Nürburgring 24 Hours – Preview
The 24-hour race on the legendary Nordschleife of the Nürburgring is one of the world’s biggest motorsport events. More than 200,000 fans are expected at the 44th running of the Eifel classic on 28/29 May. The factory-supported Manthey Racing team, with its headquarters just a stone’s throw away from the Nürburgring in the village of Meuspath, fields two new Porsche 911 GT3 R. Each of the 500 hp customer-sport racers from Weissach, which is based on the 911 GT3 RS production sports car, is driven by a four-man works-driver squad. Manthey Racing has won the race five times through the “Green Hell”, a name that was coined for the Nordschleife.
The Nürburgring 24 Hours is famed for its suspense and thrills. Around the perimeter of the world-renowned, tradition-steeped circuit, fans revel in the unique atmosphere with a giant motorsport party. Germany’s greatest sport event draws its particular flair from the 25.378-kilometre circuit (Grand Prix plus the Nordschleife “northern loop”), as well as the fascinating mix of professional and amateur racers. Extraordinarily, lining up on the grid this year are 160 vehicles from 18 manufacturers – including 37 different Porsche model lines. Around 600 pilots will share driving duties over the 24 hours.
The Porsche drivers
Eight Porsche works drivers compete for Manthey Racing at the Nürburgring. Sharing the cockpit of the #911 Porsche 911 GT3 R are outright Le Mans winner Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Nick Tandy (Great Britain), the defending IMSA GT champion Patrick Pilet (France), as well as his compatriot Kévin Estre. In the sister 911 GT3 R with the starting number 912 are Richard Lietz (Austria), the 2015 winner of the FIA World Endurance Trophy as the best GT pilot, as well as Jörg Bergmeister (Germany), Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France). Another works driver, Wolf Henzler (Germany), will contest the marathon for the Falken Motorsports customer squad.
The Porsche 911 GT3 R
The 911 GT3 R celebrated it race debut in January 2016 at the Daytona 24-hour race mounted with the new, ultra-modern, four-litre flat-six DFI engine. The new racer promptly clinched pole position and finished the race second in the GTD class. The first victory came shortly afterwards at the World Challenge in the USA. Porsche designed the 500 hp customer-sport racer for GT3 series around the world based on the 911 GT3 RS production sports car. In its development, engineers paid special attention to uncompromising lightweight design, better aerodynamic efficiency and reduced consumption as well as improved handling.
Free practice takes place on Thursday, 26 May, from 15.45 to 17.25 hrs, with the first qualifying session running from 20.00 to 23.30 hrs. The second qualifying is held on Friday, 27 May, from 09.30 to 11.30 hrs. The Top 30 qualifying takes place from 19.50 to 20.30 hrs, with the 24-hour race taking off on Saturday, 28 May, at 15.30 hours.
Live on TV
RTL Nitro broadcasts the entire race live – from 15.00 hrs on Saturday, 28 May, to 16.50 hrs on Sunday, 29 May. On Thursday, 26 May, the German channel televises the highlights of the qualifying and reports on the Top 30 qualifying live on Friday, 27 May, from 19.30 to 21.10 hrs. As part of its coverage of the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix, RTL broadcasts the start of the race on Saturday from 15.25 hrs and the finish on Sunday from 15.45 hrs.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “First Nürburgring, then Le Mans – two 24-hour classics within just three weeks pose a great challenge for us all. At the Nürburgring we’re placing the new 911 GT3 R into the capable hands of our long-standing partner Manthey Racing. Thanks to its extensive Nordschleife experience, this successful squad knows the Nordschleife like no other team and has already been able to gain valuable knowledge from VLN races with our new customer sports racer. Together with our works drivers, they will do everything to bring home the sixth joint victory from this extraordinary race.”
Sascha Pilz, Director GT Customer Sport: “Aside from Weissach, the Nürburgring Nordschleife was something of a second test and development ground for the new 911 GT3 R. After a strong start to the season at Daytona and many promising test runs at various VLN races, we’re now eager to see how the new car performs at the 24-hour race on this unique circuit under Manthey Racing and experienced customer teams.”
Drivers 911 GT3 R #911
Earl Bamber: “This will be my first 24-hour race on the Nürburgring. It’s one of the toughest long distance races in the world and a fantastic challenge. We prepared for this highlight well at various VLN races. I’m looking forward to my first factory outing with the new 911 GT3 R.”
Kévin Estre: “The Nordschleife is an interesting racetrack. I know it as extremely varied and demanding. To contest this race with such experienced teammates and the new 911 GT3 R will definitely be a very special experience.”
Patrick Pilet: “Although it’s the first 24-hour race on the Nordschleife for the GT3 R, the car performed so well in the USA recently that I’m feeling very confident for the Nürburgring race. We’re a great team and we have big plans. The last Porsche victory here was a few years ago.”
Nick Tandy: “This is definitely one of the classics you want to win as a racing driver. The event is hugely popular in England. The reason for this is the Nürburgring itself, its history and the many great racing drivers who have already won there. The new 911 GT3 R is great fun to drive, especially on the Nordschleife.“
Drivers 911 GT3 R #912
Jörg Bergmeister: “This race is one of the highlights of the year. The Nürburgring is my home track – it’s only an hour’s drive away from where I live. I’ve contested this race several times, but victory has eluded me. Thanks to my races in the USA, I’m very familiar with the 911 GT3 R.”
Michael Christensen: “I can’t wait to contest this exceptional race with Manthey Racing. We’re well prepared and we’ve made ongoing improvements to the 911 GT3 R. The car’s now great fun on the Nordschleife.”
Richard Lietz: “Just like Le Mans, this race is a classic. Every racing driver would give anything to win it once in their lives. Unfortunately I didn’t compete here last year, but that makes it all the more exciting to now drive the 911 GT3 R on the Nordschleife. We’re competing with a strong team, so our goal should be to win.”
Frédéric Makowiecki: “The Nordschleife is an extremely challenging circuit. As a driver you have to concentrate totally from the first to the last kilometre. The traffic with 160 cars is not easy. The tiniest mistake can have major consequences and cost you a victory. That’s a huge challenge, with the new 911 GT3 R, as well.”
The teams competing with the 911 GT3 R:
Manthey Racing (#911) with Nick Tandy (GB), Kévin Estre (F), Earl Bamber (NZ), Patrick Pilet (F)
Manthey Racing (#912) with Richard Lietz (A), Jörg Bergmeister (D), Michael Christensen (DK), Frederic Makowiecki (F)
Frikadelli Racing Team (#3) with Klaus Abbelen (D), Sabine Schmitz (D), Patrick Huisman (NL), Norbert Siedler (A)
Manthey Racing (#12) with Otto Klohs (D), Dieter Schmidtmann (D), Jens Richter (D), Robert Renauer (D)
Wochenspiegel Team Manthey (#21) with Georg Weiss (D), Oliver Kainz (D), Jochen Krumbach (D), Mike Stursberg (D)
Falken Motorsports (#44) with Wolf Henzler (D), Peter Dumbreck (GB), Martin Ragginger (A), Alexandre Imperatori (CN)