A rearguard action amid the massed ranks of PPM’s engineering brain farm, and its nimble-fingered drivers, saved what could have been a case of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

After a hugely disappointing debut for the 963 at Daytona last year, plagued by hybrid battery and gearbox problems, the 2024 IMSA SportsCar Championship season opener was relatively trouble free – apart from its No.6 car, which placed fourth, being penalized for a “ failure to adhere to controlled powertrain parameters”.

Other 963s, including the customer cars, did receive warnings for the same issue but were not forced to take penalties after the software ‘fixes’ were identified and distributed across all four machines to prevent it from happening again.

After the 24 Hours was over, Porsche’s LMDh factory director Urs Kuratle was asked about the problem that has caused the No. 6 car to be penalized, and he explained: “[It was] power made basically when the car was being charged, especially toward the Bus Stop Chicane. We had peaks and they were just too much for the system, put it this way. There were corrections done, and that was it.”

That allowed Felipe Nasr to get the job done on track, to beat pre-event favorite Cadillac by 2s after a day of hard racing.

#7 Team Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

It also meant company bigwig Michael Steiner, member of the executive board for development at Porsche AG, got to accept the teams’ trophy on the podium as the marque record its record 19th overall success. Pats on the back all around in Stuttgart.

In the days after the race, we were able to quiz PPM’s managing director for the program Jonathan Diuguid, and Raul Prados – the lead race engineer of the victorious No. 7 car.

“For whatever reason the No. 6 car was the one to experience the issues first, so it took the pain whereas the other one didn’t, so we didn’t repeat the same mistake twice,” said Diuguid.

Prados added: “We didn’t experience the issues ourselves, but we were aware that they were happening in the No.6 car, and the two cars are exactly the same.

“We took precautions, so the worries that we saw on the No. 6 car, we applied the solution before we experienced the problem.”

When asked why it happened to one and not the other, Prados replied: “I’m not sure, probably a timing thing? I can’t really explain this because the same conditions could have applied on our car. “I cannot explain why it happened.”

#7 Team Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden

#7 Team Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Diuguid elaborated on the complexity of the systems, which are used to limit the amount of energy regenerated and deployed via the common Bosch MGU-Ks that all GTP cars run.

“All these controllers and everything like that are extremely complex and so it takes a certain case of scenarios to come along and happen,” he said. “Whether it’s a brake lock-up or how one of the drivers takes a kerb in the Bus Stop, it’s things like that which can violate the controller.

“So, once it happened on the No. 6 we tried to analyze what that was and then Raul and the other race engineers are going back and forth with the ops room to put in countermeasures and make sure that the drivers are prepped – I’ m sure Raul had a myriad of conversations with Matt [Campbell] and Danny [Cameron] prior to them getting in the car, saying ‘hey, avoid this and make sure that the settings are this way’ and those kinds of things.

“Obviously we didn’t go into the race planning to have PPU violations and three stop and go penalties on the No. 6 car, because we hadn’t experienced these scenarios before. So, it was all just about the reaction, after understanding why it had happened, and making sure we had countermeasures as quickly as possible.

“One of the main points was that those countermeasures we were putting in place were taking away performance, because we were having to give larger margins to the control limits – so it’s still something we’re still trying to analyze.”

#7 Team Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden

#7 Team Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden

Photo by: Bob Meyer

While in everyday life we’re used to taking time out to upload software updates to our smart phones and laptops, there was no requirement to stop the 963s or their reboot systems – something that plagued this class in testing ahead of last year’s race here.

All the necessary software was already programmed in the car’s electronic brain, but the correct settings had to be selected by the drivers in the cockpit via the steering wheel controls.

“Once we understood where the problem was originating, the first course of action is try to help the drivers as much as possible,” said Prados. “We didn’t have to update any software. We had different parameters that can be selected with the multi-function and switches that provides this, so it was already installed in the car.

“Obviously in our car we have more- and less-aggressive settings to ensure that we were always in compliance with the rules and that our safety margin was big enough.”

And to show just how many dials, rotaries and buttons there are on a 963’s steering wheel, here’s Daytona victor Cameron explaining the functionality – which even drivers from Formula 1 say is more complex than what they’re used to:

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Watch: Steering Wheel Explained: Porsche 963



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