Like Spa-Francorchamps, the final fight for victory came down to Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha and Herberth Motorsport in the closing stages. Further back, a similar duel was developing in the 991 class.
- Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha struggles with low grip in the early stages…
- …allowing Herberth Motorsport to control the race at the halfway point
- Could the Porsche undercut the Ferrari in the closing stages?
On the run to the flag, a duel between Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11) and Herberth Motorsport (#91) looked like it would come down to two things: when the leading Ferrari would make its final pit stop, and whether the 2nd-placed Porsche closing in would need a final pit stop for fuel.
There was something very familiar about this. Just a few weeks earlier after all, an epic fight for the win between the pair at the Hankook 12H SPA was decided by less than eight seconds, the Ferrari only just squeezing past the Porsche as the latter exited the pit lane with just two laps to go.
Granted, the result in Brno couldn’t quite match the Belgian drama (we’re not sure our heart rates could take it). But the Brno race, control of which had bounced repeatedly between Scuderia Praha and Herberth during the previous 11 hours, would be much closer at the flag than many had suspected after the first three hours.
Come the overnight intervention, the #11 Ferrari had led all but six of the first 79 laps, and looked set to continue its dominance of the Hankook 12H BRNO the following day, despite the circuit’s uncharacteristically low levels of grip. Lower ambient temperatures first thing on Saturday morning however swung the eight ball hard against the Ferrari. At a loss to explain why the 488 GT3 was suddenly lapping, at times, four seconds per lap slower than its rivals, Matteo Mallucelli was an unusually easy pick after the restart for Jürgen Häring in the Car Collection Motorsport Audi (#88), Oliver Kainz in the Wochenspiegel Team Monschau Ferrari (#22), and Robert Renauer in the Herberth Porsche, each of whom had managed to stay on the lead lap.
Anxious to save time on pit road and to ride out the storm as best it could (if anyone could do it, Mallucelli certainly could), Scuderia Praha opted not to pit the Ferrari for the first 45 minutes. Enough was clearly enough though when the Italian PRO was suddenly being harried by Charles Espenlaub in the A6-Am, CP Racing Mercedes-AMG. The door had been opened for Herberth Motorsport, now leading, and although the 991 GT3 R was nursing niggling handling issues after hitting the Team ABBA Racing BMW (#334) on the final lap the previous day, the gap had soon stretched to almost a minute.
As the afternoon wore on though, and, barring a highly random rain shower out of nowhere, by the 3rd hour (of the day), the Ferrari was dragging its way back into contention, former GP2 race winner Josef Kral scything chunks out of Ralf Bohn’s lead thanks to increasing track temperatures and the prancing horse now capable of laying its power down. By three-quarter distance, the hometown heroes were finally back in the lead.
Now outpaced (the #91 Porsche was once again competing in A6-Am), Herberth’s only chance was its superior fuel and tyre management. Even with a surprisingly low number of Code 60 caution periods – there were only three across the entire 12-hour event – could Robert Renauer make his fuel and tyres last, and run the final 90 minutes without stopping again? Could the reigning ADAC GT Masters champion, potentially, undercut the Ferrari, which definitely would not make the end with its fuel load?
That was the theory, anyway, one quickly put to bed when Renauer – racing without brother Alfred, who was on Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup duty in Monaco – started unloading green lap after green lap. If undercutting the Ferrari wasn’t an option, maybe, just maybe, reeling their rivals in might be.
A bevvy of yellow flags and crucial time lost during the penultimate pit stop when the Porsche’s left rear wheel refused to unseat itself ultimately meant the gamble would not pay off, Herberth Motorsport finishing 2nd overall for the second time in as many races after yet another brave fight to the flag.
Though not quite the ending we’d hoped for after Spa, few could deny Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha were worthy winners of their home event, such was the team’s early dominance and impressive race craft on Saturday afternoon. Still undefeated in Brno, and with three wins already under its belt in 2019, the Czech team has all the momentum heading into Portimão in two months time. That, plus a retained lead in the GT European Championship standings, although Herberth’s second A6-Am victory on the bounce means the advantage has now closed to just two points.
- CP Racing claims first 24H SERIES podium as independent entry
- Car Collection Motorsport trips up in traffic
- Gearbox woes strike the second Ferrari 488 GT3
Such was the anticipation of yet another duel between Scuderia Praha and Herberth Motorsport in the 24H SERIES (“they always look like they’re struggling in practice, and then from P25 or whatever, suddenly they are behind us and pushing us hard!” said a magnanimous Josef Kral) that a debut overall podium for CP Racing (#85) came perilously close to flying beneath the radar. All too familiar with finishing on the podium as the reigning 24H GT SERIES Drivers’ title holders in both the European Championship and the Championship of the Continents, Brno nevertheless marked the first overall podium for Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman racing under the latter’s eponymous ‘CP Racing’ banner. One that could easily have ended very differently had Joe Foster not run over a transmission cross-member on-track which he initially thought to be a piece of shorn tyre rubber! Save a badly dented front splitter, the Mercedes managed to continue unabated.
Its nearest race rival meanwhile – Car Collection Motorsport (#88) – would not be so lucky. An outside contender for victory from the get-go, the Hankook 24H DUBAI winning team made its intentions clear on Friday afternoon by claiming outright pole position with the Audi R8 LMS. Though bested by the sheer pace of the lead Ferrari, and despite a controversial bit of panel rubbing before the race had even started earning the team a time penalty, Jürgen Häring, Taki Konstantinou, Tim Müller, and former F1 man Markus Winkelhock had fought their way back towards the sharp end of the A6-Am class, and looked set for a tight fight with CP Racing – occasionally side-by-side through Automotodrom Brno’s technical infield – to the bitter end.
That was until Häring, who had shone during his earlier stunts, made a clumsy attempt to lap a backmarker, clattering into the GT4-spec Mercedes – right in front of the race-leading Scuderia Praha Ferrari! – and irreparably damaging the Audi’s steering rack. Car Collection was out, brutally, with just over 30 minutes of the 12-hour to go.
In doing so, the German squad joined Wochenspiegel Team Monschau (#22) in retirement. Tyre issues may have been the German team’s downfall in Belgium, a badly overheated gearbox fell the Ferrari in the Czech Republic. Another disappointing end after another podium-threatening performance for the former 24H SERIES podium finishers. Doubly so for Georg Weiss, who didn’t complete a single stint.
Car Collection’s demise meant that, ironically, it was fellow front row starter OLIMP Racing (#8) that was elevated to 4th overall in the closing stages. After Mateusz Lisowski’s elbow outs incident on the final formation lap with Tim Müller and a later rear left puncture had cost the Audi time, further time would be lost to a re-fuelling problem, the Polish-entered R8 LMS Evo on a charge thereafter to get back into the top 10.
‘Charge’ it most definitely was too, Lisowski and teammate Karol Basz setting three of the day’s eventual seven fastest laps to drag the day-glow Audi back towards the front in stunning fashion. 4th overall and 2nd in A6-Pro may not have been the result the OLIMP Racing had hoped for, but few can deny the Polish squad will surely be a winner in the 24H SERIES sooner rather than later.
Another beneficiary of Car Collection’s demise was the MDC-Sports Mercedes AMG GT3 (#4). Unable to start at all in Spa thanks to irreparable accident damage in private testing, Manuel, Adrian and Philipp Zumstein – the first of two all-family driver line-ups at Brno – bounced back to finish 5th on the road after a solid run, and secure the final podium spot in A6-Am. Another entry celebrating a strong race in Brno after a weekend to forget at Spa was the second Herberth Motorsport Porsche (#93), Edward Lewis Brauner, Stefan Aust and Zeljko Drmic finishing a largely trouble-free run in 6th.
Overall GT Top 3
1. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 321 laps
2. Herberth Motorsport (#91, Porsche) – +1m 54.351s
3. CP Racing (#85, Mercedes-AMG) – 318 laps
A6-Pro Top 2
1. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 321 laps
2. OLIMP Racing (#8, Audi) – 316 laps
A6-Am Top 3
1. Herberth Motorsport (#91, Porsche) – 321 laps
2. CP Racing (#85, Mercedes-AMG) – 318 laps
3. MDC-Sports (#4, Mercedes-AMG) – 315 laps
- Nail-biting duel on the run to the flag
- Speed Lover takes first class win in over a year in 24H SERIES
- Collision upends Porsche Lorient Racing’s early pace
If the story of the 991 class before the overnight intervention had been whether the standings leader – Porsche Lorient Racing – would even compete the following morning (more on that in a second), then the closing stages of the Hankook 12H BRNO was all about the epic duel between DUWO Racing’s Stanislav Sidoruk and Speed Lover’s Wim Muelders.
Throughout the preceding eight hours, the 24H SERIES stalwarts had rarely been off the same lap, and whilst it was Speed Lover who’d crossed the stripe first as each hour ticked by (despite several errant spins by the Belgian driver), savvy pit strategy meant it was DUWO Racing that led the way heading into the final 60 minutes. Barely.
The going was even tougher for Sidoruk from there on in, however. Muelders, growing ever bigger in his mirrors, was closing by almost a second per lap heading into the final hour, and would soon be on him. Passing of course would be an entirely different matter. Conditions had been notoriously tricky throughout the weekend, with GT and TCE teams alike struggling to keep their tyres alive on the circuit’s abrasive surface, and with grip limited almost entirely off-line. Muelders would need to time and position his passing manoeuvre perfectly, or he’d be in the gravel.
For almost half a dozen laps, Sidoruk and Muelders, separated only by the DUWO Porsche’s rear bumper and the Speed Lover’s headlamps, circulated line-astern and, down the main straight, side-by-side. Only when the Russian left the door partially open going into turn six did Muelders strike.
The Speed Lover 991-II Cup was through, and into an ever-increasing lead the team would hold to the chequered flag, recording the first class win for the reigning SPX European Champions since last year’s Hankook 12H SILVERSTONE. Bested, Sidoruk soon made his way to pitroad for fresh rubber, a cautionary splash of fuel and a driver change, compatriot Sergey Peregudov consequently taking the DUWO Racing Porsche over the line to collect 2nd.
Further back, and after a tough race, Porsche Lorient Racing (#911) completed the 991-class podium, a result that catapults the #911 Porsche 991-II Cup to the top of the category’s European Championship standings. The sister #912 entry meanwhile could only rue a missed opportunity. Having controlled the race in the opening few hours, a collision with the second RTR Projects KTM X-BOW (#226) heading into the final 15 minutes of Friday’s ‘half’ of the race left the French sports car with a broken radiator and damage to its front axle. Working overnight to repair the damage, and awarded a 10-lap penalty for working on the car in parc fermé, Philippe Polette, Frederic Lelievre, Pascal Gibon and Mathieu Pontais would eventually take the chequered flag 4th in-class after a trying weekend.
991 Top 3
1. Speed Lover (#978, Porsche) – 321 laps
2. DUWO Racing (#909, Porsche) – 318 laps
3. Porsche Lorient Racing (#911, Porsche) – 315 laps
- RTR Projects takes second class win of the season
- PROsport Performance retains championship lead
- Rough weekend for QSR Racingschool
Commanding performances in the opening few hours of CREVENTIC events have not always ended well for RTR Projects. At Spa in 2017 for example, a dominant run during the first four hours was obliterated when both KTM X-BOW’s suffered the same electrical glitch on the restart grid. You could forgive the runaway GT4 leaders for crossing their fingers during the overnight intervention.
Not that they needed to worry, the #224 team’s only snag in an otherwise dominant performance being slight time loss to a starter motor problem during the first pit stop of the day on Saturday. Its second class win of the season, and on home turf no less, increases RTR Projects’ lead in the SP2-class European Championship standings to 37 points.
Admittedly, fortune failed to shine quite so brightly – if at all – on the sister #226 KTM X-BOW, the gear selector issues that struck after just five laps the day before continuing to niggle away throughout Saturday afternoon. After three hours, the KTM was already 24 laps adrift of the leader, a broken exhaust and a Code 60-sparking stop on-track meaning this had extended to 64 as the final hour cruised past. Few would have blamed the team for calling the #226’s race early, but the KTM, now limping, was still alive when the chequered flag was unfurled, much to the delight of the Czech crowd.
Few were surprised to see Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#50) secure the second step of the GT4 podium. The reigning 24H TCE SERIES champion had taken the TCE division by storm in 2018, claiming a class win in each of the seven races at which the team competed. Having stepped up to the 24H GT SERIES for 2019 with the brand new M4 GT4, the car’s capabilities were more than demonstrated with a class win at Mugello in March. In Brno though, the KTM of Czech-based RTR Projects proved just too quick to overhaul, and badly wearing rear tyres meant 2nd was as good as it was likely to get for the reigning champs.
Fittingly, fellow reigning 24H SERIES champions – in the GT division this time – PROsport Performance (#1) continued its strong start to a maiden season with the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 with the team’s third class podium in succession, following a 2nd in Mugello and a class win in Spa. A result that keeps the Race Partner of Aston Martin at the top of the GT4 European Championship standings.
Just behind, and a constant podium threat, was Senkyr Motorsport (#409), which finished a solid 4th on its first GT4 outing and its first race, full stop, with the BMW M4 GT4. QSR Racing school meanwhile (#454) had less to celebrate after a difficult weekend. The team’s Mercedes-AMG GT4, having ended the second private test on the back of a flatbed, found itself in a squabble for the same stretch of tarmac at turn six as the race drew to a close. Pincered by both a Cup car, the race-leading Scuderia Praha Ferrari and Car Collection’s #88 Audi, the QSR Racingschool Merc found itself unceremoniously turfed into the kitty litter after a scrappy move from the Audi (see A6, Pt.2). Even in spite of Gavin Pickerings gallant attempt to crab the wounded AMG back to the pits, broken rear suspension meant the reigning GT4-class European Champion’s race was done, barely 10 minute short of the chequered flag.
GT4 Top 3
1. RTR Projects (#224, KTM) – 297 laps
2. Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#50, BMW) – 295 laps
3. PROsport Performance (#1, Aston Martin) – 294 laps