This year's Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup culminated in the title battle at Monza: In bright sunshine, a highly exciting drama unfolded between the rivals Bastian Buus and Larry ten Voorde - right up to the very last second of the race.
Collisions, yellow flags and a "long-distance duel" of a different kind - Autodromo Nazionale di Monza provided the setting for a breathtaking season finale in the heart of European motorsport. As in previous years, the Formula 1 Gran Premio d'Italia provided the backdrop for the 8th Round of the 2023 Porsche Supercup. Every inch of Italian tarmac was at stake in the battle for the Drivers', Rookie and Team Championships at the "Temple of Speed". With just over 300,000 spectators attending the F1 weekend, the home race of the Tifosi was a traditional red spectacle. But from the perspective of Porsche Supercup fans, the weekend ended with the crowning of the youngest ever champion in the history of the series.
Slipstream for faster qualifying times.
At the start of the weekend, Belgian rookie #12 Benjamin Paque (BEL/CLRT) set the fastest time of the day during the Practice Session. His outstanding pace was no coincidence, as Monza is renowned for its slipstream advantage. On Friday, the first 19 drivers were within a single second of each other. Hence, this serves as a testament to the enduring longevity of the Porsche Supercup, which consistently exemplifies the exceptional standard of competitive prowess among its individual drivers.
Championship contender #1 Bastian Buus (DNK/BWT Lechner Racing) had to settle for P9, while his sole remaining title rival #25 Larry ten Voorde (NLD/Team GP Elite) finished the session in P4. Both of them knew that their starting positions would be crucial for the final race on Sunday. Nonetheless, it's important to note that the final Practice Session did not necessarily foreshadow the events of the weekend. Many drivers, including a number of guest entrants at Monza, tested the limits of the track. Therefore, the majority of their fastest lap times were deleted.
Saturday's Qualifying Session was dominated by teamwork between the drivers. They worked hard to make the most of the slipstreams. The young Brit #4 Harry King (BWT Lechner Racing) secured pole position for the second time this season with a flawless lap (1:48.878 min.). Driving in the slipstream of his team-mates on the long straights, he set the fastest time in each of the first two sectors during his fastest lap. Team GP Elite also opted for the slipstream strategy, as they were their direct rivals in the battle for the Team Championship. However, they got caught up in traffic on the final qualifying laps. In the end, #11 Dorian Boccolacci (FRA/CLRT) and #24 Loek Hartog (NLD/Team GP Elite) finished second and third fastest respectively. Still, both of them - along with 7 other drivers - were demoted by 5 grid positions after the session due to several reprimands concerning track limits. As a result, Rookie Paque and #2 Harri Jones (AUS/BWT Lechner Racing) - ahead of two-time Supercup champion Ten Voorde in P4 - occupied P2 and P3 for the race. Porsche Junior Buus was slightly behind in P9. Nonetheless, his chances of winning the title were not in jeopardy.
Obviously, you need a good start and it's a long run down to Turn 1. Cover the inside or see where the opposition is and hope for a clean race.
Timo Glock's mission and rookie title bid.
Just like last time in Budapest, former F1 driver Timo Glock started in the golden Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with the iconic number 911. In his second outing for the 2023 Porsche Supercup, the VIP guest driver was aiming for a mid-field result. Consequently, he had to start the race from P28 after being one of the penalised drivers from qualifying. This meant that he would need to work hard in the cockpit to achieve his own target.
Leading the Rookie standings, #22 Alessandro Ghiretti (FRA/Martinet by Alméras) started from 17th place, well behind his closest rival for the title, Harri Jones. To secure the Rookie title on his own merits, he needed to finish the race in the points. Similarly to championship leader Buus, he had to avoid close battles and accidents. Not an easy task given the fiercely contested races of the season so far.
Dramatic twists and turns in the opening minutes of the race.
Sunday's race started in bright sunshine. The scheduled race distance was 15 laps. As a result of two safety car phases, the race wrapped up after only 14 laps, having exhausted its allotted 30-minute duration.
From the very first second, the last race provided plenty of excitement. King managed to stay ahead of the chasing pack, while Larry ten Voorde remarkably gained two places within the first five corners. This allowed the Dutchman to put pressure on the Briton in the battle for the lead, as only a win would give him the title.
On the following lap, Porsche Junior Buus tried to work his way up to the front of the field. When braking into the first corner complex "Variante del Rettifilo", the leader of the standings had to take evasive actions due to an earlier collision by #24 Loek Hartog (NLD/Team GP Elite), and the Dane was ultimately caught at the rear and spun around by #6 Gustav Burton (GBR/FACT AUTO TECH). For this offence, the Briton from the Swiss racing team was given a 5-second penalty. All of a sudden, the championship elect was at the back of the field and his title rival ten Voorde was fighting for the lead in P2. A dramatic "long-distance duel" ensued - should the Dutchman overtake King and Buus fail to score, then the two-time champion would be crowned for a third time. Fortunately, Buus was able to catch up with the field again during the first safety car period. The youngster made a stunning recovery, having rejoined the race at the back of the field.
It was the most mentally challenging race of my life, a real rollercoaster ride. Luckily, I saw on the big screens at the side of the track that Harry King was leading the race. That calmed me down a bit.
3rd win for Harry King - and BWT Lechner Racing on top.
At the front of the field, Harry King was slowly but surely pulling away from his Dutch rival. However, the second safety car did not make things easy for the Briton, as the lead that he had built up was once again gone. Nevertheless, he executed his restarts perfectly and was able to defend his lead. At Monza in northern Italy, the Briton's pace proved to be untouchable as he took his third victory of the season. That's more than any other driver in this year's Supercup. And yet, he was only able to finish third overall because of two retirements.
King's 25 points in Monza ensured that his Austrian team BWT Lechner Racing won the Team Championship title for the 13th time in their history. Furthermore, he helped his 20-year-old team-mate Buus to become the youngest Overall Champion in the history of the international Porsche one-make series. Following New Zealander Earl Bamber (2014) and German Sven Müller (2016), the Dane is the third Porsche Junior to win the Porsche Supercup. The 31st title in the series was the latest in a long line of records to be broken.
2020 and 2021 Supercup Champion Larry ten Voorde finished the race in P2 and proved to be a worthy runner-up, while battling for the lead until the very end. Thanks to his experience, 41-year-old VIP driver Timo Glock took advantage of the on-track chaos, gaining 17 places to finish the race in P11 - mission accomplished. To the delight of the home crowd, local hero #8 Simone Iaquinta (ITA/Huber Racing) completed the podium in Monza with a well-deserved third.
I really tried everything, never gave up and fought to the end. But Harry defended his lead skilfully. Congratulations to Bastian, he really deserved the title.
A close battle for the Rookie title
The title in the Rookies' Championship also came down to the final metres. After a collision, championship leader Alessandro Ghiretti had to retire on the sixth lap. Reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Champion Harri Jones would have needed to finish third in Monza to clinch the title. However, the BWT Lechner Racing Rookie was unable to hold off the Italian Iaquinta and had to settle for fourth place. This may have granted the Australian the victory in the Rookie classification, but crucially left him one point adrift of Frenchman Ghiretti in the run for the Rookie Championship title. Nevertheless, Jones could celebrate his Rookie win on the podium at Monza, alongside #15 Giorgio Amati (ITA/Dinamic Motosport) and #27 Ghislain Cordeel (BEL/GP Elite) in P2 and P3 respectively.
As well as the Rookie title, Frenchman Ghiretti also won the internal Rookie programme, which not only takes sporting results but also physical fitness and the quality of self-written race reports into account.
Overall Standings of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup after Round 8 at Monza
The Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup's 2023 finale concluded a breathtaking season of records, excitement and memorable racing. We're looking forward to next year's season, when the thoroughbred flat-six engines of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup will once again be heard on Europe's most prestigious circuits - as always at selected Formula 1 Grand Prix weekends!