Pfaff Motorsport’s Dennis Olsen arguably drives one of the coolest cars on the grid: a Porsche 911 dressed in distinctive Canadian chequered plaid. At just 24 years old, the Norwegian racer grabbed the title for last year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge by finishing off the season in another Motul-partnered Porsche by the Frikadelli team. Needless to say, we needed to have a chat with him.
Dennis, how’s confinement in Norway?
To be honest, in Norway we don’t have as many cases and we live in a huge country and only 5-6 million people so, apart from less traffic, you don’t really notice much here. Although the racing and big events have stopped, I’ve still been spending time at the track coaching for the local Porsche centre. So, I'm not completely disconnected as some other drivers have been.
A lot of drivers have sought refuge in sim-racing lately. Have you also have a go at it?
No, not for the moment. I thought about it but the demand is so high that when I was looking in to order one there was a very long wait. Now that I see the SRO and IMSA seasons will be picking up in July, I stopped looking into it as it would just be for one month. On top of that the coaching still gives me a bit of actual track time which is really, really valuable.
Last year must’ve been an absolute rollercoaster for you, racing all over the world with a title to come home with?
It was an incredible experience. It’s hard to keep track of all the amazing places I’ve raced. Bathurst, Suzuka, Spa, Laguna-Seca, Kyalami… the list goes on. To top it all off, to win a title is amazing. Needless to say, I reached platinum frequent-flyer status quite quickly [laughs].
Can you describe what it’s like racing a Porsche 911 GT3-R?
It’s a very unique car. As it’s a Porsche, it’s the only car in the field that has its engine behind the rear wheels, which has some benefits as all of the weight is at the rear so you have a lot of traction. But it also demands a very unique driving style. On top of that the 911 has kept its classic Porsche looks for all these years and it’s a very recognisable car so I’m very proud to be able to race it so much.
As a customer racing effort goes, you’ve raced different 911 GT3-R’s throughout the year, are there differences between the cars?
Not really, we always start with a base setting at every track, so the starting point is always the same. On top of that there is always a Porsche engineer on site who makes sure the cars are working at peak performance.
Of course, we have to talk about Daytona and the Pfaff team you joined. Unfortunately you didn’t leave Florida with a desired result but walk me through the experience of racing at Daytona?
Racing in the US is always special, especially at Daytona. I personally love American tracks because, compared to the European tracks, they are very old school. In Europe a lot of the tracks have so much space to make errors, there’s always a run-off zone somewhere. In the US there isn’t; you’re either on the grass of in the gravel trap. Due to the regulations, racing in the US is a little bit fairer, I feel. I also really love the racing-atmosphere in the US. All the fans are so chilled and relaxed.
Obviously, we have to talk about Kyalami, the moment you won your ICGT title. Was it a tough event?
It was nerve wrecking. I must've done about 30,000 steps during the race just by pacing through the garage. It was the tensest race I’ve ever done. I had been racing with the same teammates all year; Matt Campbelll and Dirk Werner. But just a few days prior to the race Porsche decided to change things up a bit and assign me with different teammates; Nick Tandy and Matthieu Jaminet. Both are equally talented drivers, but it already was a bit different for me than what I was used to. It didn’t help when, during the race, Tandy made a small mistake and hit another driver which caused a drive-through penalty. We were constantly counting championship points and we would bounce from first to third and back. I believe twenty minutes from the end Mercedes-AMG were leading but Tandy took it home. To see the car cross the line was an amazing feeling.