Despite losing a shot at 992-class victory in the closing stages of the 2023 Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors was nevertheless triumphant in CREVENTIC’s Middle East Trophy 992 Teams’ standings after finishing 4th in-class.
Words – James Gent
Images – Petr Frýba
2021 24H SERIES 991 Teams’ champion Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors sealed 992 Teams’ honours in the Middle East Trophy at this past weekend’s Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, despite a late-race penalty dropping the team off the category podium.
The Romanian-Italian team, having qualified 4th in-class, was part of an incredibly tight fight for 992 class honours throughout the six-hour endurance event at the Yas Marina Circuit: five of the seven 992 teams entered for the 2023 Hankook 6H ABU DHABI finished inside the overall top 10, and the top four in-class were separated by just 49 seconds at half-distance.
An impressive opening stint from Sergiu Nicolae, which included an on-track battle for the 992-class lead with HRT Performance’s Antti Buri, meant Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors was on top of the category after the opening hour, and even led the event outright for three laps given the Porsche 992 GT3 Cup’s fuel efficiency compared with the GT3 frontrunners. The #955 Porsche only dropped back when two of the four entries from category rival HRT Performance – #930 and #928 – opted to push refuelling stops to the absolute two-hour maximum.
Strong and consistent pace, coupled with HRT briefly dropping back into the pack after their fuel stops, meant Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors was back in the lead after 3.5 hours, albeit by just a few seconds over eventual class winner, Red Camel-Jordans.nl. An on-track dice between Sabino de Castro and Luc Breukers finally drew to a close when de Castro, while attempting to lap the Wolf-Power Racing Audi RS 3 LMS, was caught off-guard through the sweeping, marina-adjacent turn nine. Breukers slowly began to increase his gap thereafter, though the #955 Porsche 992 GT3 Cup, even with the long-running #930 HRT back in the mix, still looked on course for a podium finish.
Misfortune fell within the final hour though when Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors was handed a 120-second time penalty for overtaking a car during the event’s final safety car period. Serving the penalty just 20 minutes from home dropped the #955 Porsche 992 to 5th in-class, one lap down on class leader Red Camel.
An incredible fight for the final podium spot between HRT’s Kari-Pekka Laaksonen (#930), Mikaeel Pitamber (#931) and Willi Motorsport’s Sergiu Nicolae was eventually decided on the final lap of the race when Laaksonen was forced wide in the second sector, allowing both of his rivals through in the process. Unable to make a move stick for 3rd, Nicolae eventually collected the chequered flag 4th in-class, just four-tenths of a second behind Pitamber and only 3.248 seconds ahead of Laaksonen in an outstanding finish.
The near-miss nevertheless proved enough for Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors to secure 992 Teams’ honours in CREVENTIC’s 2022 / 2023 Middle East Trophy, just two points clear of nearest rival HRT Performance (#928). This, despite a steering arm failure and brake issues dropping the Romanian-Italian team to 5th in-class at the Hankook 24H DUBAI. The team also finished eight points clear of Kuwait and Abu Dhabi class winner Red Camel-Jordans.nl, the latter of which retired from Dubai altogether with gearbox issues.
“The merit, in addition to the three drivers Fabrizio Broggi, Sergiu Nicolae, and Sabino De Castro, also goes to the team,” Ebimotors praises in an official statement. “During the test and race days, engineers and mechanics carried out a really important and precise job. The pit stops during the race followed one another in an almost obsessive manner, so much so that the colourful #955 Porsche managed to reduce the gap to its rivals during the stops. The three drivers [performed] their changeovers down to the smallest detail, speeding up this crucial phase in a race of this type.
“The satisfaction of team principal Enrico Borghi, of the three drivers and of the whole team is enormous.”
After a successful Middle East campaign, Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors has already confirmed an entry for the 2023 24H SERIES powered by Hankook season opener – the Hankook 12H MUGELLO – on 25-26 March.