The Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by the customer team Falken Motorsports has concluded the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring in the top 10. Germany’s Sven Müller and Marco Seefried as well as Frenchman Patrick Pilet and Jaxon Evans from New Zealand finished the 50th edition of the Eifel classic in ninth place with the No. 33 Porsche 911 GT3 R. The identical vehicle campaigned by Huber Motorsport driven by the quartet Lars Kern, Nico Menzel, Klaus Rader and Joachim Thyssen secured eleventh place. Despite some highlights, the race ended with bitter disappointments for Porsche’s other customer teams in the SP9 class.
“Our partners did a great job and improved all eight 911s contesting the top class in the lead-up to the race,” says Sebastian Golz. The Porsche 911 GT3 R Project Manager adds with disappointment: “We were plagued by bad luck on Saturday and Sunday. We lost six cars in accidents, most of which were involved in collisions through no fault of their own. We very clearly witnessed just how strong our GT3 customer teams and our cars were in the race from the top positions of Manthey und Toksport WRT, which makes it all the more disappointing that we weren’t able to turn our competitiveness into a decent result.”
The anniversary event of the 24-hour race took off in the Eifel at 4 pm on Saturday in sunny conditions and in front of 230,000 spectators. Early on, two Porsche 911 GT3 R treated fans to an impressive show. In just 90 minutes, works driver Kévin Estre from France catapulted the No. 1 car of the defending champion Manthey from P36 to first place. His teammate and fellow countryman Fréderic Makowiecki maintained the position and handed the so-called “Grello” 911 off to Laurens Vanthoor. However, the 2018 Le Mans class winner smashed into the barriers at the end of the Döttinger Höhe straight. In a duel with his brother Dries Vanthoor (Audi), the Belgian lost control of the ca. 368 kW (500 PS) 911 GT3 R after a contact and hit the crash barriers on both sides of the track. And thus, the impressive show of the No. 1 came to an abrupt end.
At this stage, just three and a half hours into the race, the customer team Toksport WRT had also thrown in the towel. During his first stint, works driver Matt Campbell (Australia) steadily progressed through the field to third place in the No. 27 car before swapping his seat with Julien Andlauer. Just a few laps later, the Frenchman became the unwitting victim of a crash while approaching the Veedol chicane. The spirited charge ended in the gravel bed of the Grand Prix circuit after just 18 laps. Dinamic Motorsport’s No. 29 entry had been parked behind the barriers since lap eleven after an accident in the Bergwerk area.
The sister car of the Italian customer squad ran through the night as the best-placed Porsche 911 GT3 R. However, the crew of the No. 28 car were also hit by bad luck. While running fifth overall, works driver Thomas Preining (Austria) became entangled in another competitor’s accident on the Grand Prix circuit. The damage to the steering gear of the 911 was so extensive that it was no longer possible to repair it in a reasonable amount of time. Falken’s No. 44 Porsche retired during the night after an accident, too.
Despite light rain showers and a brief hail storm, the action among the top 15 remained uneventful until an hour before the end of the race – once again a Porsche was the focus of attention. On the approach to Döttinger Höhe, the Norwegian Dennis Olsen hit the barriers. For the KCMG 911, which was in ninth place at the time, this incident brought an early end. In the final phase, the Falken Motorsport and Huber teams brought their No. 33 and 25 entries safely over the remaining laps and concluded the Nürburgring 24-hour race in positions nine and eleven.
Comments after the race
Sven Müller (Porsche 911 GT3 R #33): “All in all it was an extreme race. I had the honour of driving the first stint. The formation lap in front of many thousands of fans around the track gave me goosebumps. It felt like being in front of the grandstands in a football stadium. Things turned crazy in the first two stints. Most of the competitors drove as if it were the last hour of racing. We kept out of any trouble. Then the changeable conditions made things exciting again but we were already a lap down on the leaders. There was nothing we could do so we concentrated on bringing home ninth place.”
Lars Kern (Porsche 911 GT3 R #25): “We got through okay in the end and that’s what we’d planned – we brought our Porsche over the distance without making mistakes. We’re pleased and satisfied with this result. Third place in the Pro-Am class is perfectly fine. Nico and I gave everything we had, Klaus and Joachim also drove solid stints. This, coupled with a clean effort from the entire Huber team, was the key.”
Dennis Olsen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #18): “I have no idea how that could’ve happened. We had always managed to take the right kink onto the Döttinger Höhe at full throttle but suddenly that didn’t work anymore. The tail got twitchy. I tried to countersteer but I wasn’t able to save the car. Our 911 was badly damaged when it hit the barriers. I’m so very sorry for the team.”
Race result (SP9 class):
1. Vanthoor/Vervisch/Frijns/K. van der Linde (B/B/NL/RSA), Audi #15, 159 laps
2. Götz/Christodoulou/Schiller (D/GB/D), Mercedes-AMG #3, 159 laps
3. Engel/Gounon/Juncadella (D/F/E), Mercedes-AMG #4, 159 laps
9. Evans/Müller/Pilet/Seefried (NZ/D/F/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #33, 157 laps
11. Menzel/Thyssen/Rader/Kern (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #25, 156 laps
DNF. Olsen/Tandy/Bamber (N/GB/NZ), Porsche 911 GT3 R #18, 149 laps
DNF. Preining/Legodar/Engelhart/Cairoli (A/F/D/I), Porsche 911 GT3 R #28, 85 laps
DNF. Picariello/Pilet/Bachler/Ragginger (B/F/A/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #44, 58 laps
DNF. Estre/Christensen/Makowiecki/Vanthoor (F/DK/F/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #1, 22 laps
DNF. Campbell/Jaminet/Andlauer (AUS/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #27, 18 laps
DNF. Engelhart/Cairoli/Schandorff/De Leener (D/I/DK/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #29, 11 laps