Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific customer team Absolute Racing scored a spectacular overall podium, with LM Corsa claiming a Pro-Am rostrum, on board the 2019-spec 500+bhp Porsche 911 GT3 R at the Suzuka 10 Hours, the penultimate round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia teams’ champions Absolute Racing used their expert knowledge of the Suzuka circuit to overcome a lack of running during Friday practice due to heavy rain, progressing to the top 20 shootout where Porsche works driver Dirk Werner put his #912 car 11th on the grid.
Porsche Young Professional Dennis Olsen immediately made up positions in the first stint, before Werner consolidated ninth and handed the car over to 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia champion Matt Campbell. The team opted not to stop when a safety car period was called for a heavy collision at the hairpin two-and-a-half hours into the race, a strategy that could launch the Bathurst-winning trio into victory contention come the end of the 10 Hours.
A second caution period approaching the six-hour mark negated their advantage, but kept them in third overall. Despite being challenged for their rostrum in the closing stages, the Absolute Racing squad emerged on top in the battle, with Australian Campbell meeting the chequered flag with a third-place finish, helping Porsche maintain second in the Intercontinental GT Challenge’s GT3 Manufacturers’ Championship ahead of the season finale.
Fellow Pro-class runner Earl Bamber Motorsport’s first experience with the new Porsche 911 GT3 R was not so fortunate. A red flag during the first qualifying session, as well as traffic on 2016 FIA World Endurance LMP1 champion Romain Dumas’ best lap left them 24th on the grid.
Progress was quickly made, however, with Porsche works driver Sven Müller pulling out a blinding first stint. Together with reigning ADAC GT Masters champion Mathieu Jaminet, it looked like the victorious Bathurst 12 Hour team could break into the top 10 and score a strong result.
Unfortunately, a puncture at the high-speed 130R corner, caused by debris, prompted an emergency pit stop. Further delays for bodywork repairs were compounded by the timing of the second safety car, which kept the #911 machine outside the top 10 battle despite their performance. Refusing to quit, the team crossed the finish line in a well-fought 13th.
Japan-based customer team LM Corsa claimed the Pro-Am pole position but also had their weekend undone by a puncture with Shigekazu Wakisaka behind the wheel after contact with another car.
His double Super GT champion brother Juichi and co-driver Kei Nakanishi soldiered on, despite having to pit more times than scheduled to repair the bodywork, maintaining third in class until the chequered flag at the same track the local squad claimed a debut class victory in Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia with Porsche earlier this year.
A collision between Andrew MacPherson and another car damaged both ends of AMAC Motorsport’s Porsche 911 GT3 R (Type 997) in the opening stint. With a hefty repair job needed, Ben Porter emerged from the garage to continue the race. Consistent stints from Andrew, Ben and Brad Shiels helped the silver-grade Australian squad to the finish in 31st and fourth in class.
Dirk Werner, Absolute Racing: “I’m delighted with our podium finish at Suzuka. For us drivers, for Porsche and the Absolute Racing team this is a great result. We reaped the rewards from a strong showing in the race. In the last round of the season we’ll do everything to advance in the championship. It’s not going to be easy, but that’s what makes this fiercely contested series so attractive.”
Dennis Olsen, Absolute Racing: “We pulled out all the stops, and third place is a great result. This was one of our best races with lots of duels and exhausting stints. The car ran like clockwork over the entire distance. This podium is the reward for our hard work.”
Matt Campbell, Absolute Racing: “We moved up the order thanks to good tactics and a faultless drive, despite maybe not having the fastest car today. We were consistent during the race as the tyres were lasting well even though the conditions were very hot, and we ran without any technical problems.”
Romain Dumas, Earl Bamber Motorsport: “Unfortunately our qualifying didn’t go well, so we had to start far down on the grid. In the opening stages we fought back up the order to 10th, but then a damaged tyre cost us dearly. There was more on the table for us today, but it’s great that one Porsche made it to the podium.”
Sven Müller, Earl Bamber Motorsport: “To make it up the order from 24th on the grid to 13th at the flag is a fantastic achievement. Our chances were minimised through a disappointing qualifying, but over the ten hours the car got faster and faster. Overall this was one of the most difficult races of the year for me, though I still had fun. It was great to be back in Japan, where I spent two memorable years of my career. The fans were enthusiastic as always and we had a few nice duels during the race.”
Mathieu Jaminet, Earl Bamber Motorsport: “This was a difficult ten-hour race for us, but in the end we made no mistakes and got the most out of our opportunities. Making up more than ten places was all that was possible. Moreover, we had bad luck with the tyre damage, so I can live with this final result.”
Juichi Wakisaka, LM Corsa: “I had good fun in the Suzuka 10 Hours today, and was very impressed with the Porsche 911 GT3 R which runs very well and is really stable, even at high speed. It’s a fantastic car and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to race one.”
Shigekazu Wakisaka, LM Corsa: “We had the potential to finish second, nonetheless it’s great to be on the podium. We’ve only been running the Porsche 911 GT3 R for a few months so it’s great to see so many positives and reach the end of this major event despite many challenges during the race.”
Kei Nakanishi, LM Corsa: “I’m delighted to be on the podium. It was a new test for me, experiencing new driving conditions but Suzuka is my home circuit so I wanted to make the most of it.”
Andrew MacPherson, AMAC Motorsport: “I would like to thank Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific, the team and everyone who enjoyed seeing the Type 997 Porsche 911 GT3 R back in Japan. The mechanics did an amazing job to get the car out again in 35 minutes after extensive damage, showing our team’s professionalism which we can all be proud of. Our lap times were comparable to those of the current generation cars in the Silver class, so perhaps a podium was possible without the incident.”
Alexandre Gibot, Head of Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific: “Massive congratulations to Absolute Racing on their overall podium, a very impressive performance seeing them right up there with the top global teams. It just reminds you of Asia’s ever-increasing presence in motorsport, as does LM Corsa who have done a remarkable job in their first year with the Porsche 911 GT3 R, securing class wins in Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia and now a podium in Intercontinental GT Challenge. Well done also to Earl Bamber Motorsport who were unlucky this weekend but nonetheless put on a strong show, as did AMAC Motorsport who could also have taken a class podium. Overall, it’s a been a strong weekend for Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific.”