Maybe it was the narrow defeat in 2019. Or maybe the missed opportunity in 2020. Probably a combination of both. And on top of all that, the absolute desire to win that allowed Kévin Estre and the Manthey team to emerge victorious from the Green Hell. During its 25th anniversary year, the team achieved overall victory at the 24h of Nurburgring with the 911 GT3 R 'Grello'. Due to the weather, however, less than half the race was actually completed, meaning that fans were treated to an absolute sprint spectacle following the restart on Sunday morning. But let's start at the very beginning – with the qualifying.
Rain sets the tone during qualifying.
First of all: yes, it rains in hell – at least in the Green Hell. And this proved to be the downfall of the drivers of the five Porsche 911 GT3 R models during the decisive individual shoot-out on the 25.378 kilometre-long circuit: in heavy rain, the Manthey fan favourite 'Grello' could only manage 11th place. While its sister car from Frikadelli Racing finished 12th. The best-placed Porsche 911 GT3 R was driven by Julien Andlauer with a time of 10:14.558 minutes over the total course. The young Frenchman thereby secured 9th place on the starting grid for the Rutronik customer team.
Grello dominates the start of the race.
The time had finally come. Following the introductory lap on Saturday afternoon, the safety car for the first group of starters turned off into the pits, leaving the circuit to the competitors. Kévin Estre in the 'Grello' was particularly impressive. As the rain became heavier, the Frenchman really began to feel at home in the Green Hell. Within four laps, he steered his 911 GT3 R from 11th to first place. He charged through the field, performing several overtaking manoeuvres and demonstrating that there was going to be no way past him and the Manthey team this weekend. And fans of this classic 24-hour race were also treated to spectacular racing action from the other Porsche customer teams: Huber Motorsport and KCMG also made it into the leading pack. While the identical vehicles of Rutronik and Frikadelli Racing were also within striking distance. The Australian, Matt Campbell, completed an impressive first stint in the #30 of Frikadelli. Following the driver change, however, bad luck hampered their progress, with Earl Bamber having to return to the pits. A problem with the power steering had to be repaired, costing the car four laps. The two Porsche vehicles of Falken Motorsports also took advantage of the adverse conditions to join the leading pack, before the fog then descended in the Eifel. A danger to man and machine. Due to the limited visibility and drop in temperature, the race was red-flagged – just like last year.
Restart promises to be action-packed.
As the restart had to be postponed several times on Sunday morning, there were only four hours left on the clock following the introductory lap. This brief remaining period promised to be action-packed and changed the teams' strategy from that of a long-distance to a sprint race. Once again, it was Kévin Estre at the wheel of the Manthey 'Grello' who wowed the 10,000 spectators in the main grandstand and around the Nordschleife with his driving manoeuvres. He quickly regained first place before handing the race car over to his teammate, Michael Christensen, who confidently maintained the lead. Following the final driver change, the 32-year-old Frenchman was once again behind the wheel of the 911 GT3 R of Manthey-Racing. In a direct duel with last year's winning BMW team, the Manthey team kept their nerve to ultimately triumph in the 24h in the Eifel. And what made this extra special: just a few days ago, Manthey had celebrated its 25th anniversary – and a victory in the 24h of Nurburgring was the perfect gift for this occasion.
Porsche customer teams – results overview:
As well as Manthey, Huber Motorsport also celebrated a class victory in the Pro-Am class. In the final hour of the race, Falken Motorsports also put on a show that nearly culminated in a podium finish: Sven Müller was in third place up until the penultimate lap. In the end, the team narrowly missed the podium – but after 24 hours in the Green Hell, even fourth place feels like a win. Here's an overview of the other results of the Porsche 911 GT3 R teams:
1st Estre/Cairoli/Christensen (FR/IT/DK), Manthey #911
4th Bachler/Ragginger/S. Müller/Picariello (A/A/D/B), Falken Motorsports #44
8th Neuffer/Aust/N. Menzel/Seefried (D/D/D/D), Huber Motorsport #23
9th Bachler/Werner/Preining/Arnold (A/D/A/D), Falken Motorsports #33
22nd Pilet/Makowiecki/Martin/Olsen (F/F/B/N), Frikadelli Racing #31
63rd Imperatori/Burdon/Liberati/Holzer (CH/AUS/I/D), KCMG #18
DNF. Dumas/Andlauer/L. Vanthoor/T. Müller (F/F/B/D), Rutronik #3
DNF. Jaminet/Tandy/Bamber/Campbell (F/GB/NZ/AUS), Frikadelli Racing #30