The team suffered a setback last week when Ryan Hardwick shunted the 911 GT3 R in practice, obliging Wright Motorsports to adopt the chassis of Black Swan Racing, which has withdrawn its entry due to team owner Tim Pappas testing positive for COVID-19.
However, Hardwick redeemed himself in the qualifying race and thanks to his and fulltime teammate Pat Long’s efforts, the team climbed from 19th in class to finish ninth, where they will start on the GTD grid on Saturday. They will be joined by ex-Champ Car racer Heylen – with whom they won last November’s Sebring 12 Hours – and Klaus Bachler, who drove with Long and Hardwick to fourth in last year’s Rolex 24.
This line-up, the Wright team’s preparation and the Porsche’s qualities have combined to convince Heylen they can be in contention for victory come Sunday afternoon.
“I think we had a lot of good things happen for us in the Roar,” said the 40-year-old Belgian. “A few things didn’t come our way, but all in all, we have a team that is very well prepared for this event, and we have a big week ahead of us.
“We’re with the best team in the paddock, so I know preparation won’t be an issue. The Porsche in general is competitive, and if it were to come down to the last hour in the race, we have a car we can fight with.
“It’s nice to be here with Patrick and Ryan again, and having Klaus with us again. We have a good team and a good lineup.”
Said Hardwick: “I am coming off a weekend at the Roar where I did some of the best driving of my life, and I’m ready to show that same pace when it counts this weekend in the Rolex.
“I’m confident that our Wright Motorsports team is the most prepared team in the GTD field, and that my co-drivers are all as eager as I am to go for the win this weekend.
Long struck a more cautionary note, stating that, “This is a deep field of great entries, and a top-five is going to be a real challenge.
“We had a phenomenal Roar week right up until night practice when it all fell apart. We dug deep and the team did an amazing job to get us onto the grid for the qualifying race.
“The qualifying race was a pretty messy affair. Cars were all over the place, but we are proud of the team effort that was able to get these laps under our belt and gain some data with this new car.”
For an updated entrylist for 59th Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona click here