Sebastian Priaulx will race for AO Racing in the GT Daytona class in this year’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, including the blue-ribbon Daytona 24 Hours next weekend.
The Apex Motorsport spoke to Prialux about the season-opener, his expectations throughout the season and what it’s like being involved with his new team.
When asked what it was like racing for a team making its debut, he responded “You know they are a brand-new team, but you know I had obviously my first test with them last month which was good.
“They’re really really keen to do well, and a really good team. I couldn’t really fault anything they did, so obviously very newly formed, but very experienced with the guys they’ve got in there, so I’m sure there going to be great.”
Priaulx then went on to speak about how helpful it is to have experienced endurance racing drivers alongside him, with his teammates being PJ Wyett for the whole IMSA campaign, Gunnar Jeanette in the Michelin Endurance Cup, and former Le Man LMGTE and LMP2 class winner Harry Tincknell for the Daytona 24hr:
“It’s great, really nice to have them there, being at Daytona you need experience, you need to know what to do there, it’s a long race so having all of those guys with me is an honor, Obviously Harry (Tincknell) teammates with him last year we work really well together, just to do it again for Daytona should be a good combo, Also with Gunnar and PJ, they should be on note as well, so yeah really good line up, really looking forward to it.”
This season will be Priaulx’s first season driving a GT3 spec Porsche, so he gave his thoughts on what it will be like to drive the new Type 992 Porsche GT3 R, compared to the other Porsches he has raced with him having experience in the Cup car and GTE AM car.
“Obviously a 992 Porsche is lovely, they’re very much similar to the Cup car in a way, also very different in other ways, the shape of it is very much the same, the actual internals, the handling of the car is quite a bit different to a Cup car, not hugely it’s got the DNA, just got a bit more aero.
“I wouldn’t say more power, it’s just got more aero, a little bit more nimble, but the RSR is a little bit different to those two cars, but that car is built a little bit different.
“It’s quite hard to explain but hard to explain, the RSR is probably overall a faster car, but the new 911 GT3 really awesome bit of kit, sure it’s going to win some big races, so I’m looking forward to driving it.”
The Opener event for the IMSA season is the Roar before the 24, where the cars are tested, and then qualified for the Daytona 24 hour, and Priaulx’s goal for the test is to just settle into the car.
“I think to just get a nice groove, get comfortable, you know to just start feeling the car a little more, a new car for me as well, and for everyone pretty much that weekend, so yeah just learning what the car does, what it doesn’t do well, and what it does well so there’s a lot of things to learn over those three days.
“Hopefully everything is reliable, but yeah should be really good, it’s a Porsche there normally really amazing with that, so just really looking forward to getting out on track and turning some laps really.”
Then the weekend after is the big one, the Daytona 24-hour, Priaulx aims to be consistent and hopes to be one of the top Porsche drivers in the race.
“Obviously, everyone wants to win right, the aim probably is to keep the car on the track, be quick, just keep it smooth, keep it tidy that’s my aim really, to be consistent.
“If the cars are not there BOP wise not to win the race, just to be one of the quickest drivers in a Porsche is a win for me so yeah we’re going to go out there, and just be consistent really, that’s the aim.”
Priaulx predicts this year’s race could be one with a lot of yellow flags because of the influx of new machinery across the whole IMSA field.
“There’s obviously always teething issues with new cars, so there probably going to be quite a bit of yellow flags, maybe not our cars, but actually to do with the LMDH’s.
“They’re brand new as well, so it’s going to be interesting for sure, I don’t know how that’s going to plan out, but hopefully the cars reliable that’s what I’m hoping for, but you never know so we’ll just wait and see I think they’ve done some big races in it, two Nürburgring’s, so it should be able to do that distance, I’m sure they wouldn’t make a car that couldn’t do it, so yeah should be good.”
Obviously, an endurance race is a very gruelling task, so Priaulx must do a lot of training for these events.
“You have to do a lot of training, a lot of physical work, mental work as well, so it’s just a about stamina really keeping hydrated, all that sort of stuff so there is a lot of stuff involved, but that’s pretty much the main objectives really.”
Priaulx will be contesting the whole IMSA alongside AJ Pyett, and Priaulx wants consistent over the whole season and to be near the front of the field.
“I think just to win really, be up top, consistent like I said, don’t crash, just perform, have a mega year really, that’s what I’m hoping for.”
The new GTP/LMDH class is a bit slower than last year’s DPI cars, but Priaulx doesn’t believe this will create any issues when trying to allow traffic to pass:
“I don’t think so, I think it’ll be pretty much the same as it is normally, cause we had LMDH last year in WEC, so they’re just a little bit slower than an LMP1, but yeah they’re not too bad.”
This year’s Daytona 24 grid is very high profile, with names like Kevin Magnussen racing before his withdrawl, and a handful of IndyCar drivers, but Priaulx just sees them as competitors.This interview took place prior to Magnussen’s withdrawal.
“I mean yeah, it’s cool to be on the grid with those guys but there my sort of competitors so you know, obviously Kevin Magnussen Jan awesome drivers, so yeah it’s great but I think I’m not really focused on that sort of stuff, it’s more focusing on what I can do best, you know if there is people out there I like cool, but I mainly just focus on myself.”
Finally, Priaulx is a driver that has taken part in both the Le Man 24hr and the Rolex Daytona 24hr, and see’s the races as two separate challenges.
“They’re both different you know, can’t really compare them, well you can compare them, but there both different physically, mentally Le Man is probably quite a bit more draining, cause the whole week is you know so big, it’s such a long long weekend, a long week, you know Le Man build up, so I think Le Man is probably more draining, but Daytona in itself is draining too, they’re both gruelling races yeah.”