Though series returnee Land Motorsport was brutally denied a GT3-AM podium finish in the closing stages of the 2023 Hankook 12H MUGELLO, as well as a shot at outright victory owing to two costly time penalties, Christian Land is optimistic that “the total package is good enough for top positions” in the coming 24H SERIES races.
Words – James Gent
Images – Nico Mombaerts
Land Motorsport team principal, and namesake, Christian Land is optimistic about the remaining races of this year’s 24H SERIES powered by Hankook, despite a devastating end to the German team’s return at the Hankook 12H MUGELLO.
The Hankook 24H DUBAI winner in 2009 entered two EVO II-spec Audi R8 LMS GT3s for CREVENTIC’s European season opener at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, leading most of the opening stages with its #55 PRO/AM entry and looking on course for a GT3-AM podium as well with its sister #34 entry. A water leak discovered shortly after the opening six hours meant the #55 had already dropped out of overall podium contention by half-distance, while a left rear puncture and a subsequent driveshaft failure brutally ended up denying the #34 a class podium with only 10 minutes left on the clock.
Despite the setbacks, Christian Land nevertheless feels confident that “the total package is good enough for top positions” as the team looks ahead to next month’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCPORCHAMPS on 6-7 May, as well as the remainder of its first full European campaign in the 24H SERIES in 2023.
“From a sporting point of view, we could have done more,” Land explains in an official statement. “However, a few setbacks and unfortunate circumstances cost us a better result. Nevertheless, winning the trophy for the Pro-Am class was in the end a nice compensation.
“Our line-up certainly puts top placements in the 24H SERIES within reach.”
Aided by Audi factory driver, two-time Nürburgring 24 Hours winner, and 2022 Hankook 24H DUBAI winner Christopher Mies setting the fastest time of any session – a 1m 47.652s – during his 15-minute qualifying run, the #55 Land Motorsport Audi qualified a strong 6th on its series return, eight spots ahead of the sister #34 Audi which still set the sixth quickest average time of the GT3-AM runners. Mies continued his immense qualifying form by working his way into the overall top three in just five laps before moving into the overall lead, past event polesitter Herberth Motorsport, on lap eight. The Wieninger Bier-liveried Audi went on to lead 40 laps overall during those opening stages, and, after a succession of early Code 60s, was still in striking distance of new leader CP Racing when the #55 Audi was handed a 60-second time penalty for overtaking another car under Code 60, dropping Land Motorsport to 4th, one-lap down, going into the overnight intervention.
Further problems arose overnight when a water leak was discovered, and when the team removed the #55 R8 from parc fermé without express permission of the scrutineers, Mies and teammates Stefan Wieninger and Tim Müller were handed a further 10-lap penalty. The trio, now down in 24th at the restart, did enjoy a cleaner run over the final six hours, but could only recover to 18th overall at the flag.
The sister #34 meanwhile made similarly astounding progress during the event’s early stages, aided by the collective 24H SERIES experience of Dr. Johannes Kirchhoff, and Tim and Ingo Vogler. The trio had already moved from 5th in-class into the lead by half-distance, 34 seconds clear of nearest class rival Hofor-Racing, and, tellingly, 3rd overall ahead of the sister #55 PRO/AM car. In one of the event’s standout moments, Tim Vogler attempted to keep overall leader Haas RT at bay in the closing stages, with Mathieu Detry eventually pushing the #34 Audi one lap down on the very lap of ‘part one.’
Despite losing time with a pit stop shortly after the restart – Vogler had run long on both fuel and tyres to try and stay on the lead lap – the AM-entered #34 remained well in the overall top five and in GT3-AM podium contention, and was still less than two minutes behind GT3-AM class leader Heart of Racing by SPS heading into the final hour.
Brutally, Tim Vogler, having pushed his stint to the utmost, was forced to bring the Audi back to the garage just one lap after a late-race splash-and-dash, with just 10 minutes remaining of the 12-hour event. A quick turnaround might have been enough the class podium, but the Audi was unable to fire back up again owing to a broken driveshaft, forcing the #34 to retire almost within sight of the flag. AKKODIS ASP Team was thus elevated to the final rostrum spot in GT3-Am on its series debut.
“Johannes, Ingo and Tim also proved [the team’s pace] with the sister car’s top four spot, right up to just a few minutes before the finish,” Land continues. “All three drivers consistently delivered over the entire weekend. I’m really proud of Tim, who premiered in his first GT3 race ever and improved with each session.”
Looking ahead to the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Land Motorsport has already entered the #34 and the #55 Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO IIs – two of the 18 GT3 cars already confirmed for the event – and an Audi TTRS in the GTX category.