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The Plaid Panther: Pfaff Motorsports headed to Daytona for 24-hour race

Vaughan, Ontario — The master repairers over at Pfaff Motorsports can practically see the palm trees in the distance as the Vaughan, Ont. shop loads up its plaid-painted Porsche 991.2 GT3 R race car for the journey to Daytona Beach.

The team is on the way down to Florida to compete in a 24-hour endurance race. This will be their fourth time competing.

The 24 Hours of Daytona, also known as Rolex 24, starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28 and ends at the same time on Sunday, with drivers only stopping for pit stops and often reaching speeds up to 280 km/hr.

“The first race is our biggest race. So we start the season with our Super Bowl,” said Steve Bortolotti, general manager of Pfaff Motorsports.

“It’s twice around the clock. There’s no break in between.”

Pfaff Motorsports is one of only two Canadian teams competing in the International Motor Sports Association’s (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, so they chose a bold plaid paint job to help them stand out from the crowd.

Following a cancelled 2020 season, the Pfaff team came out of the gate hot in 2021, finishing the year with the overall top performance and winning the championship.

A feat made all the more impressive by a year strained by lockdown restrictions and border closures. Nine out of 10 of Pfaff’s races in 2021 were in the U.S.

“We racked up enough time in quarantine or cross-border trips to qualify as cross-border workers,” Bortolotti said.

He sees this as the perfect opportunity for Pfaff Motorsports to assert itself on the professional level.

“We’ve been successful over sections of the 24 Hours of Daytona. We’ve led a bunch of laps. We’ve been fast,” said marketing director Laurance Yap.

“This is our opportunity to prove ourselves over the 24 hours.”

Throughout the race, the Porsche will see a rotation of drivers taking a turn behind the wheel, swapping out during pit stops about every three hours.

Technical director and lead engineer Andrew Marangoni said that even in a drawn-out endurance race like this, complete precision and efficiency is still the ultimate goal, as the 20-member team prepares to put it all into practice.

“To put it in perspective, you go to…a lube shop to get your oil changed, your brakes were done. You’re there for an hour or two hours—these guys do it in 45 seconds,” said Marangoni.

“It takes a lot of effort and choreography to get it down to that speed.”

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