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The closing stages of the 2018 Hankook 24H BARCELONA saw a change of lead, drama for a potential podium finisher, and the latest notch in a legendary endurance racing career.
 
How many times have we seen this in the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook? The Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, seemingly off the pace in terms of pure qualifying speed, slowly and systematically works its way back into contention in the opening stages of the race before slowly disappearing down the road en-route to a comfortable win. It’s a pattern fans saw four times last year from the reigning Champions of the Continents, as well as this year’s Hankook 12H IMOLA, and simply made the Bavarian team’s tough start to the 2018 European Championship seem all the more baffling: after three rounds, the #911 Porsche had not bettered a 9th place finish at the flag.
 
Oddly though, despite Herberth Motorsport taking its second win at Barcelona in as many outings, it was not this particularly well-worn path that led the Bavarian squad to victory.
 
The main sticking point was the Scuderia Praha Ferrari 488 GT3. Running under the Bohemia Energy umbrella as it has done all season, the Czech-based prancing horse looked all but certain of victory, having monopolised the top spot from the 4th hour onwards. For once then, Herberth Motorsport had to rely on both pace and a helping hand from Lady Luck to leapfrog its old sparring partners at Barcelona.
 
Having played the Code 60 caution periods to perfection, and even survived a scary near-miss during the night with the VDS Racing Adventures MARC Focus V8 (#58) into turn five, the Ferrari mistimed a pit stop during the event’s 15th Code 60. Four minutes were gone in an instant as the track went green while the #11 GT3 was still waiting in the re-fuelling station. A three-lap advantage was down to just one, and would be gone altogether when the Ferrari had to pit once more with a suspected brake issue. Assisted by Scuderia Praha’s bad luck, the Herberth Motorsport Porsche hit the front, and didn’t look back.
 
The result, with just one round of the GT European Championship left to run, vaults Herberth Motorsport up to 5th in the overall standings, albeit still 27 points adrift. As this race, and indeed the 2018 season thus far suggests though, it would be foolish to count out the #911 Porsche just yet.
 
Overall GT Top 3
  1. Herberth Motorsport (#911, Porsche) – 677 laps
  2. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 676 laps
  3. IDEC SPORT RACING (#17, Mercedes-AMG) – 669 laps 
 
GT European Championship standings (after six rounds)
  1. PROsport Performance (#85) – 100 points
  2. Car Collection Motorsport (#34) – 95 points
  3. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11) – 93 points 

 
A6 – PROsport maintains its championship lead
 
2nd place overall for the frustrated Scuderia Praha team was still a good day’s work nonetheless, and more than enough to keep the #11 Ferrari within striking distance of PROsport Performance. The ‘all American’ team – based in Germany – secured its third consecutive A6-Am victory of the season in Barcelona, all the more impressive given that the reigning 991-class champions only debuted their AMG GT3 this January in Dubai. Still, despite maintaining its seven-point advantage over the Ferrari in the standings, PROsport Performance no doubt looked back on its 4th place finish as a missed opportunity.
 
Indeed, for much of the final four hours, the #85 AMG had rebuffed strong runs from both Hofor-Racing (#1) and ROFGO Racing (#31) – also running Mercs – to hold onto the final podium slot. The team’s progress would come unglued though when Charles Espenlaub could not get the completed fused front brake discs to retract in the fuelling station, and an additional precautionary stop just added to PROsport’s time on pit road, dropping them down to 5th as the race entered its final hour.
 
A reprieve would emerge in the closing stages though as ROFGO Racing, on-course to finish on the outright podium in its first series start since March, cruised into the garage with a broken alternator belt. The team was already a man down during the night stages as Thomas Jaeger was sidelined on medical grounds, leaving just Stuart Hall and Daniel Brown to double stint throughout the night. A visibly exhausted Hall would take the wheel once again when the alternator was fixed, but the AMG’s V8 would cease on the Brit’s outlap entering turn 10. In one cruel blow, the Mercedes’ run was over, almost in-sight of the chequered flag, and Hall and Brown’s courageous efforts during the night would ultimately go unrewarded.
 
With Hofor-Racing now embroiled in a battle for 4th with PROsport Performance – a scrap in which Joe Foster would eventually pass Chantal Prinz – it was the IDEC SPORT RACING Mercedes that came through to take its second outright podium of the season. With memories of a disastrous Silverstone race still fresh in the team’s memories – an event that ended with the #17 Mercedes in the pitwall – it was a well-deserved result for the French team, particularly given the 11th hour withdrawal of Patrice Lafargue’s son, Paul, due to an back injury. Into the breach stepped Marvin Klein, who drove a superb race to demonstrate the 19-year-old’s very obvious talent.
 
With Hofor-Racing secure in 2nd in A6-Am, the fight was down to Car Collection Motorsport (#34) and Swiss Team (#15) for the final class podium spot. The striking day-glow green Mercedes briefly led during the opening stages, but damage sustained during an on-track collision left the Swiss outfit with too much to do in the closing stages.
 
3rd in-class thus went to the #34 Car Collection Motorsport Audi, a fitting reward for the team’s herculean efforts (you can read about the #33’s adventure in part one HERE). Interestingly, having already secured class wins at Silverstone and Navarra, the result moves the #34 R8 LMS right into the overall European Championship hunt, just five points behind PROsport Performance. It also places team regular Elmar Grimm a stone’s throw from Charles Putman, Joe Foster and Charles Espenlaub in the overall drivers’ standings. Tellingly, Herberth’s Alfred Renauer lies just a single point further adrift. It really will be all to play for in Belgium next month.
 
A6-Pro Top 3
  1. Herberth Motorsport (#911, Porsche) – 677 laps
  2. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 676 laps
  3. IDEC SPORT RACING (#17, Mercedes-AMG) – 669 laps 

A6-Am Top 3
  1. PROsport Performance (#85, Mercedes-AMG) – 668 laps
  2. Hofor-Racing (#1, Mercedes-AMG) – 667 laps
  3. Car Collection Motorsport (#34, Audi) – 666 laps 
 
SPX – Leipert takes the win as VDS loses its bonnet
 
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya arguably hosted the closest fight for SPX class victory seen so far this season, for while the Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo (#10) ultimately crossed the line three laps ahead of both True-Racing KTM X-BOWs, the speed of the quintet aboard the #116 entry, the Austrian sports car’s impressive fuel mileage, and the experience of 2015 event winner Reinhard Kofler, meant the raging bull was still a viable target in the closing stages. One does wonder what might have been had the #116 KTM not lost time with a sticking right front wheel during its pit stop. Still, a strong run, replicating the runners-up spot the team scored earlier this year at Navarra, means True-Racing lie only 13 points adrift of the Leipert Lambo. With points multiplied by 1.5 for the season finale, the coronation is far from a foregone conclusion.
 
A strong run for VDS Racing Adventures (#58) was largely undone by time lost on pitroad, a couple of brief trips through the gravel trap, and, bizarrely, an incident when the bonnet pins failed, sending the aluminium sheet straight up and into the windscreen. Completely blinded, José Close did well to get the MARC car back to the pits with nothing more than a broken windscreen wiper. The MARC Focus V8 failed to re-fire, however, time lost to affect repairs dropping the reigning SP2 champions 54 laps adrift of the podium.
 
Vortex V8 meanwhile (#204) ended a tough afternoon against the turn 14 tyre barriers, the silhouette car having already sustained damage after a previous trip into the kitty litter. With too much damage to repair in the time required, the plug was pulled shortly before midnight.
 
SPX Top 3
  1. Leipert Motorsport (#10, Lamborghini) – 650 laps
  2. True-Racing (#116, KTM) – 647 laps
  3. True-Racing (#117, KTM) – 625 laps 
 
991 – Porsche Lorient wins; Jim Briody adds to his tally
 
Amidst the action going on up front, it was almost easy to forget that history was being made in the 991-class further back. Having already suffered a loss of power, gearshifter problems and a nudge into the gravel courtesy of the #11 Ferrari, QSR RAcingschool’s chances of a category podium seemed all but sunk before the night stages had even begun.
 
Engine failure though would drop the IDEC SPORT RACING Porsche out of the race, and, seemingly, the overall European Championship title race: it was hard to miss the forlorn faces around the all-French Porsche even amidst the sister Mercedes’ podium celebrations. Similarly, EBIMOTORS (#73), which had led much of the earlier going, had recovered from a hefty shunt with the Synchro Motorsport Honda to be running 2nd as the night stages began (part one of our race report HERE). The five-time Porsche Carrera Cup Italia champions though would be forced to nurse a punctured radiator during the night, and with the flat six engine on the point of expiry, EBIMOTORS opted to be safe and retired from the competition shortly before dawn.
 
That left the way clear for QSR Racingschool to follow the Porsche Lorient Racing duo across the line to secure the team it’s first category podium of the season and, significantly, the 50th 24-hour race podium for endurance racing legend Jim Briody in the 94th 24-hour race of his lengthy career.
 
991 Top 3
  1. Porsche Lorient Racing (#64, Porsche) – 618 laps
  2. Porsche Lorient Racing (#65, Porsche) – 603 laps
  3. QSR Racingschool (#94, Porsche) – 575 laps 
 
GT4 – Second Barcelona win on the bounce of NM Racing Team
 
While 12 months earlier the NM Racing Team (#215) had secured outright victory in the 2017 Hankook 24H BARCELONA from under the noses of TCR front-runners Team Bleekemolen and MONLAU COMPETICION, in 2018, the Spanish squad was very much the team to beat. Indeed, from class pole position, and even up against the might of PROTO star, Mike Simpson, in the Enudrance Team Romania entry (#446), the brand new G55 was very much the pacesetter. A late race driveshaft failure temporarily threatened to derail the Barcelona team’s solid efforts, but come the chequered flag, the local boys has amassed a 26-lap lead, more than enough to secure the second win in succession for Nikolay Dmitriev and Maxime Guillemat alongside new teammates Lluc Ibáñez, Max Llobet and Xavier Lloveras. It was a huge achievement by the youngest team on the grid: even the ‘veteran’ Dmitriev  was born in 1998!
 
Behind them came Nova Race (#227) after a solid albeit interrupted run with a couple of breakdowns on-track. With the eventual demise of the Romanian team, the final podium spot went to the second QSR Racingschool entry (#254), two podium spots and, unofficially, an insurmountable lead in the GT4 class standings a brilliant return for the German team.  
 
GT4 Top 3
  1. NM Racing Team (#215, Ginetta) – 623 laps
  2. Nova Race (#227, Ginetta) – 597 laps
  3. QSR Racingschool (#254, Mercedes-AMG) – 593 laps 

*You can check out the TCE race story HERE, as well as the overall GT European Championship standings HERE. Full results from the 2018 Hankook 24H BARCELONA are available HERE.
 
*Words by James Gent


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