A6 – Four in a row for Scuderia Praha?
- Scuderia Praha (#11) leads the way. Again.
- Herberth Motorsport’s charge through the field (#91) and time in the top spot (#93)…
- …but it’s not enough to stop GPX Racing (#24) moving into 2nd
The sight of the Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha Ferrari and Herberth Motorsport’s Porsche repeatedly swapping the lead is a sight synonymous with the 24H SERIES’ top drawer A6-class, and the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO has been no different. Indeed, Jiří Písařík and Robert Renauer put on a racing clinic by running side-by-side through turns 14 and 15 and down the main straight heading into the fifth hour before the reigning ADAC GT Masters champion finally managed to get the job done around the outside turn one. One driver change and pit stop sequence later, Matteo Mallucelli and Ralf Bohn repeated this spectacle – albeit this time in the Ferrari’s favour – barely an hour later.
What perhaps surprised many was that, during the opening stages of this year’s Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, it was actually the #93 A6-Am-entered Herberth Motorsport Porsche 991 GT3 R that went toe link-to-toe link with the Scuderia Praha prancing horse, the former having qualified on pole position the day before after a stunning lap by young Austrian sensation, Klaus Bachler.
Indeed, for the first 160 laps, the sister #91 Porsche would not feature in the battle for the lead at all, having fallen foul of a poorly timed trip to the re-fuelling station just as the pitlane closed. Caught bang to rights, the #91 was forced to start from the back of the GT grid. Of course, Herberth Motorsport battling its way through the midfield to the front is nothing new in the 24H SERIES either…
Save a rapid opening stint by Bachler, which kept the #93 Herberth machine in the lead for the opening 38 laps, it wasn’t long before the Scuderia Praha took the top spot. This, despite an unsafe release after the second round of pit stops – which saw Mallucelli sent out right into the path of Wolfgang Triller in the Toksport WRT Mercedes (#15) – could easily have ended in disaster. As it was, the Czech team ‘got away’ with a 20-second time penalty for the incident.
Come the fifth hour, it was time for the Ferrari to trade places with its now customary series dance partner. Albeit not for long, as the Porsche lost a bundle of time during the second Code 60 caution period of the afternoon (30m were spent mopping up oil spilt by the QSR Racingschool Mercedes). So much in fact that this opened the door for the GPX Racing Porsche 991 GT3 R (#24) to swoop in and claim 2nd place as half-distance ticked by, courtesy of monster stints from Jordon Grogor and Nicky Pastorelli.
Save an errant spin in traffic – we’ll come to that – and an overly-ambitious overtake attempt that almost sent the TCE leader into the guardrail during the opening stages, it’s been an impressive opening run for the United Arab Emirates squad at an event in which it has previously finished on the A6-Am podium.
Still, with a one-lap lead at half distance, unsurprisingly, Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha is on course to extend its advantage in the 24H SERIES Europe standings to five points over closest rivals, CP Racing (#85).
Overall Top 3 (after 12hrs)
1. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari, A6-Pro) – 362 laps
2. GPX Racing (#24, Porsche, A6-Pro) – 361 laps
3. Herberth Motorsport (#93, Porsche, A6-Pro) – 358 laps
A6-Pro Top 3 (after 12hrs)
1. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – xxx laps
2. GPX Racing (#24, Porsche) – xxx laps
3. Herberth Motorsport (#93, Porsche) – xxx laps
A6-Am Top 3 (after 12hrs)
1. CP Racing (#85, Mercedes-AMG) – xxx laps
2. Toksport WRT (#15, Mercedes-AMG) – xxx laps
3. Herberth Motorsport (#93, Porsche) – xxx laps
SPX and SP4 – QSR kerb stomped; Cor Euser stopped in its tracks
- Fiery end to QSR Racing’s weekend?
- Stubborn wheel costs Cor Euser Racing badly
- Leipert Motorsport on course for second win of 2019
It didn’t take long for trouble to find the SPX class runners. Barely the first formation lap ahead of the green flag had been flown before the QSR Racingschool Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#454) was back on pit road with a malfunctioning fire extinguisher. Unable to compete without it, the developmental Merc on its first run with the Belgian team would immediately lose nine laps to the rest of the field while a solution was sought.
Unfortunately, that was not the end of QSR’s problems during the opening half of the race. Though the team had been running well heading into the night stages – like it contemporaries, the AMG was thriving in the cooler conditions – and had even pulled back half of its deficit to the class leader – a scary moment sent Jimmy de Breucker into the turn 1 gravel trap when the Mercedes’ left front brake disc exploded. Though the AMG managed to avoid clattering into another car, high speed contact with both the outside kerb and the gravel trap sent oil skating across the circuit. To add insult to mechanical injury, de Breucker only just managed to scramble free of the Mercedes bucket seat before pickup in the front left wheel well ignited. The charred AMG was recovered to the pitlane, but disappeared behind the garage’s shuttered doors and has yet to re-appear.
Endurance racing legend Cor Euser has also weathered a tough race. Despite his eponymous outfit leading the way in the early going, trouble struck during the third hour when the left rear wheel on the MARC II V8 refused to budge from its locating pins during a pit stop. Not even furious kicks from a mechanic could shift the errant wheel, and more than 35 minutes had passed before the wheel could finally be removed, the damage to the wheel hub repaired, and Ricky Coomber in the MARC II V8 sent on its way. Further time lost to an alternator issue earlier in the afternoon meant Cor Euser Racing had fallen 19 laps behind SPX class leader, Leipert Motorsport (#710) come the halfway point.
Consequently, the Lamborghini specialist, which swaps its customary Raging Bull for a Mercedes-AMG GT4 this weekend, already looks set to christen the three-pointed star with the team’s second win of the season.
SPX Top 3 (after 12hrs)
1. Leipert Motorsport (#710, Mercedes-AMG) – 329 laps
2. Cor Euser Racing (#717, MARC) – 310 laps
3. QSR Racingschool (#454, Mercedes-AMG) – DNF
991 and SP4 – Too close to call; new Merc gets ‘Evo’ ball rolling
- Porsche Lorient Racing holds the lead early on…
- …but come close to being wiped out by GPX Racing
- New 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT3 ‘Evo’ in the top 10
Barring intermittent lead changes with the MRS GT-Racing Porsche (#980) during the pit stop shuffles, the 991 class has been a mostly DUWO Racing (#909) affair from the early going. Though that’s not to say competition for the top spot hasn’t been tight.
The pole sitting Porsche Lorient Racing 991-II Cup (#911) – flying stag this weekend in a rare weekend without the sister #912 Cup car – made a strong start to hold the lead until the first round of pit stops, only slipping back through the standings to 3rd after losing time during the first Code 60 caution period. Even as the race screamed its way past quarter distance, all three remained either on the same lap or just a few minutes apart. So close in fact that just five seconds separated 2nd-placed Porsche Lorient Racing – the current leader in both the 24H SERIES Europe and 24H SERIES Continents 991-class standings – from MRS GT-Racing in 3rd. Taking a foot off the proverbial, and literal, right pedal wasn’t an option for anyone.
As night descended though, Jean-François Demorge received a shock to the system when fellow Porsche runner Nicky Pastorelli – albeit in the A6-entered GPX Racing 991 GT3 R (#24) – left things a little too close for comfort when he came by to lap the Porsche, the Dutchman losing traction on the outside of turn 11 and coming very close to sluicing straight into the pursuing Cup car.
Slightly further up the road ahead of the three-way fight for 991 honours is the brand new Mercedes-AMG GT3, the sole entry in CREVENTIC’s developmental SP4 class. Running under the ‘Mercedes-AMG Team Driving Academy’ banner this weekend, the updated GT3 enters its first race as part of an extensive development program, one that will draw to a close when the soon-to-be homologated Merc makes its official competitive debut at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours. And so far, the pace has been impressive. The AMG ‘Evo’ ran both comfortably and without fault in the outright top five in the early going, despite a penalty for jumping the start, multiple track limit infringements, and no mercy shown by any of its five drivers over Portimão’s fearsome sausage kerbs.
A top 10 finish would be an impressive start to the new 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT3’s motorsport campaign.
991 Top 3 (after 12hrs)
1. DUWO Racing (#909, Porsche) – 333 laps
2. Porsche Lorient Racing (#911, Porsche) – 329 laps
3. MRS GT-Racing (#980, Porsche) – +5.559s
SP4 Results (after 12hrs)
1. Mercedes-AMG Team Driving Academy (#500, Mercedes-AMG) – 350 laps
GT4 – Astons hit trouble; Hofor Racing / Bonk Motorsport hit the front
- Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport leads the way
- PROsport chances dashed with brake issues
- Team Virage almost an hour behind on series debut
Much like Mugello, reigning 24H TCE SERIES champion Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#50), in its first season as part of the GT division, has driven with metronomic efficiency in Portugal, and already looks set to take its second GT4 class win of the year with the BMW M4 GT4. Save higher than expected tyre wear and an early pit stop as a result of a slow puncture, the Swiss-German team has enjoyed a quiet race so far at the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO.
Compare that with its rivals.
PROsport Performance (#1) – competing in its second 24-hour race in as many weekends in Portugal – was well in the thick of the action during the opening couple of hours, only for a suspected right rear puncture to scupper Nico Verdonck’s first stint in the car. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the end of the problems for the 2018 24H GT SERIES championship winning team, as brake issues sent the Aston Martin Vantage back to the garage for extensive repairs not too long after.
If there was one silver lining though, early contact with CP Racing (#85) ended with nothing more than a quick spin for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and some slightly reddened cheeks for Joe Foster. It could easily have been much worse.
PROsport was not the only Aston to hit trouble though in the opening 12 hours. Despite impressive pace during both qualifying and the opening stages of the race – Pedro Lamy even managed to hit the front – handling issues, a loss of drive in the re-fuelling station and time spent trying to battle myriad brake issues meant Team Virage was already 26 laps behind the leader come the halfway point.
This means that, despite suffering its own problems early on, the Parkalgar Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#412) held the final step of the GT4 class podium at its home race after 12 hours. A fitting result it would be for the Portuguese outfit too, given that the team actually won the A3-class at the inaugural Hankook 24H PORTIMAO back in 2017, and that circuit boss Paulo Pinheiro is on driver detail this weekend.
GT4 Top 3 (after 12hrs)
1. Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#50, BMW) – xxx laps
2. Parkalgar Racing Team (#412, Mercedes-AMG) – xxx laps
3. PROsport Performance (#1, Aston Martin) – xxx laps
TCR – TOPCAR is the…top car
- TOPCAR sport by Bas Koeten Racing on dominant form
- AC Motorsport falls behind season rivals Autorama Motorsport
- Suspension woes for Red Camel-Jordans.nl
- AC Motorsport just can’t catch a break.
Already a two-time TCR podium finisher this year, the Belgian squad should, by rights, have one if not two more to their name in 2019, including a possible win. In Dubai for instance, the Audi RS3 LMS was on course to take outright TCE victory only for pick-up in the rear wheel well to catch fire and smoke out driver Tom Boonen with just a few hours left to run. A heavy accident in free practice for the Hankook 12H SPA put the team on the back foot before the race had even started (okay, they would recover to finish 3rd in TCR), and last time out in Brno, brake issues meant the Audi ended its run in the tyre barrier on the final lap.
The team’s luck, finally, seemed to have shifted on Friday when Sam Dejonghe secured pole position for the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, the pace of the Audi RS3 LMS capable of keeping the team at the front when the race finally got underway. A slightly wobbly lap in traffic meant AC Motorsport dropped from 1st to 3rd in just a few corners in the early going, and we’ve already mentioned Pastorelli’s ‘love tap’, but a potential run to the flag was still on the cards.
Then things started to unravel, with time lost to loose body work team was instructed to repair, overheating tyres, and a bizarre incident in which James Kaye’s water bottle wasn’t installed during a pit stop. Though still in the running in 3rd, 14 laps adrift of the leading TOPCAR sport by Bas Koeten Racing CUPRA after 12 hours must be a tough pill to swallow after Friday’s efforts.
Admittedly, few have been able to touch an otherwise dominant performance thus far from TOPCAR sport by Bas Koeten Racing (#131), to-ing and fro-ing for the lead in the opening few laps eventually brought to a screeching halt by the superb pace of Antti Buri. Even the TCE standings leader – Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#112) – has been unable to touch its Swiss compatriot Bas Koeten’s magic on pitroad at work once again.
Admittedly, with three wins already under its belt this year, 2nd place would be more than enough to keep the Autorama’s place atop the 24H SERIES Europe and 24H SERIES Continents standings intact.
Further back, suspension issues were the order of the day once again for reigning TCR-class champion, Red Camel-Jordans.nl (#101). Despite strong pace throughout the weekend, the Hankook 12H SPA TCE winners lost almost 15 minutes replacing a suspension arm after just two hours of running, a delay that dropped the Dutch outfit to the tail of the field. A tough start to Luc Breukers’ first ever 24-hour endurance race.
Nordschleife Racing meanwhile (#172) props up the TCR field after 12 hours, following a trip for the Peugeot 308 Racing Cup into the gravel trap for Guillaume Roman, a mistake that brought out the event’s first Code 60. Still, don’t let that name fool you: underneath the rebrand lies ‘Team Altran Peugeot’, a former TCR-class champion in the 24H SERIES. ‘Give up’ isn’t in their vocabulary.
Overall and TCR Top 3 (after 12 hrs)
1. TOPCAR sport by Bas Koeten Racing (#131, CUPRA) – xxx laps
2. Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#112, Volkswagen) – xxx laps
3. AC Motorsport (#188, Audi) – xxx laps
24H SERIES Europe TCE Standings (as it stands)
1. Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#112, Volkswagen, TCR) – xxx points
2. Synchro Motorsport (#676, Honda, A3) – xxx points
3. AC Motorsport (#188, Audi, TCR) – xxx points
24H SERIES Continents TCE Standings (as it stands)
1. Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#112, Volkswagen, TCR) – 329 pointds
2. AC Motorsport (#188, Audi, TCR) – 325 points
3. Red Camel-Jordans.nl (#101, CUPRA, TCR) – 315 points
A3 – Synchro undresses itself as Hofor Racing fries its turbo
- Synchro Motorsport (#676) loses most of its rear bodywork…
- …then loses time to a failed upright
- Hofor Racing / Bonk Motorsport (#869) face the music with turbo failure
- “That’s our trademark now, isn’t it?!”
Even team principal and driver Alyn James had to admit that television images of the Synchro Motorsport ‘FK8’ Honda Civic Type-R (#676) circulating on-track with most of its rear bumper missing has quickly become the norm in the 24H SERIES. Such would again prove the case after just a few hours in Portugal, an absurdly high amount of tyre pick-up congealing in the left rear wheel well, destroying the handling and, eventually, firing itself like a canon at the overhanging rear bumper. Two hours later, the British team of Honda UK employees would be gifted another ‘stress ball’ as the exact same thing happened to the other rear wheel well.
Fortunately, troubles for its nearest rival – and we’ll get to that in a second – meant the former 24H TCE SERIES champion had more than enough time in its pocket to consider a precautionary engine change when the Honda’s six-pot began to struggle under the gruelling Algarve sunshine. The team was particularly relieved to have time in-hand when an upright failed, sending the Honda to the garage for close to 20 minutes. It did little to dent the team’s 136-lap lead.
In stark contrast to its sister BMW M4 GT4, the Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport BMW M240i Racing Cup (#869) has endured a tough race in Portugal. Strong one-lap pace around the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve proved more than enough to seal both class pole position and a 50s lead at the end of the first hour. Early signs of turbo failure would strike soon after though, and after losing almost two hours trying to find the problem, the BMW would complete just four more laps ‘in anger’ before admittedly defeat and starting work on replacing the turbocharger in its entirety.
Five hours later, the Swiss-German pseudo ‘art car’ was back on the move with a lot of time to make up, and already throwing its hat in the ring for radiolemans.com’s coveted ‘Spirit of the Race’ award.
A3 Top 2 (after 12hrs)
1. Synchro Motorsport (#676, Honda) – 305 laps
2. Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#869, BMW) – 169 laps