Race for the top.
From the late afternoon of Saturday, July 1 onwards, the Porsche Motorsport GT Teams entered one of the toughest races of the season: The 24 Hours of Spa of the Intercontinental GT Challenge took the teams through the night across the infamous racetrack in Spa-Francorchamps. There, they proved their impressive will to win.
During the qualifying, the Portsche GT teams already set the bar: A Porsche car was on the starting positions one through three of the Bronze Cup. Huber Motorsport nabbed the overall pole position with the former Porsche Junior driver Matteo Cairoli in the #20. From third sport, Pure Rxcing would enter the race with the Porsche 911 GT3 R #911 and directly behind them was Team CLRT with their #44. All of them made their intentions for the upcoming race clear, and they would not be satisfied with less than a top position.
In the Pro category, the qualifying did not go quite as planned: The #92 Manthey EMA, also known as "Grello", would start from 14th position into the race, while Rutronik Racing #96 would enter from 30th spot. Still: Getting their hopes up was out of the question for the teams – and that was something they would prove throughout the weekend.
As the lights above the track switched to green, all 14 Porsche teams had only one thing in mind: get ahead. Particularly the Manthey EMA "Grello" put itself out there until nightfall – and not because of its striking, titular color. From starting position 14, the driver team of Laurens Vanthoor, Kévin Estre and Julien Andlauer doggedly worked their way through the grid all the way into the lead.
Rutronik Racing was of a similar mind and also came among the top 10 vehicles before nightfall – a feat for which the team of Thomas Preining, Laurin Heinrich and Dennis Olsen worked their way up 23 spots. Though they are friendly rivals in the DTM, none of the rivalry was to be seen in Spa.
At the moment we’re maintaining a very good rhythm. Manthey EMA has now taken the lead, Rutronik Racing and Dinamic GT Huber Racing are also gaining ground lap by lap.
Through the night with yellow phases.
The strong start of the Customer Racing Teams partially kept up throughout the night. For example, the #92 Manthey EMA remained close to the front of the grid and regularly took the lead. Though the driver team suffered the occasional setback, clever team strategies during Full Course Yellow phases and pure driving skills kept Estre, Vanthoor and Andlauer always in contact with the at the time leading vehicle.
Close behind the "Grello": Preining, Olsen and Heinrich in the Rutronik Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. For them, the yellow phases were the most exciting elements of the night. The Customer Racing Team Pure Rxcing also went into the lead of the Bronze Cup, closely followed by Herberth Motorsport.
The night turned out less fortunate for Dinamic GT Huber Racing. Though the driver team of Christian Engelhart, Sven Müller and Ayhancan Güven proved that they could keep up with the lead, but after spending another few rounds in a Full Course Yellow, an opposing car became their undoing: The vehicle was spun around its own axis in the La Source turn and fell behind by some positions.
Focused to the end.
The race remained thrilling down to the last minute: The team in the Manthey EMA #92 was in close-quarters with the Audi on third position ahead of them. Despite the eventful night, which included a penalty for exceeding track limits and a damaged rear diffuser, the #92 remained closely behind the leading vehicles. When taking the not so ideal starting position on 14 in consideration, the performance of Kévin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor and Julien Andlauer was impressive – and displayed abilities not every team could always display. Directly behind the ""Grello"" was the Rutronik Racing Team, who also had set their sights on a spot on the podium.
In the end, the third position on the podium was denied from Kévin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor and Julien Andlauer, but there was not much left to catch up: A mere 0.879 seconds kept their car apart from the Audi. Rutronik Racing crossed the finish line in fifth place.
Luck was not in favor of the Dinamic GT Huber Racing Team: After their spin during the night, the #54 could not return as well as they would have wanted. They finished the race on 12th position.
The Huber Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, which had started on pole position, could celebrate: Though they did not achieve the overall victory, Matteo Cairoli, Antares Au, Jannes Fittje and Tim Heinemann managed to achieve the first spot within their class. In the same class, directly behind Huber Motorsport, was the #911 of Pure Rxcing on second place with the drivers Joel Sturm, Marco Seefried, Klaus Bachler and Aliaksandr Malykhin.
All in all, the Porsche Teams could prove one thing in Spa-Francorchamps: Where there is a will, there is a way – against all odds.