The two Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by the customer teams Manthey and Toksport WRT turned heads in the early phase of the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. However, both retired early after accidents. The No. 1 car of the defending champions from Meuspath had to throw in the towel, as did the identical ca. 368 kW (500 PS) GT3 vehicle with the No. 27. Other customer teams lost precious time and positions through repair breaks. After four hours of racing, the best-placed 911, the No. 28 entry from the customer squad Dinamic Motorsport, is currently running eleventh overall.
In the first three hours under sunny conditions, the large crowds of spectators in the Eifel were treated to some breathtaking action, most notably by last year’s winning car. Works driver Kévin Estre launched an impressive chase through the field. In the first 90 minutes, he catapulted the so-called “Grello” Porsche 911 GT3 R from P36 to the top. About two hours later, his Belgian teammate Laurens Vanthoor smashed into the crash barriers while duelling with his brother Dries (Audi) – and thus, the extraordinary charge of the No. 1 car came to an abrupt end.
Shortly before this incident, the Toksport WRT customer team were thrown out of contention. Works driver Matt Campbell had put in a spirited drive in the No. 27 car and ploughed through the field. After two stints, the Australian handed the black 911 GT3 R off to Julian Andlauer in third place. The Frenchman, who at times had to fend off fierce attacks from rivals, was shunted by a BMW after almost three hours of racing. The extensive repairs would have taken several hours – the team decided against doing this.
“A total of three customer cars have dropped out of the race, two others retired due to repairs; that was actually foreseeable,” stated Sebastian Golz. The Porsche 911 GT3 R Project Manager explains: “The drivers had to put in an incredible effort to maintain the pace of the competition. In a 24-hour race with over 130 cars on the track, this always comes with a high risk. This is how accidents happen. It’s such a shame. But KCMG, Falken Motorsports, Huber and Dinamic are still in the race. Together, we’re trying to get the vehicles as far to the front as possible.”
Dinamic Motorsport’s No. 28 car has enjoyed a little more luck in the race so far. After the first four hours of racing, works driver Thomas Preining is on course for a top 10 result. The sister car retired after Christian Engelhart had an accident early on. The Porsche 911 GT3 R campaigned by KCMG was thrown far down the field after sustaining damage to the rear. The No. 33 and 44 entries from Falken Motorsports are currently running in the top 20, with the Huber Motorsport’s No. 25 car about one lap behind the leaders.
Drivers’ comments on the early stages
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 GT3 R #1): “The first laps were extremely eventful. I had to work my way past many cars, and of course, they didn’t give up their positions willingly. There were some contacts and minor damage to the front of our car. I came in for the first pit stop for repairs quite early. For long stretches of my second stint, I almost got free runs and was able to set great lap times. That got us to where we wanted to be: first place. But then…”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #1): “I drove door-to-door with another car and we ran out of room. We touched only slightly but my car was probably hit in the most unfortunate spot. I spun at high speed – game over. I’m okay but it’s incredibly unfortunate for the team.”
Julien Andlauer (Porsche 911 GT3 R #27): “We made several modifications to the setup just in time for the race and had an extremely strong car. In the first double stint, Matt put in a brilliant drive and gained a lot of ground. We were in third place and heading for the top. Our car was fast. I wanted to bring the Porsche 911 GT3 R safely and unscathed into the night but then it happened: I was in a duel with a Mercedes when a BMW braked too early for the chicane and crashed into the side of my car. It came out of the blue and there was nothing I could do. It’s such a pity that we retired so early. We had such good chances – so disappointing.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 GT3 R #18): “We had a good start to the race. Early on I tried to minimise the risk and simply drive my rhythm. That worked perfectly. Strategically, our team made precisely the right decisions, which allows us to make huge progress in our class. Our car is markedly better in the race than in the previous sessions. Unfortunately, a defect cost us quite some time but we’re not giving up.”