Porsche 911 GT3 R, Falken Motorsports (#44), Joel Eriksson (S), Tim Heinemann (D), Nico Menzel (D), Martin Ragginger (A)
Falken Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R holds steady among the frontrun-ners
Puncture on “Grello“ dashes Manthey EMA’s dreams early on
Rutronik Racing gains ground in the early phase of the 24-hour race
Lionspeed by Car Collection’s 911 retires after crash
The Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by the customer team Falken Motorsports has asserted itself among the frontrunners in the early stages of the Nürburgring 24 Hours. After the first three hours of racing through the “Green Hell”, the No. 44 entry fielded by the experienced customer squad is running in eighth place. As the second-best 911, the No. 96 car from Rutronik Racing is putting in a steady push to catch up without taking unnecessary risks. Bad luck, however, has plagued Manthey EMA and Lionspeed by Car Collection, with both teams involved in incidents early on and sustaining significant damages.
In slightly cloudy conditions and temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius, Falken Motorsports’ No. 44 car made a strong start among the 130-strong field. After tackling the race from position six on the grid, Nico Menzel handed the Porsche 911 GT3 R to youngster Tim Heinemann in fifth place. At the wheel of the ca. 415 kW (565 PS) 911, the German put in a flawless stint and at times advanced to third place. After two more pit stops, the car is running eighth after three hours.
While the No. 33 sister car from Falken Motorsports is in 23rd place due to damage at the rear after a shunt while lapping slower traffic, the GT3 car of Rutronik Racing is now making progress. First, Norwegian Dennis Olsen made up positions, now the Italian Matteo Cairoli is maintaining contact with the top 10 in P17. The two 911 racers campaigned by Dinamic GT and Huber Motorsport are currently in 19th and 21st.
In the first two hours of racing, works driver Kévin Estre put on a stunning show at the wheel of Manthey EMA’s Porsche 911 GT3 R. In supreme style, the Frenchman catapulted the fans’ favourite car, known as “Grello”, from 20th to eighth place. Shortly before the end of his stint, however, a puncture saw Estre slide into the barriers in the Tiergarten section. The repairs to the rear of the car threw the team almost two laps back. The No. 24 entry from Lionspeed by Car Collection has already retired from the race. Toward the end of his stint, Australia’s Matt Campbell ran onto the grass at the exit of the Ex-Mühle area and spun into a tyre wall. After lengthy repairs, the team sent the 911 back out but ultimately had to call it quits after about two and a half hours.
“Two of our top cars were already out of the fight for victory after two hours,” states Sebastian Golz. The Porsche 911 GT3 R project manager adds: “Matt Campbell went too wide in the early stages and spun into the tyre barriers. A puncture caused Kévin Estre to plough into the barriers shortly before the end of his stint. It’s such a shame because Manthey EMA had a great pace and strategy. Now we have to keep our fingers crossed that we don’t experience other incidents and that the remaining cars finish the rest of the race unscathed. Let’s see what comes out of it.”
Drivers’ comments after the start Tim Heinemann (Porsche 911 GT3 R #44): “I had a free run with no direct rivals in front of or behind me. This meant I had no reference regarding my lap times. There was constant bad luck in the heavy traffic – all hell broke loose in “Green Hell”. But our car doesn’t have a single scratch. We’re still going well – that’s the most important thing.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911): “We started from far down the grid but had a strong pace and good strategy in the early stages. I was making very good progress but got stuck behind a Ferrari for a long time. On the last lap of my second stint, a tyre blew out while braking for the last corner. It looks like a piece of debris cut the rubber. I couldn’t do a thing about it at that point and crashed. The damage to our car is extensive. Unfortunately, that throws us out of contention for victory.”
Patrick Kolb (Porsche 911 GT3 R #24): “Our start wasn’t particularly good. Initially, we lost ground but then fought our way back up the order. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding between my teammate Matt and the driver of a slower car while overtaking. Such things happen often on the Nordschleife, particularly because of the many different vehicle classes. That’s why we have a love-hate relationship with this race.”