The Porsche customer teams Manthey EMA and Rutronik Racing finished the Spa-Francorchamps endurance classic in fourth and fifth place. In the Bronze Cup category, Huber Motorsport and Pure Rxcing locked out the top two positions. At the first outing of the new-generation 911 GT3 R at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, twelve of the 14 GT3 race cars that started crossed the finish line. Stuttgart. The new 992-generation 911 GT3 R narrowly missed out on claiming a podium spot at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Works drivers Kévin Estre from France, Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium and former Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer from France fought for third place until the last lap at the wheel of the Manthey EMA car. At the flag, they were just 0.879 seconds shy. Directly behind them, Rutronik Racing’s DTM driver trio Thomas Preining (Austria), Dennis Olsen (Norway) and Christian Engelhart (Germany) crossed the finish line in fifth. Twelve of the 14 ca. 416 kW (565 PS) Porsche racing cars that tackled the race reached the finish line. With a 70-strong field, the endurance classic in the Belgian Ardennes is considered the biggest event for GT3 cars worldwide. This classic race counts towards the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup and the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC).
The three Porsche contesting the Pro class headed into the race with a handicap: Since they were crewed by three drivers instead of four as per the regulations, they had to skip the first segment of the four-heat qualifying on Thursday evening. However, in the first session, the drier track offered the best conditions. Since the average time of all drivers for each car was taken into account, only Manthey EMA’s 911 GT3 R made it into the top-20 Super Pole. While the so-called “Grello” tackled the race from P14, the 911 racers fielded by Rutronik Racing and Dinamic GT Huber Racing had to start the race from 30th and 37th place respectively.
Manthey EMA was the first to chase down the leading group. At around 9:17 pm, Andlauer swept into first place for the first time. However, a 30-second penalty for exceeding the track limits cost the lead a good 45 minutes later. At about 1:22 on Sunday morning, the No. 92 Porsche was back at the front but was subsequently caught off guard by a full course yellow period. Nevertheless, the car maintained contact with the frontrunners. Despite another track limit penalty and a damaged rear diffuser, the “Grello” still had its sights set on a podium finish.
Rutronik Racing’s 911 GT3 R crossed the finish line as the second-best Porsche. Preining, Olsen and Heinrich had largely stayed out of trouble over the 24-hour distance. From the early hours of the morning, the No. 96 car rejoined the leading pack and from then on remained within striking distance of the Manthey EMA car – and at times ahead of it.
For Dinamic GT Huber Racing’s No. 54 entry, the race proved difficult. Nevertheless, the vehicle shared by Christian Engelhart from Germany and the two former Porsche Juniors Sven Müller (Germany) and Ayhancan Güven (Turkey) advanced to first place twice. After a caution phase on Sunday morning, their 911 GT3 R had settled into an excellent position to remain in the fight for overall victory as the leader. However, when the safety car gave the green light at 7:00 am, Engelhart was shunted into a spin by a rival at the La Source hairpin and lost a lot of ground. The trio reached the finish line in twelfth place.
Huber Motorsport’s 911 GT3 R was trailing closely. The No. 20 Porsche had already attracted attention before the race with the best time in the Super Pole. Start driver Matteo Cairoli then catapulted off the line from pole into first place, which the former Porsche Junior from Italy defended until the driver change after just over an hour. With his teammates Antares Au from Hong Kong and the Germans Jannes Fittje and Tim Heinemann, Cairoli finished 13th overall. This result also handed the quartet victory in the Bronze Cup. DTM driver Heinemann set the fastest lap of the race in 2:17.087 minutes. Second place in this class was secured by the Pure Rxcing customer squad with German drivers Joel Sturm and Marco Seefried, Klaus Bachler from Austria and Aliaksandr Malykhin from the United Kingdom.
Car Collection Motorsport wrapped up the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in 23rd place. Nico Menzel from Germany as well as the Swiss trio Ivan Jacoma, Niki Leutwiler and Alex Fontana secured second place in the Pro-Am division.
Comments on the race
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R): “Our first event with the new 911 GT3 R at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps was a resounding success. We brought twelve out of 14 cars safely over the finish line, which is not to be underestimated. We fought in the top 10 over the entire race distance and were within striking distance of a podium finish until the last lap – everything was still open, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t meant to be. Now we take home fourth and fifth place. Our customer teams achieved a terrific result with a one-two in the Bronze Cup. On top of that is a podium result in the Pro-Am category. At the same time, we managed to place five cars in the top 15. The teamwork with our customer squads worked perfectly.”
Julien Andlauer (Porsche 911 GT3 R #92): “That was a very exciting race weekend. We were absolutely up with the play at all times and did our very best in difficult conditions. Unfortunately, we were handed two time penalties for exceeding the track limits – given the fierceness of the duels, it was practically impossible to always drive an absolutely clean line. But we never gave up. Kévin Estre, in particular, pulled out all stops again during his last stint with some incredible manoeuvres. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out in the end. Still, we can be very happy with fourth place.”
Laurin Heinrich (Porsche 911 GT3R #96): “From 30th on the grid we quickly ploughed our way into the top 10. After four hours we were already in seventh, then made it through the night without any mistakes and stayed on the same lap as the leader. Towards the end, it turned into more of a sprint race, with everyone going flat out. So it was close to the very end.”
Tim Heinemann (Porsche 911 GT3R #20): “That was simply a great race – and kind of crazy too because I only got a call on Tuesday afternoon to ask if I could compete. It was great fun. Matteo turned heads on Friday with his pole position but we knew that a lot can happen in a 24-hour race – and it did. At one point we were no longer in the same lap as the leader but we fought our way back. To be honest, we didn’t really expect to win our class, which makes this success even sweeter. I’m also delighted for Antares Au. On top of that, I set the fastest race lap. What more could you ask for?”
Klaus Bachler (Porsche 911 GT3R #911): “Just after the halfway mark, we damaged our Porsche 911 GT3 R quite badly. After that, the aerodynamics was a bit off. The most important thing at that point was to make it to the finish line. We had to fight hard for that. The fact that we were able to stay at the front of the Bronze Cup standings until the end under these conditions is a major achievement for the team.”
Results 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
1. Eng/Wittmann/Yelloly (A/D/GB) BMW M4 GT3 #98, 537 laps
2. Marciello/Boguslavskiy/Gounon (CHE/ND/AND) Mercedes-AMG GT3 #88, 537 laps
3. Engstler/Van der Linde/Thiim (D/SA/DK) Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II #17, 537 laps
4. Vanthoor/Estre/Andlauer (B/F/F). Porsche 911 GT3 R #92, 537 laps
5. Preining/Heinrich/Olsen (A/D/N), Porsche 911 GT3 R #96, 537 laps
12. Güven/Müller/Engelhart (TR/D/D) Porsche 911 GT3 R #54, 535 laps
13. (1st BC) Au/Heinemann/Cairoli/Fittje (HK/D/I/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #20, 535 laps
15. (2nd BC) Bachler/Malykhin/Sturm/Seefried (A/UK/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #911, 535 laps
20. (4th BC) Palette/Mateu/Makowiecki/Chevalier (F/F/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #44, 534 laps
23. (2nd PAC) Leutwiler/Jacoma/Fontana/Menzel (CH/CH/CH/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #24, 533 laps
27. (7th BC) Bohn/A. Renauer/R. Renauer/van Berlo (D/D/D/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #91, 532 laps
31. (4th SC) Sathienthirakul/Rappange/di Amato/de Leener (T/NL/I/UK), Porsche 911 GT3 R #56, 529 laps
33. (10th BC) /Jewiss/Meyrick/Maassen (UK/UK/UK/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 R #62, 527 laps
36. (4th PAC) Tjia/Shen/Simonsen/Beche (HK/HK/DKCH), Porsche 911 GT3 R #216, 522 laps
45. (13th BC) B. Grove/S. Grove/Bamber/de Pasquale (AUS/AUS/NZ/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R #23, 440 laps
48. (15th BC) Sager/Nakken/Barker/Zöchling (A/N/UK/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #55, 396 laps
70. (12th PAC): Washington/Sofronas/Bleekemolen/Long (USA/USA/NL/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #132, 2 laps
Pro = Pro class; PAC = Pro-Am Cup; GC = Gold Cup; SC = Silver Cup; BC = Bronze Cup.
Full results: https://www.intercontinentalgtchallenge.com/watch-live