To make matters worse for the Porsche crew, Job, who worked at Porsche-Audi dealerships in Florida for two decades before making his foray into race-team ownership, had added an Audi entry for the 24-hour. Audi Sport had called him with an offer to campaign an R8 Grand Am with the help of factory mechanics during race prep. It was an offer made to three teams, but it was the Job team’s #24 Audi that qualified fastest among the R8s — in sixth position, well ahead of the #23 Porsche.
After night practice and lots of head scratching, the new Porsche RSR transmission was disengaged and quickly carried by the team’s pit truck to the trailer manned by Porsche’s transmission specialist for a quick examination before the garage closed. The pre-load in the differential, which determines how the limited slip responds, was not set to what the team had ordered when it bought the new transmission. Problem solved — except no equipment, budget, driver experience or mechanical knowledge could replace a missed day of practice after other contenders had already begun successfully adjusting and fine-tuning for the higher ambient temperatures.
The AJR team played catch-up on Friday, but it remained to be seen how things would go on Saturday once the race started under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 70s. “With the Porsches, you start with the pre-load in the differential for the set-up,” said crew chief Phil Pierce, standing on the grid less than an hour before the start. “All the rest of the suspension settings are done based on what pre-load you have in the car.”
“We lost a ton of practice time,” he continued. “The car is close. We’ll have to wait and see until the race starts.” Pierce knew he could rely on a veteran crew behind the wheel to at least keep the Job Porsche in the running. The team had arguably two of the best Porsche 911 drivers in the world in Dutchman Bleekemolen and Irishman Damien Faulkner. Young Porsche factory driver Marco Holzer, age 24, and 20-year-old Cooper McNeil, the GTC champion last year in the ALMS, filled out the line-up.
In aggregate, this quartet had run 39 professional-caliber 24-hour races and lacked nothing in the confidence department. “It’s fair to say we were disappointed by what happened in qualifying, but we weren’t disillusioned,” said Faulkner. “There’s a depth of knowledge with this team that we can rely on.”
McNeil, whose father David owns the team’s sponsoring company Weather Tech, suffered more than the other drivers by virtue of less seat time — occasioned by the need to recover some speed with the veterans on board. In his third Daytona 24-hour, McNeil attends the University of Colorado at Boulder when he’s not racing. Understandably, he’d have preferred more seat time at the Daytona branch of the University of Porsche.
Once the green flag dropped, it was clear the Job Porsche would not be dictating the pace and thereby testing others’ endurance. The #23 was consistent on the Continental spec tires and got excellent fuel mileage, but its pace was half a second off from the Porsches of Magnus and TRG, the Ferraris of AIM Autosport and Corsa Michelotto. Despite a bevy of pre-race complaints about being down on power, the Audis of Job, Rum Bum Racing and APR were also quicker, in part due to better consistency on tires.