In a highly competitive 12 hour race marred by attrition, Porsche teams managed to put two cars on the lead lap at the finish, and come within inches of the podium. Having started on the pole position, Porsche was among the favorites to win the race, but with competition from all of the major GT3 manufacturers in the world it was bound to be a tight one. In the end, it was Bentley which performed best with a distinct straight line advantage and a great race strategy. With a stacked team of Porsche factory-backed drivers, a whole slew of GT3 Rs took the green flag on Sunday at Mount Panorama. Porsche managed fourth, seventh, ninth, tenth, and eleventh, also netting the Pro-Am class victory. Here’s how it all shook out.
The #1 car fielded by Earl Bamber Motorsports lead the field to the green flag, but the lead was gone by the first corner as a couple other drivers got a better start. That car remained competitive through about the half-distance mark, but was completely counted out by a braking issue that forced the team to change brakes during green flag conditions. By comparison the winning Bentley also needed to change brakes, but it managed to do the job during a long caution flag period.
From that point on it was the #911 and #912 of Absolute Racing which were carrying the flag for Stuttgart. Over those long stretches of green flag running, the Porsche ran consistently at the front. The #911 cut a tire at lap 117 which pushed it back a lap and it had to spend the rest of the race trying to make up that lost time. At the end of the race Matt Campbell was able to close the gap to third down to just 1.5 seconds at the flag. By comparison, the winning Bentley also had a tire go flat, but theirs happened about 500 meters from the entrance to pit lane, and cost the team almost no time in changing. Luck strikes both ways.
The second vehicle run by Absolute Racing with the starting number 912 took the flag in seventh. Porsche works driver Laurens Vanthoor crossed the finish line two positions behind them (still two laps down) in the Earl Bamber Motorsports car shared with the team owner, and Australian touring car legend Craig Lowndes.
Porsche’s bad luck in the pro-class was reversed into good luck in pro-am. The Grove Racing team took the first place position at the close of the race, tenth overall. A perfect strategy and managing to keep their car out of trouble put the team of Stephen Grove, Brenton Grove, and Ben Barker into contention. Bad luck on the part of the previously class-leading McLaren secured their win. Porsche also managed second in class for the pro-am category with the Earl Bamber Motorsports-entered NED Racing Team Porsche of Romain Dumas, Jaxon Evans, and David-Calvert-Jones.
Comments on the race
Fritz Enzinger (Vice President Porsche Motorsport and Group Motorsport Volkswagen AG): “Grove Racing’s victory in the Pro-Am class is really great. All five of our Porsche 911 GT3 R finished in the top eleven. After claiming pole position, we thought we could possibly win. But the field was very evenly matched. As the group representative for Volkswagen Motorsport, I’m of course delighted with Bentley’s win.”
Pascal Zurlinden (Director Factory Motorsport): “It wasn’t a great race in the pro-category. We had problems with the tyres and brakes. But the drivers and teams fought their way through and made the best of the situation. As such, everyone can go home with their heads held high. For our long-standing customer team Grove Racing, I’m absolutely thrilled about their huge success in the Pro-Am class.”
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R): “We have five cars in the top eleven, a class win and a second place in the Pro-Am category. All in all, that result doesn’t sound too bad, but we just didn’t quite pull it all together against the competition today. Because of the punctures, brake problems and penalties we couldn’t make the most of the potential that was available to us.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911): “All things considered, it was a tough race for us. We had two punctures that threw us back. We lost a lap but we battled hard to get back up into the action. Towards the end we hoped for the predicted rain, but unfortunately it arrived only after the chequered flag came out.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 GT3 R #1): “We had a good car with an ideal setup, but unfortunately there was a problem with the brake pads in the middle of the race. We had to pit and that cost us two laps. We couldn’t recover from that. Afterwards we had one of the fastest cars, which showed our potential, but after our win here last year we had simply expected more.”
Dirk Werner (Porsche 911 GT3 R #912): “Starting in the night at Bathurst is something special. However, starting from twelfth on the grid surrounded by so many vehicles makes it difficult to gain any positions at the start. We managed to work our way up the field and were in the top group for the last two hours. At the end we hoped for rain, perhaps then we might have achieved an even better result.”
Stephen Grove (Porsche 911 GT3 R #4): “First place in the Pro-Am class is fantastic. Ben’s first stint was very important because it put us in a good position. We then fought our way through the field bit by bit. The secret here is that you have to be able to read the traffic on the track correctly. We tried to stay out of trouble and are grateful for a perfect car.”
Jaxon Evans (Porsche 911 GT3 R #12): “We started from a little further down the grid than we’d originally planned. The name of the game early on was to get through the dark hours of the race without any damage. After that we were able to manoeuvre ourselves further up the order. I’m really pleased with second place and eleventh overall in the Pro-Am class for the NED Racing Team.”
1. Gounon/Soulet/Pepper (F/B/ZA), Bentley Continental GT3, 314 laps
2. Parente/Barnicoat/Blomqvist (P/GB/GB), McLaren 720S GT3, 314 laps
3. Van Gisbergen/Whincup/Götz (NZ/AUS/D), Mercedes AMG GT3, 314 laps
4. Jaminet/Pilet/Campbell (F/F/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 314 laps
7. Werner/Preining/Cairoli (D/A/I), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 314 laps
9. Bamber/Vanthoor/Lowndes (NZ/B/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 312 laps
10. S. Grove/B. Grove/Barker (AUS/AUS/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 312 laps
11. Calvert-Jones/Dumas/Evans (USA/F/NZ), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 311 laps