Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell have a pressing job to do, but they’ve got an eye on the next one, as well. The pair first need to close out the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD PRO title for Porsche and Pfaff Racing; but they’re also among the drivers tabbed to drive the new Porsche 963 LMDh car for Penske Motorsports in the WeatherTech Championship and the World Endurance Championship next year.
They’ve had their first taste of the new prototype and are hungry for more, but first comes the task at hand.
Jaminet and Campbell are sitting in pretty good shape as they head to Lime Rock for the first of two GT-only races this year. Having secured three victories in the No. 9 so far this season – a thrilling win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with the help of Felipe Nasr; at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca; and two weeks ago at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Pfaff’s home race – they hold a 138-point lead for the inaugural GTD PRO championship over Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor with four races left. The strategy to close it out? Keep doing what they’re doing.
“For me, the season is going pretty well,” says Frenchman Jaminet. “I guess we are leading because we haven’t had many mistakes. And the team executes every weekend; we’re at the top level in the pits and on strategy. So I believe we don’t need to do more. Sometimes you win … when you can, you do. If not, like [in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen], you just need to maximize the package. We’ve got quicker cars finishing behind us when we’re taking P3 and basically we are one of the slowest of the GTD PRO field. So that means we did, I think, quite a quite a good job. And we should just keep it up.”
Adds Campbell: “Especially looking back [at Watkins Glen], I think we were really able to capitalize and get a fantastic result, considering the history of our car at Watkins and it isn’t necessarily suited to to our car. So I think we’re able to really capitalize on and get a really good result, considering. But in saying that, looking at the last half of the season. we’ve got a lot of tracks that are in our favor, like Lime Rock.”
Jaminet and Australian Campbell have both been driving Porsches for several years, and both were elevated to full factory drivers in 2020. Along with Nasr (Brazil), Dane Cameron (USA), Kevin Estre (France), Andre Lotterer (Germany); Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), they are among the drivers slated to drive the 963 LMDh car in the WEC LMH category and the IMSA GTP class, although who is driving in which series, and where they will join forces for the endurance races, has not been determined.
“Obviously, I’m really, really excited for future years with Porsche and Penske coming together – two iconic organizations with such a rich history,” says Campbell. “So, now to be a part of such a program, and reaching, I suppose, the top of the Porsche pyramid, for me and Mathieu is quite incredible. It’s something we had dreamed off for many, many years, and especially me, seeing what the likes of [New Zealander] Earl Bamber had achieved, going through the Porsche ranks, hopefully, we can replicate something similar to that. Of course I’ve always wanted to progress into the top class at one stage in my career, and now to be doing with Porsche is very, very surreal.”
Both drivers have shaken the 963 down at Porsche’s Weissach test track, and experienced the car during a test at MotorLand Aragon in Spain. They don’t have as many miles in the new racer as some others, but it’s enough to get a feel for it. For Campbell, it was enough to get “comfortable,” despite being a rather different machine with the hybrid system, and for Jaminet, it wasn’t a vastly different experience from some things he’s driven before.
“I was surprisingly feeling OK in the car straight away,” said Jaminet, known in the paddock by many as ‘Jam-Jam’ – a nickname given to him by fellow Porsche driver Richard Lietz. “But it’s really, let’s say, not easy to get up to speed. It wasn’t that far from what we know. These cars are slightly different than the prototypes we’ve driven in the past, and from hearing the different comments from the other drivers, who are a bit more experienced in this kind of car, it’s certainly something different. But coming from GT and GTLM car it is not another world, so I felt pretty confident and pretty good in the car. It was a good first impression.
“Obviously you’ve got more downforce, more power, so it goes quicker. And this is what a driver loves. I enjoyed the test and now I’m looking forward to getting more mileage in the car.”
The drivers feel that the hybrid system will be the big change, although with a standard system across all the LMDh platforms, it’s not the same thing as the LMP1 days and the 919. There will be a learning curve for everyone involved.
“Not only us as drivers at this stage of development, getting the feeling for it, but also the engineers and coming up with different ways to be able to strategize and utilize it,” noted Campbell. “In that respect, I think the really good aspect is both parties are learning together, which I think makes it a lot easier, especially when everyone is so new to this car. [The hybrid] will be the biggest transition from GT to [the 963], I think. The downforce level is not crazy, and also these cars weight quite a lot for what they are.”
Jaminet added that one of the cool facets of the hybrid system is leaving the pits on electric power. “It’s interesting the first time you are leaving, and you have no engine. You cannot hear anything. And then it bump starts the engine.”
Campbell and Jaminet have enjoyed their time in the WeatherTech Championship, and both say they would be quite happy to return to run the 963 in North America next year. But they also realize that running the WEC means the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Of course, it could also be that the IMSA drivers join the WEC drivers for Le Mans, and then the other direction for Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans. However it works out, IMSA fans probably wouldn’t mind seeing Campbell, Jaminet and Nasr teaming up again for a repeat of this year’s Rolex 24, only fighting for the overall victory this time.