Porsche was out in force on the Nürburgring last weekend, with 42 cars amid a 160-strong field at the madcap and hugely popular day/night motorsport marathon that is the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Customer team Manthey-Racing returned with the 2019 model year 911 GT3 R, ready to defend its title amid the vast and highly experienced field of fellow privateers and seconded factory drivers.
The race got off to a typically intense start on Saturday afternoon, with the No. 911 Manthey-Racing entry shared by Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor rolling out in third and settling in confidently among the front runners.
The first Porsche casualty of the day was the No. 1 car shared by defending champions Patrick Pilet, Frédéric Makowiecki, Richard Lietz and Nick Tandy, which suffered a puncture that cost them a hefty 4.30 minutes, putting them way down the field in 37th place. But after some breathtaking driving, including a move by Kévin Estre that put two wheels of his 911 GT3 R on the grass on the high-speed Döttinger Höhe straight to pass Dirk Müller’s Mercedes GTR, Porsche was in the lead.
At the six-hour mark, Estre had created a 30-second gap between himself and Müller, and the flying Frenchman and his seasoned teammates confidently defended top spot throughout the night, avoiding multiple accidents and maintaining their position through numerous code-60 zones and yellow flags.
Things went less well for the No. 1 sister car, which had battled back through the field heroically, only for Richard Leitz to be caught up in an accident on lap 61 that rendered the car irreparable.
Frikadelli Racing faired better in the No. 31 911, with Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet, Romain Dumas and Sven Müller battling their way through the field during the night to get into podium contention by dawn. But it was Manthey-Racing’s No. 911 that still looked the unstoppable force, leading after two-thirds of the race and posting the fastest lap, an impressive 8:17.745 minutes, laid down once again by the inimitable Estre.
There was to be a final roll of the dice, however. Having missed a waved yellow flag, Laurens Vanthoor was awarded a massive 5:32 minute time penalty for speeding in a slow zone, and the lead car was forced to sit in the pits for what seemed like an eternity while the race and the title ran away from them.
Kevin Estre summed up the frustration felt by everyone at Manthey-Racing after such a dominant performance was thwarted in the final stages of the race: “We led the race convincingly over a long period of time and had a very good car. Unfortunately a mistake cost us the victory. At the Nürburgring it’s not always easy to see the flag signals, and it’s especially challenging to race here at night. My fastest lap underlined how good we were, but unfortunately we finished second today.”
There was some consolation for the team, however, in the form of Manthey’s No. 12 entry in Pro-Am. The Porsche Young Professionals Matteo Cairoli and Dennis Olsen put in a spirited fight alongside Nordschleife veterans Otto Klohs and Lars Kern, enough for fifth overall and the class win. The Iron Force by Ring Police entry also brought the No. 8 GT3 R home in twelfth place, which handed them fourth in the Pro-Am class. In total, eight of the 24 classes competing at the event were won by Porsche.
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager for the Porsche 911 GT3 R, was keen to underline the positives amid the disappointment of coming so close to a successful title defence: “We demonstrated an extremely good performance over the 24 hours with the Porsche 911 GT3 R. A strong team worked brilliantly and pulled everything together. Luck wasn’t on our side, and two minor mistakes ultimately meant we couldn’t bring home victory. A commendable second place and class win in the Pro-Am — all in all a good weekend for Porsche.”