This weekend there was a lot of important racing going on. I'm sure if you follow motorsport, you probably knew about the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500, or NASCAR's Coca Cola 600. Unless you were really paying attention, one of the coolest races of the year might have slid under your radar in the shadow of those Memorial Day Weekend classics: the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. This race is very important to all of the German car makers, and Porsche is no different. With 169 cars circulating the full Nürburgring circuit, there is a veritable buffet of glorious racing cars to watch, with multiple classes of GT cars all racing at once. The fastest class is for FIA GT3 cars, and classes range on down to include even some small-bore hatchbacks. If there is something you want to race, chances are you can find a class for it at the Nürburgring 24. Porsche had an incredibly high level of participation with a stunning 36 cars entered from various teams, including a pair of factory-supported SP9-classed 911 GT3Rs. It's fair to say Porsche had a lot riding on this race.
Porsche had an unsavory race in the SP9 class, unfortunately. The regulations for the 24 this year were decidedly unfavorable to Porsche's GT3Rs, and they were a few seconds off the pace. A lack of speed, combined with some pretty poor luck resulted in their cars not faring so well. From as early as the "Top 30" qualifying, on Friday, the team faced adversity, when Kevin Estre lost the #911 in the wet during qualifying and hit the barriers. A rapid repair had the car ready for pre-race warmup, but unfortunately Nick Tandy took the car into the barrier again on lap 2 of the race. A simple spin saw the car crunch the barriers pretty heavily, and as soon as it started, their race was over.
The sister car to the #911, the #912, fared better, but not much. After running a decent race, the Christensen/Lietz/Mako/Bergmeister team was up into 5th overall, and keeping the car clean when the thing ground to a halt. After 100 laps of rapid racing, a four-hour stoppage for hail and fog, and a whole lot of passing competitors on track, Porsche's factory efforts were both done and in the garage, abandoned to the crows. Sometimes all the preparation in the world can't prepare you for the worst luck. Porsche did still manage to have one car in the top-ten overall, as Wolf Henzler, Martin Ragginger, Peter Dumbreck, and Alexandre Imperatori managed to drag their Falken Tire entered GT3 R up into 9th on the road by the time the checkers flew.
Luckily, there is more than just the SP9 class to think about
Porsche's famous GT3 Cup cars won at the hands of Black Falcon Team TMD in the SP7 category, and Rent2Drive took SP6. Porsche's new Cayman GT4 Clubsport took two further classes, with Manthey Racing taking the SP-X class, and Raceunion Teichmann Racing the Cup3 class. Black Falcon Team TMD also won the V6 class in a race-prepped Carrera. While the overall victory didn't fall their way, it's hard to call five separate class victories a failure. Porsche can walk away from this race with head held high, that's for sure.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport -
“My congratulations go to our customer teams who defied all odds in the race over 24 hours and celebrated class victories under difficult conditions. For our works team, it was unfortunately not such a successful weekend, in spite of a highly motivated and extremely dedicated performance from drivers and crews. They took all the setbacks, such as the slide in qualifying and the early retirement of our number 911 contender, in their stride and without complaint and continued to do what they could towards achieving a common goal. The 912 was the only car that at times could match the pace of the leaders. We were running fifth and were well prepared to make the most of the rain. But it was not to be. I can promise our fans that we will be back and we will do better.”
Richard Lietz, Driver SP 9 Class Porsche 911 GT3 R #912 -
“It’s unbelievable the freak weather conditions you can experience on the Nordschleife during a 24 hour race. We had it all – rain, hail and fog, sometimes all at once. Luckily my engineer Andrea warned me via radio that hail was on its way and urged me to drive even slower than I already was in the face of the severe weather front and the wet track. Without her fiery Italian warning, I too would probably have ended up in the barriers. Still, it wasn’t quite enough for us today. But we know exactly what we have to do to come back even stronger next year.”
Michael Christensen, Driver SP 9 Class Porsche 911 GT3 R #912 -
“Our engineers don’t yet know what the problem is. The car suddenly rolled to a stop and I couldn’t change down. The engine stopped and wouldn’t restart. That was that. This race is and remains unpredictable and has once again lived up to reputation. On the other hand, the Nordschleife also gives a race driver experiences that can’t be found on any other racetrack in the world.”
Frédéric Makowiecki, Driver SP 9 Class Porsche 911 GT3 R #911 -
“We were well prepared for the race. But of course you can’t predict the weather. Still, we had a good package with which under normal circumstances we could have achieved a podium result. It’s a pity that our strong team effort wasn’t rewarded.”
Jörg Bergmeister, Driver SP 9 Class Porsche 911 GT3 R #911 -
“Unfortunately that wasn’t quite the weekend we’d all anticipated. Nevertheless, it was still a lot of fun to contest this exceptional race with the 911 GT3 R. We’ve definitely gained some important insights which will help us to progress. The motto for us now must be to return in 2017 and do it better.”
Overall race result
1. Vietoris/Seefried/Hohenadel/Van der Zande (D/D/D/NL), Mercedes, 134 laps
2. Schneider/Engel/Christodoulou/Metzger (D/D/GB/D), Merecedes, 134
3. Alzen/Arnold/Götz/Seyffarth (D/D/D/D), Mercedes, 133
9. Dumbreck/Henzler/Ragginger/Imperatori (GB/D/A/CH), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 130
13. Weiss/Kainz/Krumbach/Stursberg (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 128
17. Klohs/Schmidtmann/Richter/Renauer (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 123
Porsche class winners
Black Falcon Team TMD Friction, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: Arturo Devigus (D), Andreas Weishaupt (D), Alex Toril (E), Mario Farnbacher (D)
Rent2Drive-racing, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: David Ackermann (D), Carsten Welschar (D), Jörg Wiskirchen (D), Walter Csaba (H)
Manthey Racing, Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport: Christoph Breuer (D), Christian Gebhardt (D), Lars Kern (D)
Raceunion Teichmann Racing, Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport: Hans Holmlund (S), Tommy Graberg (S), Scott Marshall (GB), Moritz Gusenbauer (D)
Black Falcon Team TMD Friction, Porsche 911: Aurel Schoeller (D), André Kuhn (D), Philip (NL), Miguel Toril (E)