The Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by the Manthey-Racing team takes up the Suzuka 10 Hours from the third grid row. The Porsche works drivers Romain Dumas, Frédéric Makowiecki (both France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) planted the number 911 customer vehicle on P6 for round three of the Intercontinental GT Challenge in Japan. Thirty-seven-year-old Makowiecki set a lap time of 2:02.425 minutes on Saturday at the final qualifying on the Suzuka Circuit.
The Porsche cars fielded by Craft-Bamboo Racing and D’station Racing also qualified in the top twenty: Kévin Estre posted the 17th quickest qualifying time in the ca. 500 hp customer sport racer campaigned by the Craft-Bamboo team. The Frenchman shares the cockpit of the number 991 car this weekend with his works driver teammate Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Porsche Young Professional Mathieu Jaminet (France). Earl Bamber (New Zealand) planted the D’station car on P19. His teammates in Suzuka are Sven Müller (Germany) and Tomonobu Fujii from Japan.
Two additional Porsche 911 GT3 R racers tackle the Pro-Am class for professionals and amateurs this weekend. The second entry of the Asian team D’station Racing with drivers Satoshi Hoshino, Tsubasa Kondo and Jono Lester concluded the qualifying on position 32. Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Marc Miller share driving duties in the #54 car of Black Swan Racing. The trio took the 33rd grid spot. Like Manthey-Racing, the squad from the USA contests all four rounds of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge.
The four-part qualifying on the 5.807-kilometre Grand Prix circuit took place in sunshine and a humid 34 degrees Celsius. Per vehicle, every driver had to complete one of the first three segments. The resulting average lap time determined entry into the top twenty qualifying. In the fourth and final session, only one driver per vehicle was permitted to go back out on the track: from this, the fastest lap counted.
The Suzuka 10 Hours takes off on Sunday at 10.00 hrs local time (03.00 hrs CEST). In Europe, the race can be seen after the finish on the Intercontinental GT Challenge website http://www.intercontinentalgtchallenge.com.
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager 911 GT3 R): “This qualifying session was really exciting. The traffic in particular turned the hunt for top times into a huge challenge. At first it didn’t look at all good when the fastest lap of the number 911 car in Q1 was annulled due to a track limit infringement. However, since no warnings were given beforehand, the race director retracted the decision prior to the final qualifying session. The lap times of other participants were also later reinstated. With his lap time in the final qualifying session, Frédéric Makowiecki underlined that we’re competitive at Suzuka.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911): “Normally the tyres offer the best grip in the second flying lap. However, since I didn’t encounter much traffic in the first lap, I decided to go flat-out to the end. But then I came across traffic in the chicane. Had I got a free run in the second lap, perhaps it would have been enough to achieve third or fourth.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 GT3 R #991): “My lap was okay. We managed to tweak the car slightly for the final segment, but it didn’t get much faster. Our long-run performance, however, is good – and that’s the most important thing. If we’re lucky with safety car phases during the race, we’ll be able to work our way up the field over the distance.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 GT3 R #7): “The qualifying went well. We managed to up the pace of our car bit by bit. Obviously, the result doesn’t quite correspond to what we’d expected. If we’d been just a tenth of a second faster we would have landed on P10. In view of this we’re heading into the race feeling optimistic.”
This is the Intercontinental GT Challenge
The Intercontinental GT Challenge is the world’s first racing series, in which vehicles complying with the FIA GT3 regulations make up the top class. The series was founded in 2016 by the SRO Motorsports Group under Stéphane Ratel. Rather than field a factory squad, Porsche supports international customer teams in their campaign with the 911 GT3 R by providing works drivers and engineers from Weissach. For each race, a maximum of four vehicles selected by the manufacturer are entitled to earn points. Of these, the two best-placed vehicles at the end of the race are awarded points for the manufacturer’s overall classification. In the driver’s category, however, the drivers of all cars nominated by manufacturers are eligible for points.
4 February: Bathurst 12 Hour, Bathurst/Australia
28/29 July: 24 Hours of Spa, Spa-Francorchamps/Belgium
26 August: Suzuka 10 Hours, Suzuka/Japan
28 October: California 8 Hours, Monterey/USA
Porsche 911 GT3 R eligible for points at the Suzuka 10 Hours:
• #911 (Manthey-Racing)
• #991 (Craft-Bamboo Racing)
• #7 (D’station Racing)
• #54 (Black Swan Racing)