It was one of the most exciting and dramatic 24 hour races at the Nürburgring. And it finished with a triumph for Porsche: In front of 220,000 spectators lining the legendary Nordschleife, Porsche works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Timo Bernhard (Germany), Romain Dumas (France) as well as Lucas Luhr (Switzerland) won the 39th running of the long distance classic in the Eifel with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and relegated their strong opponents from BMW, Mercedes and Audi to finish down the field.
For Porsche and the Porsche Team Manthey, this marked the fifth victory at the traditional race in the last six years – likewise for Timo Bernhard.
With the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - the world’s most successful GT race car of the last years - the Porsche quartet snatched the lead on Saturday at 23.25 hours and held on to it to the flag. What followed were 16 hours and 35 minutes at the head of the field, 108 consistently fast and faultless laps under immense pressure on one of the toughest race tracks on earth – this speaks volumes about the reliability of the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and for the skill of the pilots. The new distance record set with a total of 156 laps and 3,958.968 kilometers underlines the superb effort of the winners and their team.
“We already knew before the start that we could only win if we worked together as a team, from the drivers through to the mechanics. And this worked very well for the entire time,” Timo Bernhard said. Indeed, aside from the usual tensions on the track, there was just one truly critical situation – strangely enough in the pits. Lucas Luhr: “During a pit stop the petrol pump didn’t work. Fuel simply didn’t come out. So we had to push our car back to another pump and in doing so lost almost a minute.”
The Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid also gave an impressive performance, even though its second start at the 24 hour classic did not yield the anticipated top result. Fielded by Porsche Team Manthey with Porsche works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria), Marco Holzer (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA), the innovative race car with its ground-breaking drive concept finished an impressive 28th after a breathtaking chase through the field, 17 laps behind the winner.
Showing its true potential, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid moved into the lead on Saturday about four hours after the start. But a broken flange in the differential sent it into the pits for repairs, which cost six laps to the leader. But the trouble wasn’t to stop there: After a good seven hours, the same problem struck again necessitating a second unplanned pit stop. This time repairs took 40 minutes. With a ten-lap gap to the front-runners, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid rejoined the race in position 105. Clocking lap times which were sometimes faster than those at the front, it ploughed through the field to rank 23rd. However, on Sunday morning the vehicle’s charge was interrupted yet again: While lapping a slower competitor, Patrick Long was nudged and spun at high speed in the Flugplatz passage. In the pits, however, no damages to the vehicle were found.
Manned by Porsche factory pilot Wolf Henzler (Germany) as well as Peter Dumbreck (Great Britain), Martin Ragginger (Austria) and Sebastian Asch (Germany), the Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by Falken Motorsports took up the race on intermediate tyres. This proved to be a good decision. Wolf Henzler made up several places before pitting after two laps once the rain had stopped to change to slicks. An engine change in the first quarter of the race robbed the team of all chances for a better result. At the flag, the Falken quartet occupied 49th. The swift lap times that the 911 GT3 R yielded after the long repair phase were, in this case, a poor consolation. “It was somewhat frustrating to drive such great times and yet be so far down the field,” said Wolf Henzler. “Still, considering these times, the mood in the team is good. It gives us a lot of motivation. Despite everything, we’re taking home a wealth of experience from the Nürburgring.”
After a trouble-free early phase under difficult conditions, the Porsche 911 GT3 R, which Manthey Racing ran parallel to the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, was taken out of the race after a good two hours. The team wanted to concentrate on just one car. A perfect strategy that was rewarded with victory. And as Timo Bernhard crossed the finish line with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, the Eifel at last showed its true sunny colors.
Result Nürburgring 24 hour race
1. Lieb/Bernhard/Dumas/Luhr (D/D/F/CH), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 156 laps
2. Müller/Farfus/Alzen/Lamy (D/BRA/D/P), BMW M3 GT, +4:23.7 seconds
3. Basseng/Fässler/Piccini/Stippler (D/CH/I/D), Audi R8 LMS, - 1 lap
4. Stippler/Hennerici/Haase/Winkelhock (D/D/D/D), Audi R8 LMS, - 1
5. Ekström/Scheider/Werner/Abt (S/D/D/D), Audi R8 LMS, - 2
6. Heyer/Jäger/Bleekemolen/Seyffarth (D/D/NL/D), Mercedes-Benz SLS, - 3
7. Arnold/Margaritis/Brück/Frankenhout (D/D/D/NL), Mercedes-Benz SLS, - 3
8. Farnbacher/Simonsen/Seefried/Melo (D/MC/D/I), Ferrari F 458, - 4
9. Abbelen/Schmitz/Kentenich/T. Bergmeister (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, - 4
10. Weiss/Kainz/Jacobs/Krumbach (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, - 5
28. J. Bergmeister/Lietz/Holzer/Long (D/A/D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid, - 17
49. Henzler/Ragginger/Dumbreck/Asch (D/A/GB/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, - 24