! All we need is a little luck!”
Seefried has a lot of confidence going into the race too.
“I think we have a quite strong driver line-up,” he said. “Madison has improved even more from last season. Jan is a well-known pro in the United States and knows what to do. We all know the Porsche well, and the preparation of the car is great. Wright Motorsports does awesome work, and I’m convinced that we will have a real strong Porsche on the grid!”
Snow said he thinks the team has a good chance for a podium finish, despite the common practice of teams sandbagging at the test.
“A lot of the cars at the test never go as fast as they can until the race starts, so you never know for sure,” he noted. “Posting the second-fastest time at the test does make us feel like we have a good car though, because we know we were fast.”
All three drivers realize that it’s a long race.
“You don’t win the Rolex 24 in the first 20 hours,” Heylen noted.
“We need to stay on the lead lap until the last hour, and then we race,” Seefried said. “But this year since we have the new championship format, it will be difficult because we will have a lot more traffic. Managing the traffic and staying out of trouble will be one of the most difficult things for the 2014 race!”
“We all need to be careful!” Snow emphasized. “We can’t make any stupid moves that can get us taken out of the race, and that can be very easy to do if you get caught up in a battle with someone. We just need to maintain a good pace and stay on the track, and it all should be good.
“I think it should be a great race!” Snow added. “There’s so many cars in our class, so it’s very competitive. There is also a very high number of Porsches out there, which is great because it gives us many more people to work with.”
“I think it’s going to be very exciting, and I’m excited to be going to Daytona with Wright Motorsports and Snow Racing!” Heylen added. “Our team is focused on winning, and winning only!”