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.

"The Mazdas will be fast, the Pontiacs will have something up their sleeves and there will be a ton of good Porsches there, but I think we have a very good chance of doing well. I think my strong suits are consistency, staying out of trouble and bringing the car back the way it was presented. I've always had two sayings. The first is 'when you surround yourself with great people, good things happen'. I cannot think of a better saying that applies to this situation."

Zacharias, whose best finish overall at the Rolex 24 was eighth in 2007 in the TruSpeed/Wright Motorsports Riley Porsche, has been giving Martien advice for the last two years while coaching him in PCA and SCCA SPEED World Challenge events. Having finished on the podium at the Rolex 24 in 2001 in a Lola Sports Racing Prototype, believes his student is ready for the challenge ahead.

"He definitely has the drive for it, he's very passionate," Zacharias said, "He's one of those guys that if he wants to do something, he'll find a way to do it. Doing the Rolex 24 is his 50th birthday present to himself, and he really wants to do well."

The 2009 Rolex 24 marks Wright's 17th season in the event and, while every race is different, he is optimistic about his team's chances of success.

"For some reason, I feel really good about it," he commented, "I don't want to jinx it, but we have a brand new car from Porsche and it's always nice going into the 24 with a brand new car. The driver line-up is very strong - and some of Phillip Martien's enthusiasm is rubbing off on all of us. He's one of the most enthusiastic car owners that we've worked with. Phillip's passion and enthusiasm has brought a lot of excitement to our team because he's been willing to dedicate his time and his focus on getting us what we need to make it happen."

Wright added, however, that his team will have to run its car at its full potential to be able to compete with the Pontiacs and the Mazdas in the GT field.

"It's going to take good race strategy and the reliability of the Porsche," he said, "We're going to have to run our car at its full potential the entire time, and I don't think the Pontiacs and the Mazdas are running at their full potential yet. My concern right now is that more can be gotten out of the Pontiacs and the Mazdas. When we go out and practice now, we're running as fast as the car can go. The Mazdas and the Pontiacs are purpose-built race cars, while our car started with street car construction and then was turned into a race car. It's good, but it's a different approach.

"If you go into a 24-hour race running at 100 per cent of the car's capacity instead of 80 per cent, you open it up for a failure. If you don't have to use the engine, the brakes and the gearbox at their full potential, you're not hurting the equipment. That's what I'm concerned about at this point.

"The other side of the coin is that the Porsche is a proven piece, it's a very reliable, well-engineered and well-built car. It has shown good speed already, and the reliability of the Porsche is one of our main strengths, but a good finish is going to also take good preparation, good driving, good race strategy - and good luck."



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