For years I’ve had a theory that the best bet in an endurance race over 12 hours is a nondescript white-liveried Porsche GT3. With anecdotal evidence continually proving my theory, I’ve seen any number of times that the race commentators continually gloss over said car, then in the final few hours it steadily moves up the order as leaders conk. The Phoenix Racing Audi team laughed in the face of my theory by doing it in a nondescript white/blue/green/red V10 Audi rather than a Porsche.
The bright green and yellow (Grello) Manthey Racing Porsche ran at the front for 17 hours and looked the favorite to win when that team had a full lap lead with just over two hours to go, until they bungled it all up. Here’s how it happened.
(Full Disclosure: Hyundai brought me to Germany to watch its Veloster N and i30N race cars take on the field, and eat and stay gratis.)
You likely remember the pass that netted Manthey Racing the lead all those hours ago. It’s difficult to say the announcers ignored Kevin Estre when he was wheeling two wheels in the grass!
That car fought with a couple different Mercedes AMGs, but quickly pulled out a definitive gap. Even during pit stops, the car didn’t lose the lead for about 17 hours. With just over two hours remaining in the race, however, Manthey Porsche team driver Laurens Vanthoor tripped over his own feet and tumbled into a huge mistake. During a code 60 local yellow flag situation, Vanthoor executed a pass on much slower lapped traffic, which, as we all know, is illegal.
Because of this pass and the above 60mph speed that allowed it, the leading #911 was awarded a stop and hold penalty of over 5 minutes.
That penalty, plus the following stop for fuel and tires, lost the lead for the #911, as the second placed Audi R8 LMS of Phoenix Racing. Over the final two stints of the race, it was an all out fight between the #911 Porsche and the #4 Audi. With Kevin Estre installed in the 911 and fueled to the end, he had to haul in about 30 seconds worth of gap to the lead. The Audi’s strategy had it pitting one lap later, which meant a shorter pit stop for fuel and tires and a driver change to Dries Vanthoor, giving them 7 full laps to duke it out.
Kevin Estre set the fastest lap of the race with 41 minutes remaining in the race. That’s astonishing that the team of drivers managed to keep good enough care of the #911 Porsche through 23 hours and 19 minutes to make it the fastest of all. The 2019 spec SP9 class runners are slightly down on power to last year, but the track has been resurfaced, which adds up to a fastest 2019 lap that is just four tenths of a second off last year’s run.
Ultimately, the gap was too much for the Porsche to overcome, despite running much quicker laps than the winning Audi. Had the Porsche team not bungled the pass under yellow, they most assuredly would have won. Don’t do that.
It’s interesting to note both Vanthoor brothers were on the podium, with Dries Vanthoor driving the Phoenix Audi to the close of the race, and Porsche factory driver Laurens Vanthoor in the #911 Porsche.
Anyway, well done Audi for surviving the Nurburgring 24. The car still looks almost like new, which is truly something to say.
Hyundai entered a pair of TCR cars, one Veloster and one i30, in the 24 hour race. While these cars are typically designed to run a 30 minute sprint race, the car is upgraded minimally to make the full day race. With bright headlights and fogs added, the car needs a larger alternator. The tune of the engine is slightly adjusted to provide better longevity. That’s pretty much it.
Both of Hyundai’s cars were well ahead in the TCR class. The i30 N, the ever so slightly faster of the two, was punted out from behind by a BMW M6 GT3 early in the race. The Veloster spent much of the race at the front of the class, but about four hours from the end the car lost an entire wheel, and nobody can tell why. Getting back to the pits cost the team two laps, and the drivers put in a hell of an effort to haul back the class leading Honda Civic. Try as they might, they couldn’t make it happen and finished second.
Of course, there is some other stuff that happened during the race that is worth talking about. I stayed up all night and hiked all the way out to the Carracciola-Karussel, so I blissfully missed most of it, but here’s a highlight reel of all the cool, wild, and awe-striking shit that happened during the race.
This weird incident involved the hood popping up on this BMW, and without any kind of visibility, the driver stacked the front of the Bimmer directly into the end of the pit wall.
Here’s a code-brown moment:
And probably my favorite moment from the entire race has involved the iconic Opel Manta.
The car was ping-ponged around a bit by a couple of faster cars, which left it with a busted front suspension.
One of the other teams of mechanics decided to help out in the rebuild of the Manta. Their car was simply on track pounding out laps, so they decided that while they were bored and not particularly busy, they’d throw wrenches at the fix.
It took a number of hours, but the car did eventually return to the track. To uproarious applause by all of the teams. It did ultimately finish the race after spending many more hours in the pits.
There were also a number of tire punctures, particularly in the leading GT3-spec SP9 class. An early one took out last year’s winning Porsche, a later one for a contending Audi R8, and this one for the lone Lamborghini was particularly disheartening. It’s a really long lap, so if you have a tire go down, you have to crawl back for miles to get to the pits, losing several minutes along the way.
I love this race, and it’s been on my bucket list for years, I’m so glad I finally got to attend this race. It’s just too wild, weird, and heartbreaking, and that’s what makes it incredible. If you get the opportunity, you should certainly attend.
It’s worth noting that the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003C finished in 9th overall in its final race ever, after running up to 2nd in the overnight segment. Valiant effort, and Jim Glickenhaus has said he will be back at the 24 hour with a new car next year.
Also of interest, Akio Toyoda raced the new Toyota GR Supra under the pseudonym “Morizo” finishing third in the SP8T class. What a cool dude.