Porsche has made it into the new Top Qualifying for the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, which is limited to 30 vehicles, with all seven customer-run 911 GT3 R racers. In the first heat of the two-part final qualifying session, Dennis Olsen achieved second in the individual time trial with the 500+hp 911 fielded by the KCMG squad. Facing very difficult track conditions with rain setting in, he made the best use of the first of his two laps and missed out on topping the timesheets by a mere quarter of a second. This allowed the Norwegian to take part in the second qualifying segment. However, he had to park the vehicle, which he shares with Timo Bernhard, Jörg Bergmeister (both Germany) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand) due to problems during the warm-up lap. As the best-placed 911 GT3 R, Frikadelli Racing’s No. 30 entry heads into the 24-hour race on Saturday at 3.30 pm local time from P14. Sharing the cockpit are qualifying driver Alex Müller (Germany), Klaus Abbelen, Robert Renauer (both Germany) and Norbert Siedler (Austria). The Porsche, which contests the Pro-Am class, had already made it into the top-17 session after scoring good results in the Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS).
A few days before the Nürburgring season highlight, Porsche had completely reorganised its works driver line-up after three positive Covid-19 routine tests of team members at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As a result, the two Porsche brand ambassadors Timo Bernhard and Jörg Bergmeister, as well as Earl Bamber, had to step in at short notice to drive the KCMG-911 GT3 R. Bamber was supposed to contest the IMSA race for Porsche in Mid-Ohio this weekend. As the five-time overall winner at the Nürburgring, Timo Bernhard is one of the most successful drivers at this 24-hour race. He also holds the lap record on the Nordschleife after setting a time of 5:19.546 minutes with the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo. Like Bamber, the 2017 World Endurance Champion has won Le Mans twice. The quartet underlined what they are capable of by setting the fourth fastest lap in today’s first practice. Given the changeable conditions in the following two sessions, their time guaranteed them entry into the first Top Qualifying segment.
The Nürburgring 24-hour race is contested over the 25.378-kilometre combination of the original Grand Prix circuit and the Nordschleife. Around 95 vehicles take part this year, with Porsche making up almost a third of the field. A restricted number of spectators are permitted to watch from the grandstands of the Grand Prix circuit.
Comments on the Top Qualifying
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R): “The qualifying didn’t quite go as we’d anticipated. Dennis Olsen managed to set an extremely strong time in the first run and we were confident that it would also go very well in the final attempt. Unfortunately, a technical hiccup hampered Dennis’ charge – we need to take a closer look at this. Despite the wet tyres, Alex Müller clocked a decent time with 14th in the Frikadelli-Porsche.”
Alexander Müller (Porsche 911 GT3 R #30): “We went out on a drying track with full-wet tyres because we had no experience with the drying-wet rubber, and it would probably have been too cool for them. It worked with the wet tyres, but unfortunately, we messed up the air pressure. The track was drier than expected. We could’ve achieved a better grid spot. Still, we’re feeling confident. We have a long race ahead of us and we’re starting relatively far up the Pro-Am grid – that’s our goal.”
Dennis Olsen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #18): “The first Top Qualifying heat went very smoothly despite the difficult conditions. We opted for wet tyres, which worked well. As the second-fastest, I got into the second Top Qualifying. I was certain I would be able to go for the best lap times. We chose regrooved slicks, because we thought this was the best option. Unfortunately, in the middle of the warm-up lap, there was a problem and I had to let the car roll to a stop.
Josh Burdon (Porsche 911 GT3 R #19): “It was okay, but to be honest, we’d expected a little more, because we were doing well in the rainy 3rd qualifying. The weather conditions changed quickly and for some reason, I didn’t feel as if I could really attack. I now have to think about this and work out what that was about. Still, our Porsche is fundamentally very good. I’m looking forward to the race.”
Marco Holzer (Porsche 911 GT3 R #25): “I was pleased that I was the 16th driver to head into the first Top Qualifying session. I thought the track might eventually dry up. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen: Rain fell just as our turn came. That was simply bad luck. The starting position isn’t that important in a long race. Our Porsche is running well, and yesterday we worked out a great setup for the long night.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 GT3 R #31): “Unfortunately, only fifth was possible in the first Top Qualifying session – that’s definitely not what we’d anticipated. We actually wanted to make it into the second Top Qualifying segment, but we’ve experienced a difficult weekend so far and we didn’t have much time to work on the vehicle setup. I did my best and I’m actually satisfied with my lap. I have no idea where I lost time. We’ll take a look at that and see what we can improve on by tomorrow.”
Klaus Bachler (Porsche 911 GT3 R #33): “That was a crazy Top Qualifying. Rain set just as the first timed lap started. Depending on which cars got caught in the showers, some got through better than others. Even though the conditions weren’t the same for everyone, the qualifying was ultimately good. I started from third on wet tyres. That would have suited perfectly to not get caught in the rain, but I was hampered slightly by a problem in the warm-up lap. What counts in the end: Our car is good and we’ve secured a decent starting position for the 24-hour race.”
Martin Ragginger (Porsche 911 GT3 R #44): “We took a gamble on intermediate tyres for the mixed conditions. I was pleased with the warm-up lap: a dry last sector! But then it began to rain there. Everything was wet on the second lap, so I slowed down. But anyway, we’re starting from the back of the top group because of a penalty.”
Result Top Qualifying
1. Christodoulou/Engel/Stolz/Metzger (GB/D/D/D), Mercedes-AMG GT3 #4
2. Grossmann/Trummer/Hirschi/Ludwig (D/CH/CH/D), Ferrari 488 GT3 #26
3. Schiller/Götz/Buhk/Marciello (D/D/D/I), Mercedes-AMG AMG GT3 #9
14. Abbelen/Müller/Renauer/Siedler (D/D/D/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #30
17. Bamber/Bergmeister/Bernhard/Olsen (NZ/D/D/N), Porsche 911 GT3 R #18
18. Arnold/Kern/Jaminet/Martin (D/D/F/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #31
21. Engelhart/Müller/Werner/Bachler (D/D/D/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #33
22. Burdon/Liberati/Imperatori/Olsen (AUS/I/CH/N), Porsche 911 GT3 R #19
26. Menzel/Holzer/Kolb/Rocco di Torrepadula (D/D/D/I), Porsche 911 GT3 R #25
27. Bachler/Ragginger/Dumbreck/Müller (A/A/GB/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #44*
30. Böckmann/Müller/Rivas/Rosenberg (D/D/L/D), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR #35
* Relegated to the back of the starting group due to a penalty