Dutch Endurance - Donkervoort D8 GT4
How a small Dutch car brand showed it’s potential to the world
It’s the year 2007, and the Stéphane Ratel Organisation, SRO in short, is trying to start a new racing championship. Following the success of the GT3 European Championship created by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, they created the GT4 European Series, a lower class racing more focussed on driving skill rather than the car’s performance. That’s why driver criteria are way tighter in GT4 than they are in GT3. It promoted weight reduction for cars in order to create less CO2 emissions
Donkervoort had already been looking for a racing series to participate in, and with the D8 being allowed to race in the GT4 class, they decided to participate. They unveiled the D8 GT at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006, and it is the first and only hardtop Donkervoort produced. Not only that, it was and still is the lightest GT car in the world, with a dry weight of 650kg. This was due to custom 17 inch aluminium rims weighing 6kg a piece, and the extensive use of carbon fibre. Due to the usage of this material it meant the car has a high passive safety, and a very stiff chassis.
The Donkervoort D8 GT, the lightest GT car in the world
The car would enter the Sports Light category, where cars such as the KTM X-bow and the Lotus 2-Eleven participate. This was however a problem, with the minimum weight of the cars in this category being 750 kilograms. The D8 was way lighter than that, and even after the addition of a rollcage and other needed ancillaries, they still had to carry 60 kilo weight ballast to reach the mandatory weight.
The Donkervoort did have other advantages too. The 1.8 litre DOHC 20V turbocharged Audi four pot had already proven to take 400 horsepower with no problem, so with the 270 horsepower allowed in GT4 this was no problem. The cooling systems did get enlarged to cope with endurance racing. They showed the final result at the 24 hours of Spa-Francorchamps
The two D8 GT4s entered into the races
Two D8 GT4s were entered into the race, one driven by the French driver Stephane Wintenberger, and the other one driven by Denis Donkervoort. The season was supposed to be a training season, but the results weren’t that hopeful. In the first race both of the cars ended up in last place. The second race was better, with Wintenberger managing to get third in class and twelfth place overall, while Denis had less luck and didn’t finish at all. In the third and last race, only Wintenberger started and managed to get first in class and eighth overall, giving Donkervoort their first victory. If it was really a victory is doubtful, given the fact that only eight cars finished the race, with him being the only one in his class.
This bad season had a cause, and it were the tires the car raced on. These were designed for cars weighing over 1000 kilograms, and with a car weighing three quarters of that, these were too hard for the car to be raced on. This issue had been solved by switching to grooved tires for the 2009 season. Together with a new helical geared Quaife gearbox, the Donkervoort managed to win the 2009 season
After two seasons of GT4 racing, Donkervoort decided to take a revamped version of the D8 GT4 to the 24 Hours of Dubai in 2010. The car was entered in the SP3 class, which is reserved for FIA GT4 spec vehicles, with some alterations depending on engine displacement to even out the field. Denis Donkervoort and Stephane Wintenberger were still the drivers of the car, but they were now accompanied by Nico Pronk and Peter Kox.
The D8 GT4 racing in Dubai
They managed to get position 34 out of 80 cars in the qualifiers. During the 24 hours it climbed up several positions and ended up fifth in it’s class and 23rd overall. The car ran in the 2011 season as well, starting from a low 40th place, but they managed to get the car climbing up the ranks, eventually reaching 13th place overall and a first place in class at the end of the race. This good result would be the last, since the car would be retired with no follow up. And to this day Donkervoort haven’t made a new race car again. But they did show that they can build a good one.