This story is just Porsche all the way through. Not only did Porsche contest and win the manufacturer's and drivers' championship titles for GT cars in 2019, but it also purchased and helped revive the famous South African Kyalami race track, battlegrounds on which the final round of the championship was fought. After 9 solid hours of racing, it was the Frikadelli Racing car of Nick Tandy, Dennis Olsen, and Mathieu Jaminet—all Porsche factory racers—which came out on top. When the chips were down, this team of drivers put their collective backs into it and absolutely dominated the final hours of the race. Dennis Olsen was crowned the Driver's champion, winning this season ender as well as the season-opening Bathurst round.
Kyalami has not held an international long-distance race since 1982. A few years ago Porsche invested in the community and the motorsport environment of Africa by buying the ailing track and giving it a proper revamp. This circuit once held Formula One grands prix, but has been a largely regional affair for decades.
Nick Tandy in the Frikadelli Racing car set the pace for the race, netting a pole position and a new track record for GT3s in the process.
Factory-supported efforts from Frikadelli, GPX Racing, KUS Bernhard, and Dinamic Motorsport all fought for the lead at one point or another in the race, and in fact the Frikadelli car made contact with Romain Dumas in the Bernhard car while it was leading, spinning the both of them and earning a drive-through penalty in the process. That very same Frikadelli car came through the field to get back in the fight with a couple hours remaining in the race, setting fast lap after fast lap to do it. It was a late race downpour which really threw a wrench in the mix. When the torrential rains came with about 2 hours to go in the race, the leading Porsche teams pushed onward to find wet race pace until the track became flooded and the safety car came out.
When the race went back to green flag conditions the rain was still coming down, the sun had set, and there were only 25 minutes of racing to go. Frikadelli had put Nick Tandy back in the car to close out the race, saving their rain racing ringer for the end. Nick did what Nick does, re-starting the race from fourth in line, he was up into the lead within 5 minutes, first passing a BMW which had pitted late for fuel, then getting by the Mercedes of Yelmer Buurman, which had lead into the re-start. Then it was Porsche-on-Porsche as Tandy fought with Richard Lietz for the late race lead. Before the end of the race Lietz and the rest of the GPX Racing team would be passed by Tandy and a BMW behind, settling for third at the checkers.
Porsche had four vehicles in the top ten at the finish, which is an incredible feat, considering stiff competition from BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Nissan, Aston Martin, Bentley, and Ferrari.
Porsche also won the Silver category with a Pro-Am GT3 R entered by Lechner Racing. The team of Porsche driver Lars Kern, Saul Hack of South Africa, and Dylan Pereira of Luxembourg finished 14th overall and first in class.
Porsche had a great season this year, winning the Bathurst 12 Hour, the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, and this race, the 9 Hours of Kyalami. Porsche teams also grabbed podium places at the California 8 Hour (Laguna Seca) and the Suzuka 10 Hours. That was plenty to get the Stuttgart sports car maker an international GT3-class Manufacturer's Championship. Good on 'em.
Comments on the race
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager 911 GT3 R): “Three wins from five races, and podium finishes at all rounds – that’s how you win championships. The key to our success was the excellent teamwork of our squads around the world. The final race at Kyalami with sun, heat, lightning, thunder and rain was like a rollercoaster ride. In the end we deserved to win. Now it’s time to celebrate.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 GT3 R #31): “The Porsche 911 GT3 R was the strongest vehicle in the cutthroat competition of the GT3 manufacturers. We were the fastest in dry conditions, and in the rain the nine-eleven set the benchmark. I’m pleased that the race went green again so that we could demonstrate the strength of our rear-engine car. Halfway through the race we had to cope with a couple of minor setbacks, but thanks to perfect teamwork we were ultimately able to take the lead. I’m particularly thrilled about Dennis’s title win. I know how much this means to him.”
Dennis Olsen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #31): “This is definitely the best day of my career by now. When I was asked recently to name my greatest achievement, I said it was the victory at Bathurst. When I was then asked what could be better than that, I said a victory at Kyalami, winning the manufacturers’ title with Porsche as well as the drivers’ championship. That has now happened – unbelievable, it feels like a dream. When the race was finally restarted, I had a good feeling. If you have someone like Nick Tandy in the Porsche 911 GT3 R on a wet track in the final sprint, then anything is possible.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 GT3 R #20): “Another successful outing for Kévin, Michael and me in GPX Racing’s car. We were strong over the entire weekend, and we led for most of the race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to bring home first place in the rain. But most importantly, Porsche has won the manufacturers’ title – mission accomplished.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 GT3 R #12): “It was a disappointing weekend for us in the number 12 car. We tried everything, but never really matched the pace of the strongest Porsche 911 GT3 R. I don’t know why this happened, but at the end of the day it’s fantastic that the manufacturers’ title went to Porsche and Dennis took the drivers’ crown.”
Dirk Werner (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911): “That was a difficult weekend. It all started with the delayed arrival of the container with our car and all the equipment. In the race, the engine temperature was always at the upper limit. We had to take care and we couldn’t go all-out. For this reason we couldn’t do better. Congratulations to Dennis and the entire Porsche squad. These championship titles are well deserved.”
Lars Kern (Porsche 911 GT3 R #9): “The 90 minutes in torrential rain behind the safety car were the most difficult 90 minutes of my racing career. It was more like swimming than driving. Despite losing a little time during the pit stops at the beginning, we still ended up as the deserving class winners. We made the least amount of mistakes and so our first place was rightly earned.”
01. Olsen/Jaminet/Tandy (N/F/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 259 laps
02. Catsburg/Krognes/Jensen (NL/N/DK), BMW M6 GT3, 259 laps
03. Lietz/Christensen/Estre (A/DK/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 259 laps
08. Vanthoor/Bamber/Campbell (B/NZ/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 259 laps
09. Dumas/Müller/Werner (F/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 259 laps
13. Hack/Kern/Pereira (ZA/D/LUX), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 257 laps