Wright Motorsports has confirmed that it will enter a 2009-spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, sponsored by Phillips Way Racing, in selected Rolex Series races next season, beginning with the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
Team owner John Wright has assembled a four-man roster for the Grand-Am season-opener, with car owner/driver Phillip Martien being joined in his first appearance at Daytona by veteran BJ Zacharias and factory Porsche stars Sascha Maassen and Patrick Pilet. The white Porsche will carry the number 33 with Martien's $100m construction company, Phillips Way Inc, coming on board as title sponsor. The Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati is an associate sponsor.
Maassen's involvement will bring added attention to the team, having driven a Porsche RS Spyder for Penske Racing in the American Le Mans Series. A two-time GT class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a four-time GT class winner at both the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans, the German will be reunited with Wright, who was his crew chief at one of the two previous Rolex 24s in which he has competed. Pilet, meanwhile, finished third in this year's ALMS GT2 class with Flying Lizard Motorsports, having won the 2007 Porsche Carrera Cup France championship with Graff Racing.
Although Zacharias and Maassen, both in their 30s, and 27-year old Pilet are professionals of some repute, Martien will be competing in his first Rolex 24 as a 50th birthday present. It's definitely not a whim, however, as both Wright and Zacharias have worked with him for two years in other series in preparation for the Daytona challenge. Wright and his crew prepare Martien's car, while Zacharias has acted as driver coach in a relationship not unlike a resident pro at a golf resort. Wright said Martien's enthusiasm for competing in his first Rolex 24 has been infectious and served to energise the entire team and, although the race is still some five weeks away, the debutant is already counting the days.
"The adrenaline is already pumping," the father of three admitted, "I think staying focused for the full 24 hours will be the hardest thing for me, but I've been working with a personal trainer for a year to get in shape to do this. I'm hardly going to get any sleep during the race, so the thing for me at my age will be to try to be as sharp as I can be. I'm a go-getter and, in construction, it works. In endurance racing, you have to be fast but you also have to be very patient. It's completely different than my business. You have to go as fast as you can, but you also must be patient.”
Martien got off to a good start when he and Zacharias tested the Porsche at Daytona last month, and he is clearly gelling with the team – even if he has yet to meet the two stars being supplied by Porsche.
"That was the first time I was running next to the faster Daytona Prototypes and the first time I was racing at night, but I did well," Martien claimed, "I was calm and I didn't spin or anything. I'm just so excited to have this opportunity. BJ and John are exactly what I need - BJ is wonderful, he has much more experience than I do, and he can drive the car and tell John what the set-up needs. I couldn't ask for better co-drivers than BJ, Sascha and Patrick - Patrick is French; we'll talk French and have a great time, I'm sure."
The entire team will practice together at the event's official test on Daytona's 3.56-mile road course in early January, but Zacharias is happy to have got a headstart with Martiens.
"It was good that Phillip and I did that last test day in November," he said, "I think we have a really good package. Porsche has done some good updates, and we still have some work to do to sort out the new Pirelli tyres we'll use in 2009, but I think our team is one of the best ones out there. John has a ton of experience, especially in this race, and he really preps the guys for it. I don't know if we'll have the fastest car there or not, but I think we'll be prepared.