Porsche 911 GT3 R on podium course over a long stretch

Over a long stretch of the 24 Hours of Spa, the best Porsche 911 GT3 R was on a clear course for a podium result. However, a repeatedly lapped vehicle failed to see the #117 nine-eleven fielded by KÜS Team75 Bernhard and brought an abrupt end to the strong performance of the drivers Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Laurens Vanthoor with five hours and 38 minutes to the flag.


The Porsche 911 GT3 R run by the Manthey-Racing team with the starting number 911 was hampered by electrical problems while running promisingly during the night. The crew of Romain Dumas (France), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) were unable to make up lost ground after the necessary repairs and concluded the endurance classic on 29th place.

After a strong performance during the night, Black Swan Racing had joined the frontrunners of the Pro-Am category. With their Porsche 911 GT3 R (#540), Tim Pappas (USA), Marc Miller (USA), Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) and Marc Lieb (Germany) were heading for a podium spot at the 24-hour marathon in Spa-Francorchamps only to have several minor damages throw the team down the field again. Shortly before the end of the race, Marc Lieb had to ultimately park the vehicle in the pits.

In the Am-category, the Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by Herberth Motorsport was one of the fastest vehicles. A driveshaft defect, however, robbed them of all hopes for a victory. Jürgen Häring, Edward-Lewis Brauner, Wolfgang Triller and Alfred Renauer concluded the Ardennes marathon in their #991 customer sports racer sixth in the Am-class.

Comments on the race

Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser (Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars): “This was an extremely difficult race weekend for us. Our strategy to drive consistently and without mistakes worked well with the Team75 Bernhard squad. Then the car was knocked out of contention by another vehicle. The #911 Porsche GT3 R was several laps down due to alternator damage and lost all chances of bringing home a top result. And the vehicles in the Pro-Am and Am categories also experienced technical problems. So it just wasn’t our weekend.”

Sebastian Golz (Project Manager 911 GT3 R): “Our teams managed to stay out of any tricky situations over the entire race and were very focussed and controlled. The Manthey team was unfortunately affected by an electrical problem and took up the chase again after a 15-minute repair time. The KÜS Team75 Bernhard performed very well and was able to work its way up the field. Everyone stuck to our zero mistake plan, because this is the only way to win at Spa. Unfortunately, the #117 GT3 R was damaged while lapping a slower car and couldn’t be repaired. Once again we saw just how incredibly tough it is at Spa. But we’re looking to the future and we’ll be back in full force next year.”

Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 GT3 R #117): “We had a great car and everyone did a fantastic job. The strategy was spot-on and we would have finished at least in the top five, probably even on the podium. It’s a pity that we were sidelined by a competitor who thought he was fighting for the world championship, although he was many laps behind.”

Timo Bernhard (Porsche 911 GT3 R #117): “We made the decision not to go out again, as the repairs had taken so long. This coming weekend we have the ADAC GT Masters races on the Nürburgring and this series is our main focus this season. The car has to be back on its wheels in time. I feel very sorry for the crew, they all fought so hard. I’m very proud of the team, we were up against the big guys at the front. It makes me sad when you see the emotion in the pits. Still, it makes us stronger. We’ll be back.”

Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #117): “I keep wondering what I could have done differently. The Audi driver was 15 laps down and I’d already passed him in that particular corner. He stayed on the outside, we were side-by-side and I gave him room. Suddenly he turned in as if I wasn’t there, he hit my front wheel and spun. The Bentley came from behind and hit my car with full force. It’s incredibly annoying because we were looking promising in the race and on our way to the top.”

10.27 am
2. Interim

At the long-distance classic in the Ardennes, the Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by the KÜS Team75 Bernhard team made it through the night without any problems. Drivers Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) put in a flawless drive with the #117 car on the storied 7.004-kilometre racetrack and now lie in a promising position. After having completed the compulsory five minute technical pit stop, the customer sport racer is clearly on track for a podium spot. The Manthey-Racing squad was less lucky with the sister car. The Porsche 911 GT3 R (#911) lost contact to the top through extensive repairs in the pits. Drivers Romain Dumas (France), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) will now try to regain positions during the last third of the race.

Putting in a strong team effort, Black Swan Racing has secured a place in the leading group of the Pro-Am-class. Tim Pappas (USA), Marc Miller (USA), Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) and Marc Lieb (Germany) are looking good for a top three finish with their Porsche 911 GT3 R (#540). After technical problems, Herberth Motorsport (#991) has fallen back in the Am-class and has little chance of securing the podium spot that the German squad had hoped for.

9.06 am
10.00 pm
1. Interim

After a disciplined start phase, the 63-strong field are still running close together. The two-time outright Le Mans winner Earl Bamber (New Zealand) handed the 911 fielded by KÜS Team75 Bernhard to his factory driver teammate Timo Bernhard (Germany) unscathed. Dirk Werner (Germany) also swapped seats with Romain Dumas (France) in an unscratched yellow-and-green 911 GT3 R campaigned by Manthey-Racing.

Marc Lieb from Team Black Swan Racing also managed to make up several positions in the #540 Porsche 911 GT3 R and is on course for a podium spot in the Pro-Am class. The same applies to the 500 hp customer sport racer run by Herberth Motorsport (#991) in the Am-category, in which Jürgen Häring took over the wheel from Wolfgang Triller.

Comments after the start

Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser (Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars): “Under good conditions we experienced a calm and disciplined start phase without accident, which speaks for the quality of the drivers. Everyone is still close together, we’re satisfied, particularly with the cars’ balance. We’re focusing on the whole distance and aim to make up more positions.” 

Sebastian Golz (Project Manager 911 GT3 R): “We had a problem-free start, all of the cars made it through the first corners. We can match the pace at the front, but with such a competitive field it’s a tough fight. But as they say, we’re still in the game.”

Dirk Werner (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911): “That was a good start here in Spa. Everyone behaved themselves and didn’t take risks. That’s how it should be at a 24-hour race. I managed to overtake several cars, it can continue like this.”

Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 GT3 R #117): “We got away well at the start and I made up some positions during my stint. The car is fast. Everything’s running to plan at the moment.”

7.46 pm
4.30 pm
Super Pole

With this result, the local hero and his teammates Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand) head into the 70th edition of the Ardennes marathon for the KÜS Team75 Bernhard squad from P11.

Frédéric Makowiecki helmed the cockpit of the Porsche 911 GT3 R (#911) for the Manthey-Racing team. For the Frenchman, the clock stopped at 2:19.649 minutes, which represented ninth place in the Super Pole. This position, however, was not upheld. Due to a speed infringement in the pit lane during free practice, Frédéric Makowiecki and his teammates Romain Dumas (France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) will be relegated ten spots down the grid. Thus, Manthey-Racing tackles the long-distance classic in Belgium from position 19.

A total of 221 drivers and 63 vehicles tackle this year’s 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Thirteen manufacturers are represented at the 70th edition of the Ardennes marathon, which is regarded as the largest and most important GT3 event in the world.

Super Pole quotes

Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser (Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars): “The Super Pole was okay, but not fantastic. The pressure of competition here at Spa is extremely high. We are not coping as well with the heat as our competitors, but we’re within striking distance. It’s supposed to be slightly cooler on Saturday and that would help us. The important thing at Spa is not to make mistakes. The key to this race will be consistency.”

Sebastian Golz (Project Manager 911 GT3 R): “We concluded the Super Pole on positions nine and twelve, so nothing is lost yet. The rate of retirements at Spa is high, hence we need to now focus on the race, put in a consistent drive and keep out of any trouble. Then anything’s possible here.”

Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #117): “I’m not happy with the result. I had a clean and flawless lap, but in terms of pace I couldn’t do more. It’s not easy for us in this heat. I hope if the temperature cools down on Saturday during the race it’ll be better.”

Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911): “My lap was good but unfortunately I made a small mistake in Eau Rouge because the tyre pressure wasn’t quite right. But all in all I’m satisfied. We have a good car and now we need to concentrate on the race.”

Result Super Pole

1. Vanthoor/Riberas/Mies (B/ES/D), Audi R8 LMS, 2:18.578 minutes
2. Baumann/Kirchhöfer/Martin (AUT/D/B), Aston Martin Vantage, +0.605 seconds
3. Rast/Müller/Frijns (D/CH/ND), Audi R8 LMS, +0.788 seconds
4. Aleshin/Molina/Rigon (RU/ES/IT), Ferrari 488 GT3, +0.855 seconds
5. Van der Linde/van der Linde/Schmidt (ZA/ZA/CH), Audi R8 LMS, +0.915 seconds
9. Makowiecki/Dumas/Werner (F/F/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R, +1.071 seconds
12. Bamber/Bernhard/Vanthoor (NZ/D/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R, +1.316 seconds

Review: Qualifying

Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) lapped the 7.004-kilometre circuit at the wheel of the #117 Porsche 911 GT3 R in a time of 2:19.843 minutes. With this result, the KÜS Team75 Bernhard has qualified for Friday’s Super Pole, where the 20 fastest cars will fight for the best grid positions for the 24-hour marathon in the Ardennes.

A new qualifying format for the long-distance classic in Belgium was introduced this year: Each driver in a vehicle is given 15 minutes to turn a fast lap. The final qualifying time is determined by the average of the fastest laps set by all drivers in a team.

Driving for Manthey-Racing, Frédéric Makowiecki, Romain Dumas (both France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) also qualified for the top-20 session. With their Porsche 911 GT3 R (#911), the trio achieved a time of 2:20.144 minutes, which ultimately put them on 13th place.

24 Hours of Spa: largest and most important GT3 event in the world

Putting in a strong qualifying performance, Herberth Motorsport planted the #991 Porsche 911 GT3 R on second place in the Am-category. The crew from Black Swan Racing finished the session in the Pro-Am class on seventh. A total of 221 drivers and 63 vehicles tackle this year’s 24 Hours of Spa. Thirteen manufacturers are represented at the 70th edition of the Ardennes marathon, which is regarded as the largest and most important GT3 event in the world.

The race

First contested in 1924, the Spa 24-hour race is just one year younger than the legendary long-distance classic at Le Mans. The last overall victory for Porsche in the Ardennes was achieved in 2010 with Romain Dumas, Jörg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler and Martin Ragginger in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by the BMS Scuderia Italia team. Since 2011, the event on the 7.004-kilometre Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps has represented a highlight on the international GT3 calendar. The presentation of the race cars on Wednesday in a motorcade from the racetrack to the town of Spa has become legendary. The race takes off on Saturday at 16.30 hours.

Porsche supports four customer teams with works drivers and engineers at the race on 28-29 July. Tackling the event are the two Porsche teams from the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, Manthey-Racing and Herberth Motorsport, as well as the KÜS Team75 Bernhard and Black Swan Racing squads. Six current works drivers as well as the former factory driver and the current head of Porsche Customer Racing, Marc Lieb, form the driver crews in the four customer racers. For the marathon race in Belgium, 68 cars from 13 marques are entered. In addition to the 64 vehicles that comply with the FIA GT3 regulations, four other vehicles are registered, including three Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.

The schedule

The 24 Hours of Spa takes off on 28 July at 16.30 hrs CEST and will be broadcast live on the websites of the Intercontinental GT Challenge and the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. On television, Eurosport televises live reports and highlights of the event in Belgium. In addition, the German TV station Sport1 will show highlights and background reports from Spa in the “Porsche GT Magazin” on Sunday at 22.00 hours.


The Porsche drivers

The cockpits of the two 911 GT3 R entered in the pro-driver category are shared exclusively by works drivers: Competing for Manthey-Racing are the regular drivers in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, Romain Dumas, Frédéric Makowiecki (both France) and Dirk Werner (Germany). The car run by KÜS Team75 Bernhard is shared by the two former Le Mans overall winners Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand) as well as the Le Mans class winner Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium). The two American drivers Tim Pappas and Marc Miller join forces with Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) to contest the Pro-Am class for Black Swan Racing. They will be supported by Marc Lieb, who was part of the team at the first race of the Intercontinental GT Challenge at Bathurst, Australia, in February. Herberth Motorsport’s 911 GT3 R is piloted by Jürgen Häring, Edward-Lewis Brauner, Wolfgang Triller and Alfred Renauer. The four Germans will tackle the amateur category for gentleman drivers. With Dumas, Lieb and Vanthoor, there are three drivers in the Porsche squad that have already scored overall victory at Spa.

The Porsche 911 GT3 R

The 911 GT3 R was designed by Porsche for worldwide GT3 series. Mounted with the ultra-modern, four-litre flat-six engine with direct fuel injection, the customer sports racer celebrated its race debut in January 2016 at the Daytona 24-hour race. Since then, it has notched up victories in numerous international racing series, such as the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the World Challenge, the ADAC GT Masters, as well as the 24-hour race on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. For 2018, Porsche offers its customer teams an evo-kit.

Intercontinental GT Challenge

The Intercontinental GT Challenge is the first global racing series with GT3 vehicles as the top calss. It was founded in 2016 by the SRO Motorsports Group led by Stéphane Ratel. Rather than compete with a factory squad, Porsche supports international customer teams in their campaign with the 911 GT3 R by providing works drivers and engineers from Weissach. For each race, a maximum of four vehicles selected by the manufacturer are entitled to earn points. Of these, the two best-placed vehicles at the end of the race are awarded points for the manufacturer’s overall classification. In the driver’s category, however, the drivers of all cars nominated by manufacturers are eligible for points.

4 February: Bathurst 12 Hour, Bathurst/Australia
28/29 July: 24 Hours of Spa, Spa-Francorchamps/Belgium
26 August: Suzuka 10 Hours, Suzuka/Japan
28 October: California 8 Hours, Monterey/USA

Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup

The Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, also run by the SRO Motorsports Group, is reserved for race cars that comply with FIA GT3 regulations. Storied racetracks, cost-effective conditions of participation and equality in terms of technology thanks to the Balance of Performance form the framework of this customer-oriented championship. The season highlight of the championship, the 24 Hours of Spa, is run alongside the Intercontinental GT Challenge. In the series contested all over Europe, there are overall classifications for teams and drivers.

22 April: Monza/Italy (3 hours)
20 May: Silverstone/Great Britain (3 hours)
2 June: Le Castellet/France (6 hours)
28/29 July: 24 Hours of Spa, Spa-Francorchamps/Belgium
30 September: Barcelona/Spain (3 hours)

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