For most race teams, expectations would be lowered and the intensity level tempered competing in back-to-back IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship seasons with brand-new driver lineups.
Not Pfaff Motorsports. Not a chance.
The reigning GTD PRO class champion team ushers in a new assembly of drivers –Klaus Bachler, Patrick Pilet and Laurens Vanthoor — absolutely expecting to pick right up where the 2022 team left off: hoisting trophies and celebrating a title.
“We went out of our way to make sure we had the best drivers we possibly could in our car last season and they knew they had one year before their opportunity with the LMDh was coming in 2023,’’ Pfaff Motorsports General Manager Steve Bortolotti said. “And I can say, we now can’t be more excited about our driver lineup for (2023).
“The driver lineup we have now is hopefully a pairing we can keep together for a long time,’’ Bortolotti continued. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for Patrick and Klaus and obviously our history with Laurens was positive as well; so couldn’t be happier with the drivers that Porsche has put forward. These were the first three names they put forward and they literally matched what we were looking for, so that was pretty cool.”
It all bodes well for the next chapter of what’s truly been the ultimate success story. In 2022, the Canada-based Pfaff team — with drivers Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet — moved to the GTD PRO class and backed up the team’s 2021 GTD season title, winning five races and taking three additional podium finishes. From a victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, to wins from the pole position at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Lime Rock Park, to their final win of the season at Virginia International Raceway, it was a stellar year in the team’s No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R from the drop of the first green flag to the championship finish.
And a third straight title is something this organization fully believes itself capable of achieving despite the obstacles.
“For us, it’s something we keep ourselves focused on every day,’’ Bortolotti said. “We know we put a big target on our backs for our competitors. But that doesn’t change how bad we want to repeat (as champions), frankly. Keeping everyone with a level head and not getting too far ahead of ourselves with regards to celebrating our accomplishments is a reason for our success.’’
Austria’s Bachler, 31, will be making his full-time debut in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series after spending last year competing in multiple sports car and endurance series all over the world.
Pilet, 41, of France, joins the team with a veteran resume that already includes marquee GT Le Mans (GTLM) class wins in the Rolex 24 At Daytona (2014), two in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (2018 and 2019), two in the Motul Petit Le Mans (2015 and 2018) and one at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen (2019). He was the 2015 GTLM champion and also has past victories in 24-hour races at Nurburgring and Dubai.
Vanthoor, 31, of Belgium, was part of Pfaff Motorsports’ 2021 GTD championship team, as well as the 2019 GTLM champion with the Porsche GT Team, and is also a longtime competitor in the world’s great 24-hour races. He returns to the organization for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races poised to be that familiar connection from team to driver stable.
“Participating in IMSA for the full season is a special opportunity and a dream come true for me,’’ said Bachler, who has already tested the team’s new Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) at Daytona. “By sharing the car with Patrick and Laurens, I have two really fast and experienced teammates at my side. They already know the championship, the team.
“I am super excited to compete in my first IMSA season with such an experienced and professional team as Pfaff Motorsports, which dominated the championship the last two years in GTD and GTD PRO. Competing in IMSA is a new and exciting challenge for me. I am really looking forward to rousing races, great competition, awesome racetracks and great community.’’
With the Roar Before the Rolex 24 a little more than a week away, the intensity is certainly building toward the 2023 season. For Pfaff Motorsports, it’s a reset of the best kind.
Ironically, it was Vanthoor — in a competing Porsche — who challenged the Pfaff Motorsports team in an intense battle right up to the checkered flag for the class victory in last year’s Rolex 24. This January, he’ll be back behind the wheel of the popular plaid Pfaff Porsche.
And that’s exactly the way the team wants it. Expectations are high. And Pfaff Motorsports wants even more: that third consecutive class championship – with a third different driver lineup. And those drivers couldn’t be more motivated to uphold the Pfaff standard.
“We have a great time with it,’’ Bortolotti explained. “A few times a year, we get everyone together so they stay friends, not just teammates.
“There’s high-stress situations where people have to be held accountable or pushed to get more of them, and that’s my job,’’ he continued. “At the end of the day they have to know we value them and appreciate their efforts. We’ve always felt those after-hour type things we do is a great way to show them we appreciate all their hard work.
“I believe we’re plugging them (drivers) into a good situation,’’ he continued. “Beyond the drivers, we’ve all been working together and all feel comfortable working together and appreciate where we’re at.”
For the last two years, where they’re at is where they want to be. Tops in class.
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona is Jan. 20-22 with the full 61-car WeatherTech Championship field set to qualify for the Rolex 24 at 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday, Jan. 22. The Rolex 24, the first race of the 2023 season, is set to start at 1:40 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 28.