After a serious global lockdown of all major events for three months due to the global coronavirus pandemic (which has no end in sight mind you), racing is finally starting to return. And obviously we're not talking about the NASCAR and IndyCar events happening here in the U.S. but Europe is back to racing as well. This weekend the first real world race meeting to be held in Europe since the outbreak was the fourth annual Hankook 24 Hours of Portimao in Portugal. And wouldn't you know it? Porsche absolutely dominated.
Of course, the field was tiny with only 15 cars entered in the race from the start. Some teams couldn't justify the travel or the expense in these times of economic unrest. And for good reason, as only nine cars from that original grid actually finished the race. This was a case of an old-school endurance race, as the pole-sitting Mercedes-AMG GT3 crashed out in the third hour. The #91 Herberth Porsche had a lead of 3 laps in the eighth hour, but had to spend almost 60 minutes in the pits swapping gearboxes.
All of this action allowed the #92 Herberth Porsche of Taki Konstantinou, Juergen Haring, Michael Joos, Marco Seefried, and Tim Mueller to move to the front of the pack and roll out to an impressive 26 lap lead at the finish of the 24 hours. Completing 731 laps of the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, the 92 set a new record for race distance in the process. The previous distance record was 722 laps; set at the inaugural running by Bohemia Energy by Scuderia Praha back in 2017.The sister 91 car managed to set a series of fast laps following its gearbox change which allowed Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn and brothers Robert and Alfred Renauer to recover into second place, securing a 1-2 finish for Herberth and Porsche.
The 991 category for 911 GT3 Cup cars was won by the #921 Muehlner Motorsport team of Moritz Kranz, Tom Cloet, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Carlos Viera. With only the two Herberth cars remaining in the faster GT3 category, the team sailed home to a third overall finish, completing a Porsche lockout of the podium, some 42 laps in arrears of the overall victors.
Ultimately this race was one of traffic management, as most of the grid was comprised of slower TCR classed cars or Porsche Caymans. The winning 911 GT3Rs had to work around that traffic in a patient manner in order to find victory lane. Cautious and steady but still fast is kind of the Porsche way in these manic 24 hour races. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the German sports car brand in 2020. Here's hoping they find a lot more trips to the podium this year.