It may have only been a few days since the chequered flag flew over Larry ten Voorde’s second victory out of two – but things turned out very differently at the Red Bull Ring in Austria this weekend. A refreshing change, opening up the championship battle!
From the moment the light went green to start Friday’s 45-minute Practice Session, it was clear that the teams had not been idle in the working week separating this from the previous round of the 2021 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. And with due cause: the way that #25 Larry ten Voorde (NLD/Team GP Elite) had dominated Round 2 meant that changes would be required from the competition to get back on terms.
Lechner Racing is not used to playing second fiddle, and the team worked out changes which they hoped would improve the prospects of their drivers and used the experience gained from their disappointing showing the previous weekend. The best-placed Lechner driver in the championship coming into Round 3 was #2 Ayhancan Güven (TUR/BWT Lechner Racing), only sixth; while last year’s championship runner-up #3 Dylan Pereira (LUX/BWT Lechner Racing) only had seven points to his name.
Practice: Action all the way.
Quickest in the Practice Session was #20 Jaxon Evans (NZL/Martinet by Alméras). The 24-year-old took his time in a session that was half over when the reasonably quick times were set. Partly this was due to several quick lap times being disqualified for track limit violations in the early part. The kerbs at the Red Bull Ring are not particularly punishing – and the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car is a sturdy machine – and unscrupulous drivers can take advantage at several points around the circuit.
Not only Evans, but also Dylan Pereira, #24 Max van Splunteren (NLD/Team GP Elite) and Larry ten Voorde suffered from deleted times – Race Control was sending out a clear message – it was up to the drivers to take notice. Indeed, in the second part of the session, there were far fewer disqualified laps and the pattern began to emerge. Evans finished up with a 1m 31.358s (not as quick as the previous weekend), followed by #11 Florian Latorre (FRA/CLRT) and Larry ten Voorde. Fourteen cars were under the 1m 32s bracket, and 21 within a second of Jaxon Evans, indicating just how close the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup is.
Bright sunshine for qualifying.
The weather was perfect on Saturday lunchtime for the 30-minute Qualifying Session, and Jaxon Evans was eager to get out at the front of the queue. The entry – 32 cars – was the strongest yet in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup 2021, with the addition of MRS GT-Racing participating as a guest team, bringing along #30 Georgios Frangulis (BRA/MRS GT-Racing) and #31 Jukka Honkavuori (FIN/MRS GT-Racing). #17 Harry King (GBR/Parker Revs Motorsport) was back from his exploits in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB last weekend and glamour was brought to the grid as well by #911 Michael Fassbender (IRL/Porsche Motorsport), the Hollywood movie star augmenting his outings in the European Le Mans Series Porsche 911 RSR with a one-off race in Austria.
It was Fassbender who drew attention to himself early in the Qualifying Session, getting the power down a little too eagerly coming out of T4 and spinning out without contact. Later in the session, the 44-year-old would again get it wrong, this time coming out of the final turn onto the start-finish straight; clipping the front of the car against the pit wall, but being able to continue back to the pit lane.
Thrilling final qualifying minutes to the last lap.
Meanwhile, at the front, it took until the final five minutes for things to really heat up. First it was the turn of Ten Voorde to take provisional pole away from Jaxon Evans, with a 1m 31.201s, with Ayhancan Güven second-fastest. Then Dylan Pereira set the fastest lap: 1m 31.043s, only to find Evans putting in 1m 31.029s to take pole away again. It came down to the final lap – Pereira managing to improve to be the only driver of the session under 1m 31s and start Sunday’s race from a valuable pole position. Behind Evans and Güven in second and third, were Ten Voorde, fourth; an impressive Rookie #29 Laurin Heinrich (DEU/Nebulus Racing by Huber) fifth and an equally good performance from #7 Marius Nakken (NOR/FACH AUTO TECH) in sixth.
While all of this was going on, #34 Moritz Sager (AUT/Dinamic Motorsport SRL) went off at T1, but the incident was dealt by local yellow flags – meaning that both Practice and Qualifying were completed without interruption: the first time this year that has happened.
Raceday: a rather different look and feel.
The skies were filled with low clouds and lower temperatures (at 22°C) than last week, as the grid lined up for the race. Hopes were high at BWT Lechner Racing that with two team cars ahead of the championship leader Larry ten Voorde their prospects for restoring championship points were good. Particularly for Dylan Pereira (like Evans, also 24 years old) who last weekend had had an “absolutely catastrophic weekend, the worst of my career” – he had to push from the outset to establish his lead.
As the cars lined up, #10 Daan van Kuijk (NLD/GP Elite) had a technical problem with his car and the start had to be aborted. Pereira led the field around on another formation lap and the race distance would be reduced to 17 laps. Van Kuijk’s car was pushed away, the GP Elite team unable to get the problem fixed and leaving him a non-starter.
At the second time of asking, it was a clean start as Evans, Ten Voorde and Heinrich made the better getaways. Unlike last weekend, being on the right hand side of the grid did not seem to be such a disadvantage. From pole, Dylan Pereira had made a reasonable getaway, but as they reached Turn 3, the Luxembourg-born Portuguese locked up the front brakes and sailed straight on. He managed to get things sorted out sufficiently to get back on track again, but Jaxon Evans and Larry ten Voorde were already through and away. Behind, #21 Clément Mateu (FRA/Pierre Martinet by Alméras) made contact with #15 Philipp Sager (AUT/Dinamic Motorsport SRL), spinning Sager through 180 degrees, and leaving the Austrian at the back of the field.
Safety Car in double operation.
At Turn 4, Harry King got caught out going up the inside of Jukka Honkavuori, (who had also locked up) and spun out into the gravel on the outside of the turn. Meanwhile, Dylan Pereira was definitely on a mission, and a spirited dice ensued as he tried to get back past Larry ten Voorde – whose eye was no doubt on scoring more championship points. Pereira made it into second place – cleanly – but as the field completed the lap, they were greeted by the Safety Car, brought out to allow the marshals to deal with the Parker Revs Motorsport car, which Harry King was unable to get out of the gravel.
The Safety Car pulled in as the field set off on lap 4, but there was no time for any overtaking, as almost immediately it was back out to neutralise the field again. This time the cause was the ever-spectacular #14 Lodovico Laurini (ITA/Dinamic Motorsport SRL), who was late on the brakes and off just before Turn 5, also damaging Max van Splunterens car. Seconds before #28 Leon Köhler (DEU/Nebulus Racing by Huber) got pushed wide onto the gravel at the same corner.
The Safety Car finally pulled into the pits at the end of lap 6, leaving 11 laps of racing to go. Evans made a good re-start and established a bit of a lead ahead of Pereira, Ten Voorde, Güven and Heinrich. Behind these, the battle for sixth was three-abreast as they came into the braking area for Turn 4: Florian Latorre was on the inside, with #16 Simone Iaquinta (ITA/Dinamic Motorsport SRL) and #19 Dorian Boccolacci (FRA/Martinet by Alméras) to his outside. Latorre took sixth, and somehow Boccolacci managed to prevail, as Iaquinta lost out after contact with #6 Christopher Zöchling (DEU/FACH AUTO TECH) and headed for the pits at the end of lap 7. Also pit-bound was Max van Splunteren, with damage to the front right corner of his 911 GT3 Cup car.
Having spent a couple of laps biding his time, Pereira started to close on Evans in the lead on lap 9: the gap coming down to just over half-a-second. Behind these two, Ayhancan Güven was also closing on Larry ten Voorde: the Lechner cars seemed to be working well. Ten Voorde, on the other hand, had to drive increasingly defensively as Güven began to mount a challenge on the Dutchman. Laurin Heinrich had a grandstand seat behind – the Rookie giving the Turk a hefty bump up the back as he unexpectedly slowed to avoid going into Ten Voorde on lap 9. Behind Heinrich, Florian Latorre had also closed up, making three cars right in Ten Voorde’s wheeltracks. It made a change seeing the Dutchman having to drive so defensively, but on lap 11, he could keep the Turk at bay no longer and Güven made a good move with two wheels on the grass at Turn 4 to go past.
Heinrich was up the inside without hesitation, trying to deprive Ten Voorde of fourth place as well and it was Latorre’s turn to have a perfect view of the action. Ten Voordes time was not over yet, however, and he was able to cling on to fourth position. Behind all these fun and games, there was another battle building for seventh place, with Zöchling, #4 Tio Ellinas (CYP/Lechner Racing Middle East), #1 Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (FRA/BWT Lechner Racing) and Leon Köhler close together. In the end, it would be Köhler who made progress: having already overtaken Jukka Honkavuori, he also managed to get past Simmenauer before the chequered flag. Zöchling finished the race in sixth place, but received a 5-second-penalty for causing a collision ending up on P9.
Despair for Güven – joy for Evans.
As the remaining three laps unfolded the first three positions looked set, with two pink BWT Lechner Racing cars in podium positions, behind Jaxon Evans Martinet by Alméras-run car. Fate had other ideas though, as suddenly Ten Voorde was back up to third, and Heinrich fourth. Where was Güven? A left-rear puncture – possibly the result of one too many ‘wheel over the kerb’ moments for him – with one lap of the race still to go.
For New Zealander Jaxon Evans this was his second visit to the top step of the podium at the Red Bull Ring – he also won at the 2020 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race at this circuit – and his win moves him to second place in the championship standings. Dylan Pereira in second place seemed to regret somewhat the lost opportunity but nevertheless put useful championship points on the board. Third place for Larry ten Voorde was as good as it was ever going to get, and Lauren Heinrich can be well-pleased with finishing as top Rookie, just short of a podium position overall.
Dorian Boccolacci finished in tenth place, but due to a subsequent 5-second-penalty he slipped to P13. Nevertheless he was second (and only other finisher) in the Rookie Classification. In ProAm, the honours went to #5 Nicolas Misslin (MCO/Lechner Racing Middle East), ahead of #22 Stéphane Denoual (FRA/Pierre Martinet by Alméras) and #27 Roar Lindland (NOR/Nebulus Racing by Huber).
Hungary awaits for Huszárvágta!
With the cancellation of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race supporting the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in two weeks’ time, it will feel like a long wait until the next round of the championship at the Hungaroring on August 1st. A circuit where overtaking is difficult, but one where car set-up is all-important, to get the best out of the new-for-2021 specification, 510hp Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Will BWT Lechner Racing be able to improve their form and take a top step of the podium? Or will Jaxon Evans continue in his winning ways? What about GP Elite? Will Larry ten Voorde be going for gold, or will he be playing it safe and aiming for championship points? Tune in to find out!