A6 (Pt.1) – Scuderia Praha vs. Herberth. Sort of. At first.
- Scuderia Praha wins fourth race of the year
- Herberth Motorsport seals 3rd A6-Am win on the trot in 2019…
- …but the lead #91 Porsche retires with a fire at half-distance
No longer plagued by the abrasive track conditions and high tyre wear the team had struggled with in the Czech Reublic, the #11 Ferrari 488 GT3 managed to keep the pole sitting Herberth Motorsport Porsche honest during the opening stages, Matteo Mallucelli’s bowl of pasta before the race start fuelling the Italian’s speed no end it seemed. One hour and one pit stop shuffle later, the prancing horse hit the front, briefly, for the first time, though the lead would continue to swap intermittently throughout the opening quarter of the race. Differing pit strategies, the Ferrari’s superior balance through the Autódromo’s undulating, fast but technical infield, and typically flawless teamwork between Mallucelli, Jiří Písařík and Josef Kral meant that, from lap 223 onwards, and despite two tense on-track battles for the lead with both of the contending Herberth Porsches, the Ferrari would not be headed again.
16 hours later, the #11 had pulled seven laps clear after a commanding run. A physically drained Písařík brought the car home to retain both the team’s winning run in Portugal and its clean sweep of the 24H GT SERIES Europe season so far.
“The top secret is that I bought the circuit three years ago!” Písařík beamed, post-race. “For me this is the most difficult race track after only Spa. I had serious problems with the brakes for the first 15 laps, so it was a big fight. But I’ve said before, this year, Scuderia Praha is like Mercedes in Formula 1. It’s amazing!”
Though the Herberth Motorsport / Scuderia Praha rivalry is nothing new in the 24H SERIES (their grandstand finish at the Hankook 12H SPA will go down as one of the highlights of the year), the #11 and #91 were unable to joust for very long in Portugal, the Bavarian Porsche having started from the rear of the grid owing to a pit lane infraction. Worse was to come though as the #91 burst into flames on-track mere moments after the halfway point, the conflagration later blamed on a cracked fuel line. Robert Renauer fortunately managed to escape uninjured, but the Porsche’s fight in 2nd place was done with just under 12 hours of running left to go. It’s a result that’s hurt the erstwhile championship contenders badly heading to Barcelona.
In contrast, across in A6-Am, Herberth’s fortunes couldn’t have been brighter. Pre-race clutch problems for the #94 aside (see ‘What’s Happened so far’), the former 24H GT SERIES Continents champion was on a role at the start, Klaus Bachler in the #93 991 GT3 R retaining his pole position against fellow front row starter, Matteo Mallucelli, and keeping the pasta-fuelled Italian at bay for the duration of his 90-minute stint.
Edward Lewis Brauner, Stefan Aust, Klaus Rader and Hans Wehrmann were no match for PRO driver Klaus Bachler, of course – the young Austrian sensation ended up setting six of the event’s seven outright fastest laps – their pace was consistent enough to keep the Porsche well in contention for A6-Am victory, even as the 991 GT3 began to fall back through the front-running pack as night fell. Only a mistakenly suspected puncture for Hans Wehrmann, which turned out to be unyielding amounts of pick-up, and a late charge from CP Racing (#85) cost the team time en-route to Herberth Motorsport’s third A6-Am race win of the season, and the first for the team’s second entry this year.
Herberth Motorsport’s issue-struck #94 would also recover from its earlier drivetrain problems to collect the final A6-Am podium spot. Admittedly, their run was assisted by a 35-minute pit stop for erstwhile class leader, Toksport WRT (#15), that dropped the Mercedes-AMG to the tail of the A6-Am field, brake wear the suspected culprit.
Overall and A6-Pro Top 3
1. Bohemia Energy racing by Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 721 laps
2. GPX Racing (#24, Porsche) – 714 laps
3. Wochenspiegel Team Monschau (#22, Ferrari) – 712 laps
24H GT SERIES Europe Championship (after four rounds)
1. Bohemia Energy racing by Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari, A6) – 84 points
2. CP Racing (#85, Mercedes, A6) – 73 points
3. Porsche Lorient Racing (#911, Porsche, 991) – 65 points
24H GT SERIES Continents Championship (after two rounds)
1. Leipert Motorsport (#710, Lamborghini/Mercedes, SPX) – 57 points
2. Bohemia Energy racing by Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari, A6) – 54 points
3. Porsche Lorient Racing (#911, Porsche, 991) – 48 points
A6 (Pt.2) – Ferrari 1-3 on the podium split by GPX Porsche
- First podium finish of the season for GPX Racing and Wochenspiegel
- Fire scuppers Herberth Motorsport’s chances
- IDEC SPORT RACING eliminated by on-track clash with 991 entry
Like its scarlet contemporary, the Wochenspiegel Team Monschau Ferrari (#22) was also on a charge in the Algarve, collecting the team’s first class podium of an admittedly tough season so far. Fittingly, and despite struggling for pace for much of the weekend, the team’s outright 3rd place is the second time the former VLN competitors have finished on the overall podium at the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO (rewind to 2017 for their first).
The result came perilously close to slipping through their fingers too. Original plans were for David Perel to take the Ferrari 488 GT3 to the finish, though this ran the risk of the South African exceeding his maximum allowed driving time. In the end, and after a late pit stop, it was Leonard Weiss that impressively held off Herberth Motorsport’s hard-charging Klaus Bachler in the closing stages for the final GT podium spot.
Trouble ahead and Herberth’s high-profile DNF left the door open for a returning GPX Racing (#24) to collect the first outright 24H SERIES podium for the United Arab Emirates team since the 2017 Hankook 12H RED BULL RING. This, despite earlier contact with not only AC Motorsport but also, to Nicky Pastorelli anyway, a 991 entry during the night.
“There was a Porsche Cup car that braked a little too late, he didn’t see me, and he gave me a tap,” the Dutchman explained. “Apart from that, everything went really well. We had a few issues in the beginning, but we managed to [complete] the rest of the race without mistakes, everybody did a great job driving, and the whole team worked fantastically. It’s a great result.”
Another quiet race for CP Racing cemented the series’ American stalwart its fourth category podium of the year, ensuring reigning 24H GT SERIES Europe Drivers’ Champions Charles Espenlaub, ‘Charlie’ Putman and Joe Foster remain in title contention heading into Barcelona.
Despite winning this year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI, and despite the sister #34 Audi R8 LMS starting the year with two A6-Am class podiums in Dubai and Mugello, Car Collection Motorsport no doubt hoped its season would kick-start in Portimão after three luckless races. Sadly, even though the German squad led outright during the opening pit stop scramble, poor luck with the first Code 60 cost the team two laps, dropping the Audi out of the fight for an A6-Am podium it had been well in the middle of.
Later on, Max Edelhoff, having only just avoided Jimmy de Breucker’s spin into the turn one gravel (see ‘SPX’), crawled to halt on-track with electrical problems at turn 13, the necessary repairs dropping last year’s 24H GT SERIES Europe Championship runner’s up 15 laps further back. The result – 8th overall and 4th in-class – was all the more underwhelming, given that Elmar Grimm had scheduled replacement knee surgery around the event. And yes, 24-hours of endurance racing in 50+ degree temperatures apparently counts as recuperation!
Trouble continued to befall the hard-grafting IDEC SPORT RACING (#17) too. Having fallen to brake issues at Spa, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was once again in A6-Pro podium contention from the early going, and had pulled to within 90 seconds of an outright top three finish as hour 17 ticked by. A thwack from the MRS GT-Racing Porsche (see ‘991’) shortly afterwards dealt the final blow to the French team’s chances, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 proving too badly damaged to repair in time.
A6-Am Top 3
1. Herberth Motorsport (#93, Porsche) – 711 laps
2. CP Racing (#85, Mercedes) – 709 laps
3. Herberth Motorsport (#94, Porsche) – 700 laps
SPX – Leipert Motorsport extends championship lead
- Leipert Motorsport takes second win with second manufacturer
- Cor Euser Racing ends race with a serious oil leak…
- …but still sticks around to complete the final lap
Given that Leipert Motorsport had been at the front of SPX for all but one of the 23-hours in the closing stages, it was unsurprising to see the team’s brand new, more powerful Mercedes-AMG GT4 crossing the line to secure the Italian squad’s second class win of the year. The result was enough to keep Leipert Motorsport at the top of the 24H GT SERIES Continents standings with 57 points, three ahead of Bohemia Energy racing by Scuderia Praha. Having also taken victory in Dubai with the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo (two wins with two different brands is a unique accolade for the team this season), Harald Schlotter and Marcus Påverud now lead the Overall Drivers’ standings too.
Solid running was few and far between though for its SPX playmates. Problems with the on-board fire extinguisher immediately set QSR Racing School (#454) back nine laps, and a clumsy overtake attempt a few hours in even saw QSR’s new Mercedes-AMG GT4 receive an ironic thwack from the brand new ‘Evo’ Merc (“I went out wide and cut in, which is the normal line for [turn four], and he just went for a gap that wasn’t there,” Dominique Bastien later explained). Jimmy de Breucker was in for a shock as night fell though when the front brakes exploded on the start-finish straight. Unable to control the brake-less Mercedes, de Breucker hit the turn one kerb at speed, punching a hole in the radiator and burying itself in the gravel thereafter. Fire in the driver’s side wheel well was the icing atop a very bad cake, and the garage doors were shut for good after 256 laps.
Much like Spa-Francorchamps, Cor Euser Racing’s impressive early pace with the team’s brand new MARC II V8 (#717) meant the series fan favourites were well in contention after opening stints from Jim Briody and Einar Thorsen. A fused wheel mounting put paid to that, costing the team 40 minutes in the pits.
Several hours later, and now running plumb last thanks to alternator failure,
the MARC lost further momentum during the night, this time to a significant oil leak.
“[The V8] stopped using oil in the first three hours of the race,” team principal Cor Euser explained, “and then at 2.30am, it started to throw oil. It blew the gasket between the valve cover and the cylinder head, which came on the exhaust, and it caused a small fire. So we made the decision to stop.”
Unable to repair the leak, and with fire a real possibility, the MARC was retired after 380 laps.
A near nine-hour pit stop should have spelt the end of the team’s Portuguese weekend. Cor Euser is nothing if not old school though when it comes to endurance racing, and as the final 10 minutes were being counted down, the MARC II V8 poked its nose out of the garage for one last, oil-free lap to collect the chequered flag. Here’s hoping the endurance racing legend can find greater success in Barcelona and COTA for Jim Briody’s 99th and 100th 24-hour races respectively.
SPX Top 3
1. Leipert Motorsport (#710, Mercedes-AMG) – 648 laps
2. Cor Euser Racing (#717, MARC) – DNC
3. QSR Racingschool (#454, Mercedes-AMG) - DNC
991 and SP4 – Porsche Lorient Racing
- DUWO Racing takes first class win of the season
- MRS GT-Racing has a weekend to forget
- New Mercedes wins on ‘debut’
A surprisingly close battle for 991-class honours finally went the way of DUWO Racing after 24 hours, the Luxembourg squad eventually pulling just over two laps clear of Porsche Lorient Racing (#911) as the race entered its closing stages. All the more impressive, given that it was the team’s first 24-hour race since stepping up from the CUP1 category.
Although the #911 Porsche (formerly the #64) has not won its class since last year’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA almost a year ago, consummate professionalism and consistency means Porsche Lorient Racing remains in contention for the both the 991-class 24H GT SERIES Europe Championship, and the overall ‘Continents’ title, the French team just nine points in arrears heading into an event where anything can happen.
Former class leader MRS GT-Racing (#980) hit trouble shortly after the 17th hour when Porsche Super Cup racer Dorian Mansilla made heavy contact with the A6-class IDEC SPORT RACING Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#17) that had just put another lap on the Porsche 991-II Cup. The lost almost an hour repairing bodywork, suspension and steering damage to the Porsche, dropping MRS GT-Racing to the tail of the 991 class field. Recurrent steering issues and a suspected driveshaft failure in the final 90 minutes lost the team yet another hour heading into the closing stages, but Alex Autumn was still able to drive the Porsche to the chequered flag. It had been a tough race for the 991-class ‘Continents’ title contenders.
“We were quite unlucky,” Hendrik Von Dannwitz explained. “We had two accidents, and that cost us two hours in the box. Not our weekend.”
“During my stint, the [power] steering started to feel harder and harder, we were losing the liquid, and that made me spin,” teammate Nicola Michelon continued, explaining a late night spin at turn 13. “It was contact that happened three hours before my stint, it caused a small crack, and that was that.”
Up ahead in the ‘guest’ SP4 class, Mercedes-AMG completed what Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Stefan Wendl called a “flawless race”, the new ‘Evo’ version of the AMG GT3 only suffering three punctures over Portimão’s merciless kerbs and multiple track limit infractions during an otherwise trouble-free run.
“It was very valuable test, with which we gained further important experience for the final development of the new GT3,” Stefan continued. “We saw a flawless race from the crew and also from the vehicle. In this respect, it was an all-round successful race."
991 Top 3
1. DUWO Racing (#909, Porsche) – 663 laps
2. Porsche Lorient Racing (#911, Porsche) – 661 laps
3. MRS GT-Racing (#980, Porsche) – 570 laps
Mercedes -AMG Team Driving Academy (#500, Mercedes-AMG) – 704 laps
What had looked to be an effortless, and largely unchallenged, run to the flag for reigning 24H TCE SERIES champions, Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#50)…okay, remained as such pretty much throughout the second half of the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO. The Swiss-German team did hit a sizable speed hump though when fuel injector problems struck just 10 laps into Alexander Prinz’s final stint. It was a replacement that cost the team more than 50 minutes in the pitbox. True, the team’s 20-lap lead was JUST secure enough to keep the BMW M4 GT4 in the category lead – albeit with its advantage sliced to just four minutes at the flag – but a lost overall top 10 was more galling to stomach.
“The team and the drivers have worked great,” team namesake Michael Bonk explained. “Too bad, due to the defect, a better placement in the overall classification was lost. We were already at number 10, but 14th is also quite neat.”
PROsport Performance’s impressive run in the 24H SERIES with the brand new Aston Martin Vantage meanwhile (#1) came to a sputtering halt in Portimão. Though the team had been running comfortably in the top two of the GT4 class in the opening few hours, handling issues meant the Race Partner of Aston Martin dropped to the tail of the category.
Finally, the Aston’s run of four consecutive podium finishes – including a win at Spa – came to an end as a terminal exhaust issue struck shortly before the 13th hour. Unable to repair the damage in the garage, the reigning 24H GT SERIES champion was forced to pull the plug.
All this left the door open for Parkalgar Racing Team (#412) – the circuit’s in-house racing operation and a former class winner of the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO – to take 2nd in-class. Oddly, even despite PROsport’s retirement, Aston Martin managed to continue its podium run in the 24H SERIES with newboys Team Virage (#412), which ran its new Vantage GT4 for the first time in the Algarve.
“They did a great job,” explained Pedro Lamy, a former LMGTE-Am World Endurance Champion. “This is a new challenge because the Aston Martin Vantage is a new car for the team. So we had some small issues during the race, but we’ve kept going. It’s a hard circuit in some respects but I’m sure in one year, the car will be more competitive.”
How fitting it was that the former Formula 1 driver finished his first endurance race at his home circuit on the podium.
GT4 Top 3
1. Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#50, BMW) – 631 laps
2. Parkalagar Racing Team (#412, Mercedes-AMG) – 629 laps
3. Team Virage (#417, Aston Martin) – 625 laps