MRS GT-Racing is hoping for better luck at the upcoming Hankook 24H PORTIMAO after two separate incidents dropped the former Hankook 24H DUBAI class winner 77 laps behind the category winner at the flag.
MRS GT-Racing has celebrated the “highs and lows of motorsport” ahead of the next round of the 24H SERIES in Portimão, following an eventful Hankook 12H HOCKENHEIMRING during which the German team was sidelined for more than two hours after two separate on-track clashes.
MRS GT-Racing started the event strongly with the second fastest time of the 991 runners in qualifying, Thierry Vermeulen following that up by leapfrogging the pole-sitting Bas Koeten Racing Porsche around the outside of turn one at the start of the 12-hour event at Hockenheim.
Though the #989 Porsche had extended its advantage to 16.5 seconds by the end of the first hour, the team’s run was brought to an abrupt halt when Vermeulen, unsettled over the kerbs, hit the tyre barriers hard at turn one after just one hour and 38 minutes of running. The Dutchman fortunately extricated himself without injury.
A superb effort from the MRS GT-Racing mechanics meant the repaired #989 Porsche was back out on-track in less than 90 minutes, albeit 46 laps down on 5th-placed Stadler Motorsport. Further woes would follow when Vermeulen, again at the wheel, received a glancing blow from the CP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 heading into the hairpin with just over 40 minutes left to go before the overnight intervention. The ill-handling Porsche, now with severe damage to its suspension and front axle, found the tyre barriers once again on its way back to the pits.
“It was a rough few hours for us, but this is endurance racing,” Vermeulen explained in an official team statement. “Our bad luck continued as I had to pit after being hit from behind, which caused huge damage to the rear of the car and the front radiator, and the suspension was in a bad state. We had really good pace and were leading in-class for the majority of the opening stages, but my mistake unfortunately lost all our hard work. The team and drivers put in a superb performance, but of course the gap was still very big [to the rest of the 991 class].”
A 10-lap penalty, taken to ensure the Porsche was fully repaired overnight, meant MRS GT-Racing took Sunday’s restart 63 laps down on the rest of the 991 field. Further troubles were avoided though, and solid running from Vermeulen and teammates Nikolai Gadetskii and Saif Alameri meant the German team fulfilled its new objective to take the chequered flag.
“We were really unlucky [on Saturday] to lose our P1 position but this is motorsport and we always expect the unexpected,” Alameri explained. “The main thing for us [after that] was to finish the race, learn more about the car, understand the working relationship with the team and drivers. This was my first time driving in an international race” – Saif Alameri is a former class podium finisher at the Hankook 24H DUBAI – “and at the Hockenheimring, and I’m really proud to hopefully inspire the next generation of Arab racing drivers. We had a great team this weekend, the MRS [engineers] have gone through all the data and got me up to speed with the track. The Porsche Cup is not an easy car to master, but I’m happy with our performance this weekend.”
Despite its wretched luck at Hockenheim, 3rd in-class at the season-opening Hankook 24H DUBAI means MRS GT-Racing still lies 4th in the 991-class 24H SERIES championship standings heading into the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO on 16-17-18 July.