In sunny conditions and temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius, one of Falken Motorsports’ two Porsche 911 GT3 R made the best start into the race. At times, Nico Menzel advanced to third place with the No. 44 car. His teammate Tim Heinemann then kept the car in the top five only to be struck by the first setback: he hit the crash barriers after a side impact while lapping a slower car. The repairs threw the Falken 911 far down the field. Not to be discouraged, Menzel, Heinemann and their teammates Joel Eriksson from Sweden and Martin Ragginger from Austria gradually worked their way back into the top group. However, all hopes of a podium finish were dashed when Tim Heinemann had to drive about two-thirds of the 25.378-kilometre racetrack at slow speed after sustaining tyre damage on Sunday morning. Ultimately, the No. 44 car took the flag in tenth place.
The fewer the incidents, the better the result: This was the motto that Rutronik Racing followed from start to finish in front of 235,000 spectators. The ca. 416 kW (565 PS) Porsche 911 GT3 R run by the customer squad from Germany covered the entire distance unscathed and finished fifth overall. The drivers Julien Andlauer from France, Matteo Cairoli from Italy and Dennis Olsen from Norway deliberately drove less aggressively during the critical hot starting phase and the strenuous night in the “Green Hell”. The only minor hiccup for the No. 96 car was a 32-second penalty. After completing 162 laps, Rutronik Racing set a new distance record in the 24-hour race together with four best-placed cars.
The 51st edition of the popular endurance classic in the Eifel did not look particularly good for Porsche over long stretches. Manthey EMA’s much-loved “Grello” retired early after around ten hours of racing. As a result of hitting the tire wall early on, the team suffered several punctures and ultimately had to park the No. 911 car in the pits for safety reasons. After just two and a half hours, Lionspeed by Car Collection’s race was over: works driver Matt Campbell ended up in the barriers at the end of his first stint and sustained damage to the No. 24 Porsche 911 GT3 R. The No. 33 entry fielded by Falken Motorsports and the 911 cars from Dinamic GT and Huber Motorsport also had to retire after collisions.
“We have two cars in the top 10, which is more or less in line with our expectations,” summarises Sebastian Golz. The Porsche 911 GT3 R Project Manager adds, “Congratulations to Rutronik Racing and Falken Motorsports. These two teams managed to go the distance relatively trouble-free. Falken did sustain two punctures, but Rutronik got through the laps cleanly. They kept out of trouble, consistently worked their way to the front and got the most out of the race. Fifth place is a well-deserved reward.”
Porsche’s customer cars also performed impressively in many other classes. With 44 cars, the sports car manufacturer from Stuttgart was the most represented brand in the 130-strong field. The No. 161 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup from KKrämer Racing won the Cup2 category. The latest Cup car based on the 992 generation was the fastest non-GT3 vehicle in the race, finishing 17th overall. “In terms of its basic concept, we designed the current Porsche 911 GT3 Cup as a vehicle for the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and Porsche’s many one-make cup racing series,” explains Tobias Hütter, GT Sport Specialist. “That makes us all the more pleased that it also proved its value as a highly competitive endurance racing car at one of the world’s toughest 24-hour events. Of course, we also owe this result to the strong performance of our customer teams and their drivers. They did a first-class job at the Nürburgring.”
Comments on the race
Fabian Plentz (Team Principal Rutronik Racing): “We had a difficult start from 21st place on the grid. Our pace wasn’t particularly strong until nightfall. But when the temperatures dropped more significantly, we found a really good rhythm. We managed to put in some double stints and catch up. In the morning we were running in sixth place and then we moved up another position – that’s all we could squeeze out of the race. The gap to the top was simply too big. Our team and drivers did a great job.”
Dennis Olsen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #96): “Once again, the ‘Green Hell’ lived up to its name. It was an incredibly tough race. We did our utmost and the team worked perfectly. We got through the race without any technical problems. Everything was perfectly prepared. Nevertheless, it became very clear that the other manufacturers could set a better pace. We accomplished what we set out to do and have to be satisfied with the result. Fifth place almost feels like a podium finish after today’s battle. Now, my sights are set on the coming weekend and the start of the DTM season. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Tim Heinemann (Porsche 911 GT3 R #44): “We were within striking distance of the podium early in the race, but then came the first mishap – a high-speed spin, puncture and considerable time cost. In the morning we fought our way back into the top five. And then? More damage. We tried everything and managed to mitigate the damage by finishing tenth. Our mechanics worked incredibly hard. It’s a shame because more could have been possible. Now we have to live with this result. It felt great representing such a prestigious brand like Porsche in front of more than 230,000 spectators. Next up for me is the DTM. The tests went well. I’m confident and hope that, as a newcomer, I can muscle my way into the top 10 in the DTM.”
1. Catsburg/Bamber/Fernandez Laser/Pittard (NL/NZ/D/UK), Ferrari 296 GT3 #30, Frikadelli Racing Team, 162 laps
2. Wittman/S. van der Linde/D. Vanthoor/Martin (D/RSA/B/B), BMW M4 GT3 #98, Rowe Racing, 162 laps
3. Marciello/Stolz/Ellis (I/D/D), Mercedes-AMG GT3 #4, Team GetSpeed, 162 laps
5. Olsen/Cairoli/Andlauer (N/I/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #96, Rutronik Racing, 162 laps
10. Eriksson/Heinemeier/Menzel/Ragginger (S/D/D/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #44, Falken Motorsports, 160 laps
DNF. Fetzer/Ledogar/Kern/Dumas (D/F/D/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #25, Huber Motorsport, 105 laps
DNF. L. Vanthoor/Heinrich/Güven/Engelhart (B/D/TR/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #54, Dinamic GT, 83 laps
DNF. Bachler/Müller/Picariello (A/D/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #33, Falken Motorsports, 77 laps
DNF. Christensen/Estre/Makowiecki/Preining (DK/F/F/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #911, Manthey EMA, 62 laps
DNF. Kolb/Campbell/Jaminet/Pilet (D/AUS/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #24, Lionspeed by Car Collection, 16 laps
Full results on: https://www.24h-rennen.de/ergebnisse/
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Edited Porsche Factory Press Release
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG