Porsche brought their 2016 motorsport season to a successful end this past weekend at the 12-hour race on the Sepang International Circuit: With a spectacular charge through the field in torrential rain, Porsche works drivers Earl Bamber, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy secured second place with the Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by Manthey Racing. Over a long stretch, their teammates Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Frédéric Makowiecki were also on track for a podium spot with the 500 hp customer sports racer from Weissach, but ultimately clinched fifth place at the final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
In hot and humid weather with temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius, Richard Lietz took off into Asia’s most important long distance race from pole position. However, the Austrian, who last year won the FIA World Endurance Cup as the most successful GT driver, was beaten off the line by Earl Bamber. The 2015 overall Le Mans winner had taken up the race from directly behind his teammate on the third grid spot. This didn't stop him from winning the sprint to the first corner and snatching the lead position in a top-class field of cars of 13 manufacturers. Bamber has lived in Malaysia for many years and has contested many races in Asia, making the 5.543-kilometre Grand Prix circuit on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur practically his home track.
After taking over the wheel of the 912 contender from Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki used the restart after the first safety car phase an hour into the race to maneuver himself into second place. The number 911 car continued to defend the lead spot, now with Nick Tandy at the wheel, who had won Le Mans with Earl Bamber. Later, the two 911 GT3 treated spectators to a spectacular fight against the best Ferrari. When heavy rain set in after four-and-a-half hours of racing, they lost their one-two positions during the pit stop and while switching to wets. After five hours, the #911 was sitting second, with the #912 on fourth.
Two unscheduled pit stops over the course of the race cost additional time: First, the brakes had to be changed on Frédéric Makowiecki’s 911 GT3 R, and two hours later – with the field again running on slicks – the brakes were also changed on Earl Bamber’s car. As a result, he also lost his podium ranking and was now lying fourth, just one place ahead of his teammate Richard Lietz. But on his home track, this was simply not good enough for Bamber. At the restart, after another safety car phase and with two hours to go, he launched a breathtaking charge through the pack, and carved his way spectacularly through deep water on the track. First, he swept past the fastest Ferrari, then the Audi running in second, to net another podium result for Porsche at the final race of the season.
Earl Bamber (911 GT3 R #911): “It’s fantastic to finish the season on the podium. We were going very well in the dry and we were leading for a long time. When it began to drizzle we had problems with the tyres. But once heavy rain set in we were back in strong form. It was a very difficult race, but a good result for Porsche.”
Official Race result
1. Vanthoor/Haase/Frijns (B/D/NL), Audi R8, 309 laps
2. Pilet/Tandy/Bamber (F/GB/NZ), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 304
3. Kaffer/Rast/Winkelhock (D/D/D), Audi R8, 304
4. Lathouras/Rugolo/Pierguidi (THA/I/I), Ferrari 488, 303
5. Lietz/Christensen/Makowiecki (A/DK/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 302
6. Yoshimoto/Chen/Hosokawa (J/TWN/J), Ferrari 488, 297
7. Van Dam/Bhakdi/Sathienthirakul (NL/THA/THA), Ferrari 488, 297
8. Orido/Hiramine/Zaugg (J/J/SA), Lamborghini, 296
9. D’Silva/Ang/Patterson (MYS/MYS/AUS), Ferrari 488, 296
10. Parente/Ledogar/van Gisbergen (P/F/NZ), McLaren, 290