Hardwick suffered a big accident in the team’s Porsche 911 GT3 R during night practice in the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona, forcing Wright Motorsports to take over Black Swan Racing’s similar car which had been pulled due to team owner Tim Pappas testing positive for COVID-19.
However, Hardwick then suffered concussion in an accident in Wright’s Porsche Cayman in the Michelin Pilot Challenge less than a week later, leading to an overnight stay in hospital. Thus 2019 IMSA GTD champion Trent Hindman was drafted in to join Hardwick’s fulltime co-driver Pat Long, endurance extra Jan Heylen and fourth man Klaus Bachler in the #16 1st Phorm Porsche.
Now Hardwick has revealed that he will also skip the second round of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Sebring 12 Hours, where he, Long and Heylen are defending winners.
“There is nothing that I want more than to get back in the driver’s seat after what was a disappointing early end to my Daytona race weekend,” said Hardwick. “I’ve been working diligently in physical and cognitive therapy sessions over the past several weeks and making great progress.
“It was a tough decision, but I’ve made the call to sit this next one out at Sebring. I’m glad that Trent is stepping in once again, and I know he gives our team the best shot at becoming back-to-back Twelve Hours of Sebring race winners.
“I am focused on being back in the racecar with my Wright Motorsports team at Mid-Ohio [May 14-16], and going after the IMSA Sprint Championship this season.”
Hindman said: “I’m incredibly fortunate to be back with Wright Motorsports in the 1st Phorm/Mountain Motorsports/Una Vida Tequila Porsche 911 GT3 R. Extraordinary circumstances in Daytona gave me a peek inside this team and I see why they’re the defending Twelve Hours of Sebring winners.
“Massive thank you goes to [team owner] John Wright, Ryan Hardwick, and the entire Wright Motorsports team for their faith and trust in me to get the job done. Cannot wait to get back to work with these guys!”
Looking ahead to the race, Long commented that Sebring “has to be one of the most difficult tracks to pull a perfect lap together with bumps and varied surfaces from different decades.
“I believe the additional car count and influx of new drivers will bring a new tempo this year’s race, but in the end, it’s really you against the track.”
Added Heylen: “I feel confident that we will have a car to fight for the top step of the podium. I’m incredibly grateful to be here with Wright Motorsports, Patrick, Ryan, and all our partners who make this happen. We wish Ryan was in the car with us, but we’re also happy to welcome Trent back.”