Porsche rolled into the 24 Hours of Spa as potential contenders for the overall victory with a slew of brand new GT3 Rs ready to take on all comers. With competitors in the pro class fielded by quasi-factory effort Manthey Racing and KÜS Team75 Bernhard, there was a pair of good quality Porsches with stellar lineups driving them, and both fought for the lead at points throughout the race. The Team75 car #117 was shared by Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard, and Laurens Vanthoor, while the Manthey entered car was driven by Romain Dumas, Fred Mako, and Dirk Werner. In the Pro-Am Cup, there was the Black Swan Racing with Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Marc Lieb, and Marc Miller driving, and Herberth Motorsport represented the brand in the Am Cup class with Juergen Haering, Edward Lewis Brauner, Wolfgang Triller, and Alfred Renauer.
Things started falling apart for Porsche as the Herberth Motorsport car, world renowned for simply plugging away at the job and getting to the finish in mostly unaltered condition, suffered a halfshaft failure which put them out of contention from the fifth hour of the endurance race. The team was heartbroken, as they were among the fastest in the class. The Manthey car was the next to drop out with electrical issues killing their chances overnight. Then it was the KÜS Team75 Bernhard car that was forced to retire as a car multiple laps down collided with the #117 during a standard overtaking maneuver. The car was spun out and came to a stop right in front of one of the Bentleys, which hit the Porsche with such a force to end both of their races.
In the closing segment, all Porsche fans eyes were on the Black Swan Racing car as their best chance of a result in any of the classes. The American-based team owned by Tim Pappas was running as high as second in class when they were forced to pit for a damaged rear diffuser overnight, which dropped them to fifth. As they regained lost time and climbed back into a podium position, the car suffered a tire failure at high speed. After limping back to the pits to fix the car, Marc Miller got in and fresh tires were fitted. Shortly into his recovery stint, the same tire failed. In order to keep the drivers safe and not risk any further potential failures, the team retired the car, pulling the last Porsche standing from the race.
Herberth did manage to get their car back on track, but could do no better than 6th in the Am class.
Comments on the race
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser (Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars):
“This was an extremely difficult race weekend for us. Our strategy to drive consistently and without mistakes worked well with the Team75 Bernhard squad. Then the car was knocked out of contention by another vehicle. The #911 Porsche GT3 R was several laps down due to alternator damage and lost all chances of bringing home a top result. And the vehicles in the Pro-Am and Am categories also experienced technical problems. So it just wasn’t our weekend.”
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager 911 GT3 R):
“Our teams managed to stay out of any tricky situations over the entire race and were very focussed and controlled. The Manthey team was unfortunately affected by an electrical problem and took up the chase again after a 15-minute repair time. The KÜS Team75 Bernhard performed very well and was able to work its way up the field. Everyone stuck to our zero mistake plan, because this is the only way to win at Spa. Unfortunately, the #117 GT3 R was damaged while lapping a slower car and couldn’t be repaired. Once again we saw just how incredibly tough it is at Spa. But we’re looking to the future and we’ll be back in full force next year.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #117):
“I keep wondering what I could have done differently. The Audi driver was 15 laps down and I’d already passed him in that particular corner. He stayed on the outside, we were side-by-side and I gave him room. Suddenly he turned in as if I wasn’t there, he hit my front wheel and spun. The Bentley came from behind and hit my car with full force. It’s incredibly annoying because we were looking promising in the race and on our way to the top.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911):
“In the first six hours of the race we were running in the top ten and were fighting hard. Then we had problems with the electrical system and fell far behind. Finally, the underbody of the car was also damaged while driving over debris from an accident. Had we not been handicapped by these problems a podium finish would have been possible.”
Marc Lieb (Porsche 911 GT3 R #540):
“We drove a superb race in the first twelve hours and were running second in the Pro-Am class. Afterwards, though, we were hampered repeatedly by small defects and repairs. Finally we got a puncture. We don’t know how this happened, but for safety reasons we pulled out of the race, which is a great shame. Black Swan Racing from the USA worked brilliantly and unfortunately was not rewarded for this great effort.”
Alfred Renauer (Porsche 911 GT3 R #991):
“The weekend here at Spa went really well, and we were particularly strong in the qualifying. Unfortunately we had a driveshaft defect after five hours of racing and that cost us about an hour in the pits. That was very annoying, because the whole team worked flawlessly before and after this problem. Without this long stop for repairs we would have been amongst the frontrunners.”