This one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given the Covid-19 lockdown that led to motorsport’s biggest global hiatus since the second World War. In fact, when the green flag finally dropped for this year’s Hankook 24H PORTIMAO on 13 June, 152 days had passed since the podium celebration for the season-opening Hankook 24H DUBAI on 12 January.
Even if you count the inaugural ESPORTS 12H MONZA, which technically did not count towards either the 24H SERIES Europe or the 24H SERIES Continents, this year marks the first time since either championship was inaugurated that a 24H SERIES race has not been held in either March or April.
In fact, you have to go back eight years, before either the 24H SERIES Europe or the 24H SERIES Continents were established, to find a gap that’s longer between the first CREVENTIC event of the year and the second. On that occasion, it was the almost nine-month break – 238 days – between the conclusion of that year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI (14 January) and the green flag for the Hankook 24H BARCELONA (8 September).
With lockdown now being eased across much of Europe, and with competitors and track personnel proving in Portimão that social distancing can be effectively regulated, fingers crossed this will be the longest extended pause between 24H SERIES for some time to come.
Perhaps more than any other circuit on the 24H SERIES calendar, the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve has proven to be an, intermittent, poisoned chalice for inaugural 24H SERIES Continents champion, Herberth Motorsport. In 2017, the #911 Porsche 991 GT3 R retired from the lead of the race on lap 78 (of an eventual was already at the head of the pack come the second hour of the race only to retire on lap 78 (of an eventual 722) when, incredibly, the Porsche’s suspension mounting was punched straight through the chassis itself after one too-many rides over the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve’s famously unforgiving sausage kerbs. Having skipped the event altogether in 2018, the Bavarian team’s lead 991 GT3 R once again failed to go the distance when a cracked fuel line led to the Porsche’s rear end igniting on-track shortly after half distance. Though the #91 Porsche did finally see the chequered flag in 2020, in 2nd place overall, it was only after a lengthy pit stop to replace the gearbox.
By comparison, Herberth’s sister entry thus far has an unbeaten record at Portimão. In 2019, the first season in which the Bavarian team entered more than one 991 GT3 R, the #93 Porsche not only secured the team’s first outright pole position of the year but also it’s maiden A6-Am win and the third on the bounce for the Bavarian outfit. Even the #94 entry, which suffered clutch issues in free practice forcing Taki Konstantinou, Jürgen Häring and Tim Müller together with teammate Joachim Thyssen and team owner Alfred Renauer to miss qualifying altogether, fought its way through the field to secure 3rd in A6-Am.
One year later, Konstantinou, Häring and Müller were on the podium again – the top step this time – alongside Michael Joos and Marco Seefried. Ironically, at an event at which Herberth Motorsport has suffered almost nothing but bad luck, the team has also secured two wins from three starts in the Algarve.
This year’s Hankook 24H PORTIMAO managed to set two separate records. The first you may already be aware of, as the 731 laps completed by the lead Herberth Motorsport Porsche 991 GT3 R (#93) was nine more than Matteo Malucelli, Josef Král and Jiří Písařík managed in the Scuderia Praha Ferrari 488 GT3 at the inaugural event in 2017. Amazingly, the trio came just one lap short – 721 – of replicating that total en-route to victory in 2019.
Last year’s event was also notable for having the least amount of Code 60s in the event’s history with eight, a total Taki Konstantinou, Jürgen Häring, Tim Müller, Michael Joos and Marco Seefried emulated this year. However, while the 2017 race spent 1h 45m 9s under the purple flags, this year’s total was just over half of that at 56m 11s. It’s the first time in the race’s four-year history that less than one hour has been spent under caution.
It’s also a significant amount less than 2018, which featured 11 Code 60 caution periods (1h 37m) and a four-hour red flag to cover a fuel spill during the night. Hey, better safe than sorry…
Something CREVENTIC has always prided itself on is the depth of competition, not just across the field but within each category. ‘GT3’ for example is among the most diverse, with Mercedes, Audi, Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini having taken outright wins across the last two seasons, and all plus Aston Martin having taken an outright GT pole position in the 24H SERIES in that time.
Multi-brand podiums then are nothing new in the 24H SERIES. In fact, Porsche’s monopoly of the overall podium in Portimão is the first time since 2015 one marque has taken the top three outright GT positions at a CREVENTIC event.
Mercedes was the conquering force on that occasion, as the SLS AMG GT3 Hofor-Racing (#10, Michael Kroll / Roland Eggimann / Kenneth Heyer / Christiaan Frankenhout) led home similar entries for RAM Racing (#30, Tom Onslow-Cole / Thomas Jaeger / Paul White) and HP Racing (#2, Hari Proczyk / Reinhold Renger / Bernd Schneider / Carsten Tilke).
Fittingly, Mercedes was also the brand on top the time before that too, when the Silver Arrows became the first marque to monopolise the podium at the Hankook 24H DUBAI in 2012. On that occasion, Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon (#3, Khaled Al Quabaisi / Sean Edwards / Jeroen Bleekemolen / Thomas Jäger) finished two laps ahead of Max Nilsson, Christiaan Frankenhout, Maximilian Buhk, and Andreas Zuber (#6), and Bernd Schneider, Hans Heyer, Andreas Simonsen and Rodolfo González (#16) for Heico Motorsport.
At the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, HTP Winward Motorsport took its first overall pole position in the 24H SERIES. An impressive enough accolade in and of itself, but did you know that the German team is not only the second consecutive team to take its maiden GT pole in the 24H SERIES, but is also the 10th to do so since the 2018 season closer in Austin, Texas?
Ahead of HTP Winward’s pole position in Portimão, Toksport WRT claimed the top spot in Dubai back in January. Rewind to 2019, and the GRT Grasser Team (Dubai), SPS automotive performance (Mugello), Bohemia Energy Racing with Scuderia Praha (Spa-Francorchamps), Car Collection Motorsport (Brno), Herberth Motorsport (Portimão), Barwell Motorsport (Barcelona) and Black Falcon (COTA) each took a GT division pole position throughout the course of the season. Throw in R-Motorsport’s pole position at the 2018 Hankook 24H COTA USA, and that’s a chain of 10, the most we’ve seen in the 24H SERIES to-date.
The closest you’ll get to that run is between Dubai in 2015 and Zandvoort in 2016, when eight different GT teams – FACH TECH AUTO (Dubai ’15), Black Pearl Racing by Rinaldi (Mugello ’15), Hofor-Racing (Zandvoort ’15), RAM Racing (Paul Ricard ’15), Car Collection Motorsport (Barcelona ’15), Scuderia Praha (Brno ’15), C.ABT Racing (Dubai ’16), and GRT Grasser Racing Team (Mugello ’16) – took eight consecutive pole positions.
Additional fun fact, Mercedes-AMG has been the most successful brand on both occasions, having amassed seven collaborative pole positions compared with three apiece for Lamborghini and Ferrari, two each for Audi and Porsche, and one for Aston Martin.
While Parkalgar’s Hankook 24H PORTIMAO may not have been the most successful in 2020 – the Mercedes-AMG GT3 suffered myriad drivetrain issues and only completed 133 laps – the Autódromo’s in-house team nevertheless has an impressive record at its home event.
133 laps was still enough for the Parkalgar Racing Team to be classified 2nd in ‘GT4’ at this year’s event, emulating the runners-up spot the Portuguese outfit secured with its Mercedes-AMG GT4 last year. A win on its 24H SERIES debut in Portugal in 2017 – on that occasion having entered a Honda Civic Type-R in the SP3-GT4 class for British compatriots Roger Green, Peter Brookes and Matt Brookes, Brazil’s Joaquim Penteado, and six-time Olympic gold medal winner, Chris Hoy – completes a 100 per cent podium strike rate for the Parkalgar Racing Team on home turf (the team did not enter the 2018 race).
Also, fun fact, this was the third year in a row that a Mercedes-AMG GT4 has finished 2nd in the GT4 class at Portimão. On no occasion though has any one brand repeated its (SP3)GT4 category win in Portugal, with Honda (Parkalgar, 2017), Audi (Fox Motorsport, 2018), BMW (Hofor-Racing by Bonk Motorsport, 2019), and Aston Martin (PROsport Racing, 2020) each securing one apiece.
Not a bad debut weekend for Belgium’s Mühlner Motorsport at the Autódromo do Algarve. Having claimed a double pole position, and thanks to suspension issues and a blown engine for nearest rivals Speed Lover and Veloso Motorsport respectively, the multi-time Porsche Cayman Trophy winner went on to collect victory in both the ‘991’ (#921, Moritz Kranz / Carlos Vieira / Tom Cloet / Jeroen Bleekemolen) and ‘CAYMAN’ classes (#421, Axel Sartingen / Daniel Schwerfeld / Thorsten Jung / Daniel Bohr). To cap off a successful weekend, the team’s 991-II Cup even claimed the final spot on the overall podium. But we’ll come back to that.
It may surprise you to learn though that, despite the successes of multi-car entries likes Car Collection Motorsport, MRS GT-Racing, and IDEC SPORT RACING, in Portimão, Mühlner Motorsport became only the third team in five years to take a double win on the same weekend in the 24H SERIES.
At the season-opening Hankook 24H DUBAI in 2015, eventual five-time event winner Black Falcon took both the overall victory with Yelmer Buurman, Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Hubert Haupt, and Oliver Webb, but also 991-class honours with Saud Al Faisal, Anders Fjordbach, Keita Sawa, and Andreas Weishaupt with the sister Porsche 991-II Cup.
Hofor Racing meanwhile has the unique distcintion of claiming two class wins on the same weekend on two separate occassions. At last year’s Hankook 12H MUGELLO, Christiaan Frankenhout, Kenneth Heyer, Michael Kroll, and Alexander Prinz – the latter in for future wife Chantal Kroll – secured the Swiss team first A6-Am victory in the 24H SERIES in more than 18 months, while Gustav Engljaehringer, Michael Fischer, Thomas Jager, Martin Kroll, and Michael Schrey took a maiden win for the Swiss/German collective in the GT4 class since its step-up from TCE the previous year. Rewind three years to Zandvoort in 2015, and Hofor-Racing was once again on top, this time as the overall A6 winner (Roland Eggimann / Christiaan Frankenhout / Kenneth Heyer / Michael Kroll). Its sister BMW E46 M3 meanwhile – run as ‘Hofor-Kuepper Racing – finished on the top step that weekend in ‘A5’ with Chantal Kroll, Martin Kroll, Bernd Küpper and Lars Jürgen Zander.
And yes, well spotted. To-date, 2015 is the only season in which two teams have taken two class wins in the same weekend.
This also may not come as too much of a surprise, but having claimed 3rd and 4th overall at this year’s Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, Mühlner Motorsport and Autorama Motorsport also secured the highest finishing positions for both a ‘991’ and ‘TCR’ class entrant respectively in the 24H SERIES to-date.*
Prior to that, the highest placed finish for a ‘991’ entrant was MSG Motorsport’s 4th place in Brno 2016, which itself replicated Ruffier Racing’s 4th place overall in Mugello 2015 (the latter running the previous gen ‘997’ Porsche Cup car). Red Camel-Jordans.nl meanwhile managed 9th place overall at last year’s Hankook 24H COTA USA with its CUPRA TCR.
Also, additional fun fact, on three separate occasions since the TCR class was introduced for 2016, at least one TCR team has finished ahead of the 991-class winner. In Barcelona in 2018, Cupra Racing - Monlau Competición finished 15th while ‘’991’-winning Porsche Lorient Racing claimed 18th overall the flag. At the same circuit one year later, TCR winner TOPCAR sport with Bas Koeten Racing finished 11th, one place ahead of 991 winner Speed Lover. One round later, Red Camel’s 9th place at COTA bested Porsche Lorient Racing’s 12th that weekend.
*For obvious reasons, we’re not including the TCE-only Hankook 24H SILVERSTONE or the 2017 24H TCE SERIES.
Incredible, isn’t it?!
Since the TCE category was introduced for 2016, 65 different drivers have represented more than a dozen nationalities on the top step of that particular podium (74 if you count the TCE-only program in 2017). And yet, somehow, this list didn’t include Italy until this year’s round at Portimão. By comparison, Matteo Mallucelli took four wins from seven outings during last year’s GT division alone.
What’s even more peculiar is that Roberto Ferri is only the third driver from Italy to claim a TCE class win, in any category, since 2016. Matteo Arrigosi triumphed in the ‘SP3’ category with Amag First Centri Porsche Ticino last year in Mugello. Before that, you have to go back three years to the Hankook 24H PAUL RICARD in 2016, when Luigi Stanco took ‘A2’ honours with presenza.eu.
For the curious amongst you, more drivers from Switzerland – 11 – have featured on the TCR top step than any other nation, two more than Spain and four more than The Netherlands. Even Ireland has its name on the board courtesy of Erik Holstein’s victory with CadSpeed Racing at the Hankook 24H DUBAI.