BRASELTON, Ga., (October 2, 2022) – When Wright Motorsports secured their monumental victory at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, the Porsche customer racing team immediately showed they would be a championship contender for the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Sunday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the battle for the GTD class title came down to the final laps, and with a fourth-place finish, the Wright Motorsports Porsche finished as runner-up in the championship standings.
“This is the second time in two years that we’ve come just a handful of points shy of the championship,” said Team Owner John Wright. “While it’s heartbreaking, it makes me so proud that each year, we’re right there in the fight to the very end. Ryan and Jan drove an incredible season, and really showed some true grit against such a competitive field. The crew consistently gained positions in pit lane, and the Porsche’s power and stability have no match in this series. We executed flawlessly and I’m proud of everyone.”
Petit Le Mans, the 10-hour season finale endurance racing event gifted competitors with perfectly sunny autumn days each day of the weekend. Drivers Ryan Hardwick, Jan Heylen, and endurance addition Zacharie Robichon made the most of each practice session, working with the team to develop the optimal race pace for Saturday’s final event.
Robichon started the 25th Annual Motul Petit Le Mans from ninth place, behind the No. 21 Ferrari of Simon Mann and the No. 57 Mercedes of Russell Ward. He gained a position on the start, intent on staying close to the No. 27 Aston Martin of Roman De Angelis. A majority of the field pitted within the first 65 minutes following the first full-course caution of the event. The No. 16 Porsche pitted from eighth, undergoing a full-service stop with fuel, tires, and a new driver. Hardwick took over the driving duties of the 1st Phorm Porsche, taking his first stint of the race. With over nine hours of racing remaining, Hardwick kept his pace fast and kept his moves risk-free, running near the top-ten under perfectly sunny conditions. The second full course caution came out with 90 minutes of racing complete.
The Atlanta, Georgia resident gained some ground to sit eighth at the next set of full-course cautions when a GTD battle sent two cars off course. The team pitted Hardwick for fuel only on lap 69, giving him a full tank for the restart. He took the green from eighth place, clocking in consistent lap times to maintain pace and position to save the car for the night racing. He slid to ninth, running about six seconds behind the No. 21 of Luis Perez Companc.
The field went back to green with three hours complete, and Hardwick had a trouble-free conclusion to his stint before passing the No. 16 1st Phorm Porsche over to Jan Heylen. As Road Atlanta encountered the warmest temperatures of the day, Heylen experienced a slight loss of overall grip during his stint. Despite the hindrance, he climbed from seventh place to fifth, closing in on Ward’s Mercedes. On the following pit stop, the team brought him into pit lane under caution for a scheduled pit stop from fourth place, where they made some quick adjustments on the car to help with performance.
Just before the halfway point, Heylen pitted from sixth place for a full-service stop, and the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R took on new tires, a tank of fuel, and traded drivers from the Belgian to Canadian Robichon. Robichon had a quiet and drama-free stint as dusk settled on the track, maintaining seventh place behind the No. 21 of Luis Perez Companc. The overall balance of the Porsche continued to improve with the cooler temperatures and with each setup adjustment by the team. Aided by speedy work from the Wright Motorsports crew in pit lane, the Porsche had an advantage over the No. 42 NTE/SSR car.
The track fell under full darkness and with less than two hours to go, and Heylen passed Luis Perez Companc to break back into the top ten, with the No. 57 machine 53 seconds ahead. With 40 minutes to go, the eighth full course caution occurred, bringing the field back together. The tension was palpable, as every team surveyed positions and counted potential points. The field went back to green with 30 minutes to go. The 1st Phorm Porsche restarted from sixth position, behind the No. 1 BMW of Bryan Sellers.
Heylen made the pass on Sellers and continued to climb in the final hour. In the final ten minutes of the race, the No. 57 Mercedes went off course and into the tire wall, causing a shakeup in the potential points possibilities. Sadly, the incident brough out a final full-course caution ending the race under yellow. The Wright Motorsports effort finished in fourth place, just one position shy of clinching the 2022 championship.
With two wins and five top-five finishes across 12 races, the team remained solidly in the championship hunt throughout the season. The team will carry this momentum into the 2023 season, the details of which will be announced at a later date.
In the end, we were one position short for the championship, but while it’s frustrating to come up short by such a small margin, it was an unbelievable experience to compete for this championship all year long. From the first race at Daytona all the way here to the final race at Petit Le Mans. I couldn’t be more proud of our entire team. We made no mistakes on pit lane, and no mistakes on track. Everybody did their part. We did the best we could today. Ultimately, it was one position short of where we needed to be. I’m excited to compete in this field, with these teams and these drivers, and I look forward to next year and the challenges that lie ahead. One year, this championship will be ours.
A big thank you goes to the whole team for a great season. Thanks to Ryan Hardwick and 1st Phorm for putting this program together and for all of the support from our partners. John Wright, Bobby Viglione, and all the guys here. We just came a little bit short today. It’s disappointing to be that close and not get it, but we just didn’t have the speed today. There were cars out there that were so much quicker on the front straight that we couldn’t put up a fight today because of the BOP. I’m happy with everything we’ve achieved this year, and I’m looking forward to Daytona. We have an incredible crew here and we’ll be ready for another run next year.
It was a very difficult race from the beginning. I don’t think I’ve ever done a race where we worked on the car and on the setup so much throughout the race. It was incredible the amount of work the guys were doing in pit lane. We were doing sway bar adjustments and diff adjustments. Ultimately, we got the car in a much better place where we could really keep up with the cars around us. They turned our car around. Ryan and Jan missed the championship by one position, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. We should be super proud of the fact that we came home fourth in this race, given the way it started. We’re disappointed right now, but we can’t be disappointed with the performance of the team today.
Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands
The season finale for the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands also took place over the weekend for John Goetz, Hutton McKenna, and Varun Choksey. The trio of Wright Motorsports-prepared Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars participated in the final doubleheader of the season and after securing the win in race one, Goetz came runner-up in the 2022 Am driver championship. Varun Choksey celebrated a strong seventh-place finish in race one, closing the year out seventh in the Pro Driver championship.