It might well be the most famous car on the 24H SERIES grid, and with it, series newcomers EBIMOTORS are hoping to improve upon an already impressive class record.
That the Porsche-exclusive 991 class has been both a popular and successful pillar of the 24H SERIES since 2011 shouldn’t come as any surprise. On the road, bolstered by six decades of performance development, many consider Porsche’s halo model to be the most rounded sports car on the planet today, while on the track, the 911 has achieved notable successes at Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, the Targa Florio, and the Monte Carlo Rally to name but a scant few. Moreover, with the ‘944 Turbo Cup’ in 1986, from which its now 29-year old Carrera Cup series was fostered, Porsche pretty much pioneered the one-make GT racing series concept. On-track or off it, the Porsche 911 is a genuine motoring icon.
In the 24H SERIES, the 911-spec class has welcomed up to 240 entries from more than 60 teams from a dozen different countries, and that’s before we’ve even included the myriad 997-gen models that have competed in the Hankook 24H DUBAI since 2006. Choosing just ONE of those teams for our latest ‘On the grid with’ instalment was hard.
So, why EBIMOTORS?
Well, since its foundation, if not longer, the team has been synonymous with Porsche in northern Italy. In 1998, EBIMOTORS became the German marque’s first authorized workshop in Cermenate, a short(ish) hop from Milan, and, at the inauguration of its current facility in 2006, thereafter it was the municipality’s official service centre too. That same year, the motorsport arm of EBIMOTORS entered its first of three FIA GT1 World Championship seasons with a 911 GT3 RSR, and since 2007, the team has raced in every season of the one-make Porsche Carrera Cup Italia, winning five championships on the bounce. Throw in multiple Mobil 1 Supercup entries, an Italian GT Championship in 2013 with a GT3 RSR, and 24-hour debuts at both Daytona (2005) and Le Mans (2018) with Zuffenahausen’s favourite sports car, and it’s clear EBIMOTORS knows its way around the 911.
You can add EBIMOTORS’ impressive 24H SERIES debut to that tally of accomplishments too: having taken 991-class pole position on its debut outing, the #73 991-I Cup went on to claim two category wins in its first two CREVENTIC outings at Navarra and Imola. In a one-make class specifically designed to keep racing tight, that’s a seriously impressive strike-rate, one not lost on team patriarch, Enrico Borghi.
“Navarra was incredible,” Enrico explains. “It was our first participation in the 24H SERIES, so we were just trying to get comfortable with the organization as quickly as we could. Carlo and Lino – they’re brothers – and Marco Frezza get on incredibly well, and that’s one of their greatest strengths as teammates, but none of them knew the track. We also had a big mechanical problem during the first free practice, so that cost us a lot of time.
“But as a team, we always put in the effort to be ‘the best’, and the fact that we are competing in other endurance series elsewhere” – the Le Mans Cup, of which the team are reigning GT3 champions – “helps keep us sharp in terms of strategy. We certainly didn’t expect to win out first race, but we worked really hard for that result and that made it really memorable. Same thing with Imola, but I suppose being an Italian team motivated us to be competitive and well organized!”
“On the road, bolstered by six decades of performance development, many consider Porsche’s halo model to be the most rounded sports car on the planet today.”
Granted, Portimão and Barcelona proved tougher pills to swallow for ‘E’ and ‘B’ Motors, radiator issues felling the #73 Porsche in Portugal while a colossal shunt eliminated the team in Spain. Disappointing, yes, but to Enrico, who’s run Porsche race cars since 1994, it’s just part of the charm of the charm of 911 racing.
“It is absolutely not easy,” the former Formula 1 engineer continues. “There are stints where you can lose and stints where you can gain time. The format of these races means you have to react and change strategy quickly, and there is always the possibility of an accident or mechanical problems waiting around the corner. Instead of thinking about the end of the race, we’re actually thinking more about what could happen next. You just never know.
“We were always going to be racing a 911 though. I’ve always recognized myself and my working attitude in all Porsche values, so it was not difficult to decide which brand ambassador I wanted to be.”
‘Porsche values’. A phrase that feels particularly poignant whilst discussing the 991-I GT3 CUP. After all, based as it is on the road-going Porsche 911 GT3, with which it also shares a production line, the CUP has been designed specifically for ‘equal opportunities and fairness’ for teams and drivers alike competing in both the Carrera Cup, and, latterly, CREVENTIC’s 991-class. It’s a philosophy that inspired the original 911 Carrera 2 Cup back in 1990, and while it’s tempting to trace the GT3 CUP’s on-track lineage since then, this particular story starts with the launch of the ‘991 Series’ 911 in 2011.
Bizarrely, despite dating back to 1963, the 991 featured only the third brand new platform for Porsche’s flagship. It was also only the fourth complete overhaul in nearly half a century of production, and expectations were herculean. Not only was the new 991 expected to meet ever-tightening safety and fuel efficiency regulations on the road, it needed to be faster and more aggressive on-track, and, most difficult of all, satisfy demands from its most ardent fans. To many, the 911 isn’t just a sports car from Porsche. It IS Porsche.
“While it’s tempting to trace the GT3 CUP’s on-track lineage since 1990, this particular story starts with the launch of the ‘991 Series’ 911 in 2011.”
Extensive use of aluminium meant the 991 weighed 40kg less than the 997 it replaced, and an updated, though identically displaced, 3.8-litre flat-six that produced 400hp meant it was also considerably faster (0-100kph in 4.3 seconds for the Carrera S version). A wider front end – up to 50mm at the front axle – meant more grip, while a wheelbase almost 4in longer than before allowed greater distance between the front and rear wheels. This in turn meant most of the engine’s mass could be moved further forward, ensuring better weight distribution and greater stability at speed. With more grunt, less weight and refined handling, the new 991 Carrera S lapped the hallowed Nürburgring FOURTEEN seconds faster than the 997 version it replaced.
Porsche’s decision to use electronic power-assisted steering in place of hydraulics, however, would be met with cries of anguish from 911 purists: the company’s drive for less weight, sharper handling and greater fuel efficiency went down about as well as giving the Mona Lisa a perm. Not even the introduction of the world’s first-ever seven-speed manual gearbox could appease the triggered masses.
Still, controversy aside, all signs looked positive ahead of the 991-I GT3 CUP’s debut 12 months later. Like the roadcar, it featured a rear-mounted 3,800cc flat-six – albeit one now producing 460hp – and a revised aero package that significantly reduced drag and increased downforce (the GT3 roadcar’s enormous rear spoiler was a prominent feature). Further weight reduction meant the new GT3 Cup weighed ‘approximately 1,200kg’, while renewed focus on driver safety meant a new roll cage, the more enveloping carbon fibre bucket seat, and an escape hatch above the driver’s head also made their respective debuts. Ironically, the already-vaunted seven-speed manual would not transition from road to track. Instead, paddle shifters were connected to the race-spec six-speed gearbox ‘for the first time in Porsche brand trophy race car’ history.
“For sure the automatic gearbox was THE big step for this generation, because it allows our drivers to keep both hands on the wheel. That may sound small but it really helps the build up seed,” Enrico continues. “We’ve run a LOT of 911 generations over the years because we’ve raced in the Porsche Carrera Cup Italia for more than 10 years, and every new model is a well realized challenge. Model after model, this car just keeps getting better and better. There is always something we can do better but good things take time. Let’s see what the new model has to offer.”
“With more grunt, less weight and refined handling, the new 991 Carrera S lapped the hallowed Nürburgring FOURTEEN seconds faster than the 997 version it replaced.”
The ‘new model’ in question is the revised 991-II GT3 CUP, which debuted in Dubai in January. Gone is the 3.8-litre flat-six in favour of a 4-litre equivalent that now produces 485hp. Though the rear spoiler is untouched, new front and rear fascias are expected to generate more downforce, while ‘internal improvements’ will, in theory, lead to improved engine reliability and more affordable maintenance. This is good news for Porsche privateer customers, who, prior to the 991-II’s unveil in late 2016, had already bought more than 3000 CUP cars since 1998.
And yes, you can reasonably expect EBIMOTORS to be one of them as the Italian outfit eyes another season of 24H SERIES competition, possibly with a two-car line-up. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all, that Enrico Borghi’s eponymous team shows what it’s capable of with the world’s most popular, and most rounded, track-going sports car.
“We compete to win, races and championships, so we are considering next year. And yes, we are working to get at least two cars onto the grid because that could amortize racing expenses. Who knows? Maybe we could run in the GT3 category.
*Images courtesy of Petr Frýba Photographer and 24H SERIES
*Well, EVERY ‘991 class’ team, but on this occasion…
Technical specifications (at launch)
Engine: Flat-six, 3,800cc
Power: 460hp @ 7,500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed sequential dog-type gearbox
Suspension: McPherson (front), multi-link (rear)
Brakes: Steel, vented; six-piston, 380 x 32mm (front); four-piston, 380 x 30mm (rear)
Wheels: 10.5J x 18in (front), 12J x 18in (rear)
Tyres: 27/65-18 (front), 31/71-18 (rear)
Weight: ‘Approx. 1,200kg’
Top speed: 280kph
2nd 991-class win at Hankook 12H IMOLA
(Lino Curti / Carlo Curti / Marco Frezza)
1st 24H SERIES pole position and 991-class win at Hankook 12H NAVARRA
(Lino Curti / Carlo Curti / Marco Frezza)
1st in Italian GT Championship (GT3)
(Vito Postiglione / Luigi Lucchini)
Team and drivers’ champion, Porsche Carrera Cup Italia, for the 5th time