The seaside town of Zandvoort on the coast of Holland has a long history in motor sport, and many fans came out to welcome the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup to its first-ever appearance at the re-vitalised circuit. A premiere that was celebrated in Huber-style.
From Friday’s Practice Session until the chequered flag fell on Sunday’s race, Team Manager Christoph Huber of Nebulus Racing had a smile a mile wide. It wasn’t only due to the weather, which was as much of a contrast to the previous weekend’s miserable clouds and rain at Spa-Francorchamps as one could imagine.
The sun was shining on the Austrian, a former Team Manager for Walter Lechner (senior) in more ways than one. The team’s two principal cars had the edge throughout, and were able to make a clean sweep of Practice, Qualifying and the Race.
For the home crowd, with nine local drivers to cheer for, it meant merely that they would focus their attention on the more illustrious Dutchman that would be starting the afternoon’s F1 Grand Prix from pole position.
First visit to Holland
Although Zandvoort first staged a Grand Prix in 1948, the circuit fell from the Formula 1 calendar in 1986 and it seemed unlikely that F1 would ever return. However, a major re-development saw a modernised circuit built, which would have been used for the Dutch Grand Prix in 2020, if not for the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Many of the teams and drivers had already raced at the ‘new’ Zandvoort, despite it being the first appearance of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup at the circuit. The reason? Namely that the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland had already paid a visit in July. The new circuit bears much in common with its predecessor, as it undulates its way through the sand-dunes, providing the spectator with plenty of vantage points. In addition, it brings new challenges, in the shape of sweeping, banked corners at Turns 3 (known to those of a certain age as Hugenholtz) and 14, giving drivers plenty to think about as they seek out optimum lines.
Practice – red flags and close times.
It became clear through the run-up to the race that the circuit presented other challenges. Many of the gravel beds run right up to the edge of the track, with the result that small off-track excursions brought all kinds of dust, dirt and other debris onto the circuit during the sessions, often to the detriment of times.
So bad was it during Friday’s Practice (which started late) that the red flag was used to stop the session and give the marshals a chance to sweep up. A further red flag halted the session a few minutes before its scheduled conclusion which further deprived everyone of valuable preparation time.
Bizarrely, on their final laps of the Practice Session, Rookie #29 Laurin Heinrich (DEU/Nebulus Racing by Huber) and #28 Leon Köhler (DEU/Nebulus Racing by Huber) both set identical times (ex aequo), drawing attention to the team that would go on to dominate the weekend. Just 0.017s behind was #3 Dylan Pereira (LUX/BWT Lechner Racing), followed by his team-mate, #2 Ayhancan Güven (TUR/BWT Lechner Racing), barely a tenth of a second adrift. It was another illustration of how closely-matched the new, 510-hp Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars are, especially if you drove for an Austrian team.
Qualifying – sunny skies, but difficult conditions.
The sun continued to shine for Saturday’s 30-minute Qualifying Session, but on none more brightly than the Nebulus team-mates. Once again 19-year-old Rookie Laurin Heinrich had the upper hand, wheeling the dayglo yellow car around 0.154s faster than Leon Köhler in the Norwegian-flagged car.
It was an unusual session as the fastest lap was set by Heinrich on his first proper attempt at a time. When the competition switched to their second set of tyres, expecting to go faster, they found the track littered with dirt and other debris, making improvements difficult.
Third-fastest was Ayhancan Güven, the Porsche Junior driver well ahead of his team-mate Pereira, who was sixth, just behind championship leader #25 Larry ten Voorde (NLD/Team GP Elite). Also ahead of the best of the Dutch drivers was #16 Simone Iaquinta (FRA/Dinamic Motorsport SRL), who had as his team-mate in this race guest-driver #14 Jaap van Lagen (NLD/Dinamic Motorsport SRL). The Dutch routinier managed a respectable 13th-best time in qualifying.
Race – Baptism on the beach.
In contrast to the previous round at Spa-Francorchamps, where the grid had a familiar feel to it, the grid at Zandvoort was rather different from what we usually see. Championship leader Ten Voorde was only fifth, while his closest rivals were #20 Jaxon Evans (NZL/Martinet by Alméras) back in ninth, and Pereira sixth. This would be a race to consolidate points for the Dutchman.
Laurin Heinrich was on a roll – having scored his first Porsche Supercup podium at Spa last weekend, Zandvoort was his first pole position. For #21 Clément Mateu (FRA/Pierre Martinet by Alméras), memories of Spa were not so pleasant: a post-race penalty found his attempt to rejoin the race in the closing stages of that race out of order, and gave him a five-place grid penalty for the following round. Since the Frenchman qualified last anyway, it wasn’t to make much difference, but hopefully lessons have been learned.
As the red lights went out to signal the start of the race, Heinrich set off like a scalded cat and moved over to the right to protect his line into Tarzan. Ayhancan Güven bogged down, allowing Simone Iaquinta to move up to third, and forced Larry ten Voorde to take avoiding action, and Pereira nipped through into fifth as the field filed through Turn 3.
Battles through the order.
Good defensive driving from Güven prevented Ten Voorde from getting past until lap 4, by which time the championship leader had already had to resist a challenge from #24 Max van Splunteren (NLD/Team GP Elite), whose turn it was now to challenge Güven.
Further back, #19 Dorian Boccolacci (FRA/Martinet by Alméras) had been passed by Jaxon Evans, but the rookie wasn’t giving up easily and tried to get the place back as the team-mates went into Turn 11. Evans took a trip across the gravel, ran wide, and lost three places.
So, at the end of four laps, Heinrich and Köhler led the field by 2.4s, Iaquinta was third, ahead of Güven, Ten Voorde and Pereira. Van Splunteren was seventh, challenging Pereira, and then came Boccolacci ahead of #6 Christopher Zöchling (DEU/FACH AUTO TECH).
On lap 5, 16-year-old #32 Morris Schuring (NLD/GP Elite) missed his braking point for Tarzan, locked a wheel, and went straight on across the gravel. He was able to rejoin, but dropped from 12th to 18th. Further round the same lap, Zöchling, who had been looking to make up places all race, finally made up a position and passed Boccolacci.
Nebulus – That old one-two.
There was never really any doubt that it would be a one-two finish for Heinrich and Köhler, and although the gap between them was never greater than a second, Heinrich never allowed his fellow-German close enough to challenge for the lead. By the end of the race the gap to third place had grown to nearly five seconds – but Simone Iaquinta had driven an excellent race to withstand the pressure from behind. Despite Ayhancan Güven’s best efforts, the Italien held on for his first podium in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.
It was not so much a battle for position as a high-speed procession for third down to eighth place, with no quarter being asked nor given, but no mistakes being made and no changes of position. Behind this train, Jaap van Lagen was showing his versatility and ability, getting past Dorian Boccolacci, to take ninth place on lap 7.
It was all thrilling stuff, though and ninth for van Lagen would become eighth on lap 12, as poor Christopher Zöchling suffered a left rear puncture and had to pull off.
In the classes.
Laurin Heinrich could not have had a better weekend – an overall podium last time out and his win enable him to continue to stretch his lead in the Rookie Classification ahead of Dorian Boccolacci, who finished second as the only other Rookie in the race.
ProAm honours went to #5 Nicolas Misslin (MCO/Lechner Racing Middle East) who managed to stay out of the trouble that was going on behind. On lap 15, #22 Stéphane Denoual (FRA/Pierre Martinet by Alméras) spun wide out of second place in class at Turn 11, and was hit by #27 Roar Lindland (NOR/Nebulus Racing by Huber), who was running four places further back. Neither finished, which promoted #23 Aaron Mason (GBR/Pierre Martinet by Alméras) into second in class, and Clément Mateu into third.
Summing things up before Monza.
There were no Dutch drivers on the podium for the local fans to cheer, but they would make up for that later in the afternoon. For Larry ten Voorde, it was once again a case of damage limitation. His nearest rival, Jaxon Evans, was only tenth and Ten Voorde’s advantage in the standings thus stretches to 25 points.
With 25 points for a win in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and with two races coming up at Monza next weekend, there is still everything to play for. Larry ten Voorde was at his most assertive in the early races of the season and is now becoming a model of consistency. Something which his rivals have thus far, failed to achieve.