Topping the pyramid: GTP ride awaits those in Porsche program

Topping the pyramid: GTP ride awaits those in Porsche program

The next time you’re at an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event, pay closer attention to the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands support race. One day in the future, you just might see one or more of those drivers competing in a Porsche 963 LMDh prototype at the Rolex 24 At Daytona or the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The North American Carrera Cup, along with around a dozen other national or regional Carrera Cup series, is arguably the most important level of the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid, a program designed to identify talent in grassroots racing and provide a platform and a path to the very top level of sports car competition – a factory drive in a Porsche prototype.

For upcoming examples, look at Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell, who currently share the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the GTD PRO class of the WeatherTech Championship. They have won four of the seven races thus far in 2022 – including Saturday at Lime Rock Park – and have built a whopping 215-point lead in the class standings.

Jaminet’s involvement with Porsche began in 2015, when he finished second in the Carrera Cup France. The following year, he joined Porsche’s Junior Program, which trains young drivers to become brand ambassadors, and won his nation’s Carrera Cup. That advanced him to Porsche Young Professional status, where he was placed with customer teams to gain experience in various international championships, including IMSA, with factory support.

Campbell has raced Porsches since 2014, winning Carrera Cup Australia in 2016. He spent a year as a Porsche Junior in the Mobil1 Supercup (the ultimate worldwide Carrera Cup championship), then gained Young Professional status a year later, culminating in his current role alongside Jaminet as a Porsche factory driver competing at the GT level for an international customer team.

They first paired to win a WeatherTech Championship race last year in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class as drivers of the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Among their wins this season in the No. 9 Pfaff Porsche was the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, when they were joined by Felipe Nasr, a recent addition to the Porsche stable.

Making the GTP leap

All of this has served as preparation for Campbell and Jaminet’s next big promotion: They are among six drivers, including Andre Lotterer, Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor, recently nominated to drive the 2023 Porsche 963 for Porsche Penske Motorsport. Dane Cameron and Nasr, both past Daytona Prototype international (DPi) champions in the WeatherTech Championship, were announced as drivers for the Porsche 963 program late last year.

None of the drivers know whether they will be competing in the WeatherTech Championship’s Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class that begins next season or the FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar class – or a combination of both. But the assignment of Jaminet and Campbell by Porsche to run the full WeatherTech Championship GTD PRO slate in 2022 could be in preparation for them to be part of the marque’s GTP program in North America.

It’s a fairytale story for the pair of 27-year-olds to reach the pinnacle of sports car racing at such a young age. And it’s mostly down to the Porsche Pyramid.

“For us to represent these two big brands — Porsche and Penske — it’s an honor and a privilege, especially for us, coming from the bottom of the Porsche Pyramid,” Jaminet said. “We both come from the local Carrera Cup series – then became Junior, drove the Supercup, then moved to GT, Young Professional and then factory driver, now becoming Porsche Penske Motorsports drivers – it’s a dream come true in the end. This is why we went into (Carrera) Cup cars in the very beginning.”

Campbell and Jaminet have been involved in the Porsche 963 development program and are impressed with the professionalism and focus.

“Seeing the organization and the way everyone is working together is very impressive,” Campbell said. “We’ve been part of factory efforts before in the U.S., but now, being part of this program, it’s very much a different level.

“It’s quite surreal to see just how big the operation is, and it’s only going to continue growing, with two cars in WEC and two cars in IMSA. To be a part of this and see who is involved in two such iconic organizations is very impressive.”

Porsche makes the path smoother

Jaminet observed that many of the cockpit controls and systems in the 963 are similar to the GT3 and RSR iterations of the Porsche 911 that he and Campbell have raced for nearly a decade. That’s another way climbing the Porsche Pyramid has helped ease the transition to a much faster and more capable racing car.

“I believe it’s the biggest step we’ve ever done in our career, switching to this car,” said the Frenchman. “This is clear, not only from a driving standpoint and learning something different, but from a practical standpoint, it requires quite a lot out of a driver.

“For such a complex program it’s difficult to take on very young people, so I’m glad that Porsche trusts us to show that the Pyramid is working and will be successful in the future,” Jaminet continued. “We have arrived at age 27-28 and we feel ready for it. If I was 22, I might have been driving the same speed as now, but I was definitely not ready for it because of all the technical side. To trust a young driver with such a car is not that easy. It’s good to learn through all the ranks because the factory really taught us this over the years.”

The Porsche Pyramid clearly works. Look at Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber. Both advanced through the Porsche ladder, culminating in victory at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 919 prototype. Bamber added a second overall Le Mans win for Porsche in 2017, and both remain involved in factory sports car racing programs in the WeatherTech Championship – Bamber for Cadillac, Tandy for Corvette Racing.

Kay van Berlo is a 21-year-old University of Miami student who has won six of 10 races in the 2022 Porsche Carrera Cup North America, including weekend sweeps at Sebring, Long Beach and Watkins Glen. He’s also been part of the winning Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) lineup this year at the Rolex 24 and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

Remember that name, because a few years from now, van Berlo just might graduate to the big sports car stage. In a Porsche, naturally.