Donegal racing driver Damien Faulkner is off to Florida today for the first ever race of the brand new IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – formed from the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series. Faulkner says he is proud to be the only Irish driver taking part in the full series of 11 races to be held this year, in what is now the leading motor sports championship series for the US and Canada. Preparations for the first race – the Rolex 24 Hours – kick off at Daytona Beach, Florida this Thursday, and on Saturday 25th January, the Donegal champion Porsche driver will start his first race for the GB Autosports team, who also have their first outing at this new series.
One of the world’s finest Porsche drivers, Faulkner is a two-time Porsche Carrera GB Champion (2005-2006), two-time Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup Vice-Champion (2007-2008) and the winner of his first American Le Mans race at the 2011 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. At Daytona, he will share the driving duties in the No. 81 Tully’s Porsche 911 GT America as the team targets a victory in the “GT Daytona” Class. “The competition is unbelievable, with the number of cars and the level of strong teams,” says Faulkner, who has a 2-year contract with the GB Autosports team. “It’s going to be a monster challenge for everyone, but we are all really looking forward to it!”
The race circuit is just over 3.5 miles long and cars are expected to make about 23 stops over the 24 hour duration using an estimated 96 Continental Tyres each. “24 hour races are the hardest to predict,” says Faulkner, who will share the driving with team mates Patrick Huisman, and Bob Faieta. “It’s not just the role of the drivers which is crucial but the whole team – every re-fuelling and tyre change is crucial.” The team will be driving the Porsche 911 GT America, a new racecar built by Porsche Motorsport exclusively for this year’s new series and new GT Daytona class. It is based on the seventh generation of the Porsche 911 street car, and represents an enhanced version of the highly-successful Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Faulkner says team GBAutosport’s aim is to be competitive over the entire 24 hours, “which is what we need to win the race.” From this side of the Atlantic, the race can be seen on Motors TV UK (Channel 447 on Sky Ireland) from 7pm n Saturday 25th, overnight and on to midday on Sunday 26th. You can also see it IMSA.com
A native of Moville, on the Inishowen peninsula, Faulkner has been racing for almost 20 years. “My parents own a car dealership, so I grew up around cars. I already had an interest in racing but when I was 17, I won a voucher for the Mondello Park Racing School and after that I was hooked, and started to plan for a career in racing.” Damien won his first race the next year and his first Championship at 19, and then went on to a string of wins, including 1994 Champion Irish Formula Ford, 1995 Champion British Formula Vauxhall Junior W. Series, 1997 Champion British Formula Renault Sport Winter Trophy and 2000 Champion European Formula Palmer Audi Series. He divides his time between the US, Donegal and Dublin, where he and Laura, his wife of 6 months, have an apartment.