Snow And More Bring GT3 Cup Experience To Rolex24

Madison Snow will compete in the 2015 United SportsCar Championship season again in the #58 Porsche 911 GT America. [John Wiedemann Photo]

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2015) – Madison Snow jumped straight from winning the 2013 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama championship to the GT Daytona podium in the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

That performance was a testament to Snow’s prodigious talent at the young age of 18. But he also said skills learned in the 45-minute sprint races of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama series were essential as he contributed to his team’s third-place finish in the longest and most prestigious race in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

“There were always tough battles with people in the GT3,” Snow said. “That was good. The only difference was that in moving up there was a little more competition, especially if you’re out there with pro guys instead of being with amateur guys in a series. The competition was a little bit higher, and you have to focus more on the cars around you because there are so many prototypes and GT Le Mans cars. But it’s small steps.

“The Rolex has become such serious competition that I like to call it a sprint race now. The only thing you need to worry about is a little more patience in the Rolex. If you whack in your fender or bumper, in the GT3 you can continue for another four laps and still finish great. In the Rolex, you have to deal with the damage you do to the car for the next 18 hours. That’s what the big difference is, the patience.”

Snow, now 19, is one of six drivers with recent experience in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama – an International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Single-Make Series – competing Jan. 24-25 in the most prestigious sports car race in North America, the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Other drivers include Sean Johnston, Christina Nielsen, Ben Keating, Ed Brown and Bill Sweedler.

The 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona starts at 2:10 p.m. (ET) Saturday on the 3.56-mile circuit and finishes 24 hours later. Television coverage begins FOX at 2 p.m. ET and continues on FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports 1 and live streaming of the overnight hours on

Snow, Nielsen, Keating and Sweedler are racing in the Rolex 24 in the GT Daytona class, the closest, production-based relative in the TUDOR Championship to the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series. Brown is racing in the Prototype class, with Johnston in the Prototype Challenge class.

The leap for Snow to GT Daytona was smooth because the 911 GT3 Cup car in which he won the 2013 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama championship is similar to the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT America he will share this weekend at Daytona with Jan Heylen, Patrick Dempsey and Philipp Eng.

“The car is the biggest thing because it’s virtually the same exact car as you drive in GT3,” Snow said. “So being able to have the experience, so much time getting used to the car but also figuring out how to set the car up with the team, and you go to GTD, and it’s the same thing again. There are a couple of differences, but that was an easy transition for me. That was one thing that made it smooth.”

Johnston is racing a PC car – an open-cockpit prototype – for the first time in his inaugural endurance race start instead of a GT Daytona machine like Snow. But he raced in 2013 and 2014 in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup Germany, two of the most competitive one-make Porsche series in the world, after winning the 2012 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama championship.

So he also knows the sensation of making a wrinkle-free transition in the Porsche racing family due to experience in Porsche’s one-make series in the United States.

“What the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge did was really, really teach me about the Porsche GT3 Cup race car,” Johnston said. “It’s a great place to learn the car.”

Tire management was a crucial lesson Johnston learned in the 45-minute sprint races of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. He thinks that skill will be critical as he competes in his first 24-hour race this weekend.

“Supercup races are 25 minutes,” Johnston said. “I would say the GT3 Cup has prepared me for the Rolex 24 more than Supercup and Carrera Cup because 45 minutes is long enough to the point where you have to look after and conserve the tires. Forty-five minutes is almost close to a full fuel stint.

“In IMSA, we had to take care of the tires a lot more. In Supercup and Carrera Cup, you don’t really worry about the tires at all. You just push as hard as you can. You run qualifying laps the whole time. In IMSA, I learned how to take care of the tires, and I know that’s going to lend well to what’s going to be my first professional endurance race here in the Rolex 24.”

Nielsen’s experience will be different than Snow’s, as she is racing an Aston Martin V12 Vantage this weekend at Daytona after racing a full season in 2014 in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama. But the skills Danish driver Nielsen absorbed in her first North American season last year will be a big help, even in a different marque.

“The Cup car is a really difficult car to drive, so if you can drive that car consistently, you already have a strong starting point because consistency is one of the key elements in a successful 24-hour race,” Nielsen said. “Also if you are a qualifier, you need to be able to do ‘the explosive scene,’ which is something that a lot of drivers learn from sprint racing.”

Johnston isn’t surprised recent Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama graduates are sprinkled throughout three of the four classes competing this weekend at Daytona.

“Really, I stand by this: I think the Porsche one-make championships are the best place for young racing drivers to learn and develop their skills because the 911 is such a great car to learn in,” Johnston said. “Drivers time and time and time again have told me that if you can drive a 911 quickly, you can drive anything quickly.”

Share Button