Porsche added to its considerable legacy in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 29-30 in one of the world’s most revered sports car endurance races. In a 510-hp Porsche 911 GT3 R, Wright Motorsports etched its name among the legends of Daytona with a class win in the pro-am style GTD class. The twice-around the clock season opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was run on the 2.56-mile, 12-turn road course at the famed Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
Ryan Hardwick, driver of the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, is a co-founder of Mountain Motorsports, which operates nine dealerships, including five in the Atlanta area. That was the Mountain Motorsports logo on the car as a sponsor of the blue 1st Phorm Porsche that took the checkered flag. It was the first time Hardwick won the event. Una Vida Tequila also is a sponsor of the Wright Motorsports car.
“What a day. What an experience,” Hardwick said. “For me personally, from being in a hospital room across the street a year ago watching this race, to coming back one year later with my same team and winning this historic race… this will forever be the most special moment of my life. I can’t thank John Wright and Bobby Viglione, our engineer, for their leadership and guidance of our team. This was something I knew we could do but it is hard to put into words having done it. I couldn’t be more blessed to be surrounded by such great people.”
1st Phorm president Sal Frisella sent Hardwick this memorable video afterwards:
Seven GT3-spec Porsche race cars were entered by customer teams in Daytona, but the spotlight would land on three of the naturally aspirated flat-six machines in the closing stages of the race. Cold weather plagued the event with temperatures falling to freezing in the darkness. Teams fought the balance of the all-out assault of modern sports car endurance races with the lack of tire grip due to the frigid temperatures. Once the morning brought sun and higher temperatures to the infield road course that also uses the majority of the high-banked oval made famous by the Daytona 500, battles began to form at the front of both the GT class standings.
Wright, the 2021 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup champions, was in the top-two of the GTD class holding-off tough competition from Mercedes AMG customer teams as the race moved into its final hours.
The honor of receiving the coveted Rolex watch after a hard earned, and long fought for, career extended to the GTD class. Wright Motorsports received its first recognition as a Rolex 24 Champion despite several near misses over the years. The driver lineup of Ryan Hardwick (Atlanta, Georgia), Jan Heylen (Belgium), Zacharie Robichon (Canada) and factory driver Richard Lietz (Austria) drove a steady race often threatening the all-pro class entrants in outright speed and strategy. It was Heylen who, on the final stint of the race, was able to pull a gap for a convincing victory. It was a first for every driver but factory ace Lietz who scored his second Rolex watch, the first coming in 2014.
Porsche is the overall (21) and class victory record holder for manufacturers at Daytona International Speedway. Today’s twin class wins bring the Daytona total to 79 (GTD Pro) and 80 (GTD). In total, Porsche has earned 587 race victories in IMSA competition history, the most of any brand by a margin of 239.
Volker Holzmeyer, President and CEO, Porsche Motorsport North America:
“This has been an excellent start to our 2022 race season. As the Porsche team, we checked almost every box for a successful weekend in supporting our customer teams: the pole position [McCann Racing] and a one-two finish for the international debut of the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport [RS1 and Team TGM], two cars on the GTD Pro podium including race winner Pfaff Motorsports and KCMG. In addition, Wright Motorsports earned the Rolex 24 victory for the GTD class. Our congratulations to all of our customer teams who performed so well under very challenging conditions.”
John Wright, Team Owner, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R:
“This is an event I’ll never forget. The relationship between Wright Motorsports and Ryan Hardwick has been incredible, and to see our on-track results progress year after year really goes to show the drive he has, and the quality of people he surrounds himself with, and the strength of our crew.”
Jan Heylen, Driver, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R:
“Unbelievable. After all these years, to finally win the race. It is special to be here with all of these guys. It has been seven or eight years I have been a part of Wright Motorsports with Johnny [Wright, Team Owner] and Bobby [Viglione, Team Manager] and the whole team. We wouldn’t be able to do this without Ryan and 1st Phorm so big thank you to them and to Porsche for putting out a good product. I couldn’t be happier. It was a good way to end the season at Atlanta and a good way to start the new season here. I am looking forward to Sebring.”
Zacharie Robichon, Driver, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R:
“What can I say? From the beginning the Wright Motorsports team did a fantastic job. The race was insane. With 61-cars, the battling was crazy from the beginning. It was about surviving and making the right decisions. Every driver was quick and smart. The car is mostly unscathed and that is all you can ask for in this race. To be honest, I can’t even put into words how I am feeling right now.”
Richard Lietz, Driver, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R:
“Thank you to the team. This is the first time we have worked together, and I think everyone felt very comfortable from the beginning. It has felt like home, and it was a lot of fun for 24-hours. Of course, to win it and get the watch is something you cannot plan. A 24-hour race here in America is quite crazy; the best drivers in the world with the best brands fighting for this watch and we were the lucky ones. I am very happy.”