At Spa-Francorchamps, fans and competitors alike witnessed first-hand possibly the most sensational grandstand finish to a 24H SERIES event there has ever been.
- Check out the original post on 24hseries.com HERE
A6 (Pt.1) – A true grandstand finish
GRT Grasser Racing Team (#63) is eliminated from the lead.
Herberth Motorsport (#91) makes a final splash and dash inside the final two laps…
…but it’s not enough to prevent Scuderia Praha (#11) from retaking the lead on the penultimate lap.
Absolutely nobody was expecting a finish like that.
Heading into the final hour, Herberth Motorsport (#91) had pulled one of its customary, methodical drives towards the front of the Hankook 12H SPA, despite starting the second ‘half’ of the race one lap down on the leaders. Indeed, heading to the flag, the #91 Porsche 911 GT3 R had been out front for more than four hours, and the only challenger left standing was former leader, and pole sitter, Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11).
How different the landscape had looked just six hours earlier. For one thing, the Herberth Porsche had yet to recoup its lost lap, and for another, having started on the front row alongside the Ferrari, it was in fact the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (#63) that had been Czech team’s closest rival in the early stages of Saturday morning. Scintillating pace from Rolf Ineichen, despite a slightly cagey restart, kept an equally rapid Matteo Mallucelli honest until the first round of pit stops, and at half distance, with Stefano Costantini (#63) and Jiří Písařík (#11) now at the respective helms, the Italian supercars diced side-by-side down the Kemmel Straight and into Les Combes, an audacious over-the-kerb lunge at Stavelot forcing the Lamborghini into the Ferrari, and consequently, into the lead.
GRT’s contention would last just a few minutes though, as Constantini, squeezed onto the grass at Campus, slammed heavily into the side of the BMW he was trying to lap, crumpling the Bimmer’s right front fender and all-but destroying the Lamborghini’s left rear suspension housing. Just over half and hour was spent in the pits repairing the damage, and the #63 Huracán dutifully plummeted out of the top 10. An unexpected puncture, the third of the team’s weekend, condemned the Lamborghini to an 8th place finish at the chequered flag.
GRT’s demise left Scuderia Praha, now with a dented front end and a rasping radiator, temporarily unopposed out front, with both Phoenix Racing (#5) and Herberth Motorsport (#91) in hot pursuit. With the calls to pit under Code 60 just not going Scuderia Praha’s way – either the fuel pumps were full or the green flag was flown while the Ferrari was still in the pits – it was Herberth that eventually dragged its way to the front, Phoenix gamely lying in wait in 3rd.
Going into the race’s final 30 minutes, it was clear that both Ralf Bohn in the Herberth Porsche and a hard-charging Mallucelli in the Scuderia Praha Ferrari, which had already halved a 50s advantage, would both need to pit for a splash of fuel in the dying moments of the race. Mallucelli was the first to blink, charging onto pitroad with just 17m to go. A clean stop, and just two laps later, it was Bohn’s turn.
It would be tight, but with less fuel to take on-board, the Porsche should just make it back on-track ahead. Tension in both camps could be cut with a knife, and not a single eye could be torn away from the timing screens.
“The Italian supercars diced side-by-side down the Kemmel Straight and into Les Combes, an audacious over-the-kerb lunge at Stavelot forcing the Lamborghini into the Ferrari, and consequently, into the lead. GRT’s contention would last just a few minutes though.”
But something went wrong. Mechanics fumbled with the delivery hose, and Bohn could only watch helplessly as an additional 20 seconds were lost finding a replacement. As the Ferrari crossed the start-finish line, the #91 Porsche was only just starting its agonising 40kph crawl to the end of pit road, Bohn ready to dump the throttle, and power out of the pits and up the hill. A red blur emerged in the Porsche’s left wing mirror.
Robert Renauer’s reaction in the Herberth garage said everything, the reigning ADAC GT Masters champion dropping his head into hands as the #11 Ferrari cruised past the Herberth Porsche onto the Kemmel Straight, the gap barely four car lengths as the pair entered Les Combes. The Scuderia garage erupted.
There was no catching Mallucelli, who drove the Ferrari across the line two laps later to take Scuderia Praha’s second 24H SERIES race win in succession. A disconsolate Herberth arrived less than eight seconds later to claim 2nd overall, and the A6-Am win. Despite the brutal bad luck within sight of the flag, a magnanimous Ralf Bohn was still pleased with the team’s result: “It was still a great race for us. We had a good car, and don’t forget we are fighting against a professional team, so we’re still happy to finish 2nd.”
Two laps behind the grandstand finish, Phoenix Racing (#5) completely an impressive recovery drive to claim 3rd overall, the Audi R8 LMS the third different manufacturer on the podium behind the Ferrari and the Porsche, and the third of four different brands in the top four, just ahead of CP Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#85).
A6 (Pt.2) – Puncture woes for Ferrari; double A6-Am podium for Herberth
Tyre troubles eliminate Rinaldi Racing (#47) after heavy crash
Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport (#25) collides with Porsche Cup
Another solid result for CP Racing (#85)
Scuderia Praha’s win, though no less hard-fought, was all the more ironic given the trouble with tyres most of the scarlet machines had endured throughout the 12-hour event. True, punctures were not the sole domain of the Ferraris – WRT’s Audi R8 LMS (#27) fought back brilliantly from two very early punctures on Friday afternoon to finish 7th overall and a brilliant 3rd in A6-Pro – but across Spa’s notoriously high kerbs, the Wochenspiegel Team Monschau (#22), HB Racing by Herberth Motorsport (#41), and Rinaldi Racing (#47) 488 GT3s were the biggest causalities.
Easily the most dramatic came on the cusp of the 11th hour. Earlier in the race, the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari (#47) had already been sent into the gravel trap at Stavelot by a deflated rear left, bringing out the event’s seventh Code 60. Martin Berry’s second shunt of the afternoon though would prove much heavier, the left rear this time deflating at high speed, sending the now-hobbled prancing horse into a pirouette and, unavoidably, head-first into the barriers on the Kemmel Straight. It was an accident eerily similar to the accident local boy Michiel Verhaeren suffered at almost the exact same spot aboard the QSR Racingschool Mercedes-AMG GT4 at last year’s event. Berry mercifully walked away unhurt, but the Ferrari’s day and its shot at 10th place was done.
During the tenth and final Code 60 that followed, garage-mates Wochenspiegel Team Monschau (#22) made the call to withdraw its own Ferrari, in solidarity, from 7th on the road / 4th in A6-Am. It was understandable, given that the team had suffered its own tyre problems earlier in the race, twice in fact, losing the German squad several laps in the process.
“You saw our pace this morning, we were capable of going a lot faster,” explained team driver, David Perel, “but we suspected that was causing the failures, so we were driving to a delta [time] and got another failure. And then when our sister car was found on the exit of Eau Rouge, we both decided, it’s not worth the risk.”
Now retired, both Ferraris would eventually be classified 5th and 6th in the A6-Am class.
Two Ferraris out and one in the lead, that left just the HB Racing example to hit trouble, as it dutifully did, with Albert Renauer at the wheel, under braking for Les Combes. Skillful driving meant the German managed to limp almost an entire lap back to the pits without causing any damage to the underside, but that spelt the end of Herberth Motorsport’s ‘sister’ team’s fight for the runners-up spot in A6-Am. Even despite a brief electrical glitch on the exit of La Source, 3rd at the chequered flag nevertheless capped off a solid weekend’s work.
The luck beneficiary of HB Racing’s tyre failure were CP Racing (#85), who finished 4th overall and 2nd in A6-Am. To give the reigning GT European Champion its dues though, it had been a strong recovery drive after both a weekend spent chasing the correct setup for the Mercedes and an enforced spin at the Bus Stop Chicane after contact with Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport (#25). Fellow AMG runners IDEC SPORT RACING meanwhile (#17) had a weekend to forget. Despite leading the race outright during the first round of pit stops, things would unravel quickly as the French team opted to take a 10-lap penalty in order to repair persistent steering problems during the overnight intervention, only to be felled just a few hours later by irreparable ABS problems.
“It was an accident eerily similar to the accident local boy Michiel Verhaeren suffered at almost the exact same spot at last year’s event. Martin Berry mercifully walked away unhurt, but the Ferrari’s day and its shot at 10th place was done.”
Three laps further back was the Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS (#34), which, like HB Racing just one spot ahead, had also been in the running for the A6-Am runners-up spot early on. In-keeping with the weekend’s theme, a rear-left puncture (its second) dislodged the wheel arch lining, dropping the German outfit off the class podium with ‘just’ three hours left.
Arguably A6-Am’s most high-profile category casualty though was the Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG (#25). Having kept pace with the GT front-runners on Friday, and even duelled with Herberth and GRT for outright 2nd place, the American squad was running comfortably in the top five as the halfway mark approached. Bryce Ward though had not counted on Andrey Mukovoz in the DUWO Racing-entered Porsche 991-II Cup (#909) trying to un-lap himself at La Source. Unsighted by traffic up ahead, and having already dispatched the DUWO Racing Porsche out of the Bus Stop Chicane, Ward turned into the hairpin right-hander directly in front of Mukovoz. Contact was inevitable – “maybe he was trying to race the wrong car,” the American explained – and both cars were eliminated on the spot.
Overall Top 3
- Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 250 laps
- Herberth Motorsport (#91, Porsche) – +7.781s
- PHOENIX RACING (#5, Audi) – 248 laps
A6-Pro Top 3
- Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 250 laps
- PHOENIX RACING (#5, Audi) – 248 laps
- WRT (#27, Audi) – 241 laps
A6-Am Top 3
- Herberth Motorsport (#91, Porsche) – 250 laps
- CP Racing (#85, Mercedes-AMG) – 245 laps
- HB Racing by Herberth Motorsport (#41, Ferrari) – 244 laps
Overall GT European Championship (after two rounds)
- Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, A6) – 38 points
- Herberth Motorsport (#91, A6) – 35 points
- CP Racing (#85, A6) – 34 points
991 and SPX – Modena Motorsport breaks its streak; JR Motorsport back on top
Maiden ‘991’ class win for Modena Motorsport (#916)
Porsche Lorient Racing (#912) loses podium but retains championship lead
JR Motorsport (#202) seals SPX win after trouble hits MARC
Modena Motorsports (#916) may have fought off strong opposition from DUWO Racing (#909) in the early stages of the Hankook 12H SPA – conflicting pit stop strategies meant the Hong Kong-based team was technically one lap behind DUWO at the restart – by half-distance, the fight very much seemed to be over. The Luxembourg entry was out for good after its impact with the Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport Mercedes (see ‘A6 (Pt.2)’ above), and with a two-lap lead already in its pocket over the pursuing Porsche Lorient Racing Cups, Modena Motorsports didn’t look back en-route to its first class win in the 24H SERIES in almost two years, and its first with the Porsche 991-II Cup on the car’s maiden series outing, no less. The team’s experience with the Porsche 991 in Asia has clearly paid off.
Further back, the battle for the runners-up spot rarely faltered between both Porsche Lorient Racing entries (#911 and #912) and Teichmann Racing (#903), the latter only laying a firm hand on 2nd place when the #912 Porsche began to lose pace at three-quarter distance. An additional unscheduled pit stop meant it was actually the sister #911 entry that collected the final ‘991’ podium spot. Ironically, the eventual 3rd-placed finisher was almost wiped out entirely by the runner-up when an over-ambitious move into Stavelot came dangerously close to disaster.
Despite finishing with only one car on the podium, Porsche Lorient Racing’s class win in Mugello means the #912 and #911 still head the 991-class European Championship standings, albeit with only one point between them.
“Modena Motorsports didn’t look back en-route to its first class win in the 24H SERIES in almost two years, and its first with the Porsche 991-II Cup on the car’s maiden series outing, no less.”
With the demise of Speed Lover (#978) against the pit lane exit wall and with MRS-GT Racing (#980) forced to shorten its driver stint times owing to on-going tyre problems – a fail-safe that dropped the team to 6th in-class – 5th eventually went to the PGmotorsport.NL Porsche 991-I Cup (#992). A solid result for the team, in spite of the rear suspension failure that cost the team nearly an hour of repairs and sent Jos Menten crabbing down the Kemmel Straight.
Further back was a surprisingly high attrition race for SPX class honours, one that ultimately fell to JR Motorsports (#202). The BMW M3 F80 lost considerable time to when a driveshaft failed on Saturday afternoon, but by that point, the team’s first class win since the 2017 Hankook 12H IMOLA and retention of its SP2-class European Championship lead was already a foregone conclusion.
Long-time leader Cor Euser Racing (#717) had already lost an hour on pit road with a stuck right front wheel only for the MARC II V8 to end its day on Friday in the barriers exiting Bruxelles. So great was the damage, the Dutchman wasn’t even in the paddock when the race restarted on Saturday. Problems also enveloped local team Vr Racing by Qvick Motors (#709). The MARC II V8 had taken a one-lap lead into Saturday’s restart, but managed just five laps before John Rasse brought the car back to pitroad, a misfire and a lost cylinder ultimately spelling the end of the road.
991 Top 3
- Modena Motorsports (#916, Porsche) – 236 laps
- Teichmann Racing (#903, Porsche) – 234 laps
- Porsche Lorient Racing (#911, Porsche) – 1m 02.213s
SPX Top 3
- JR Motorsport (#202, BMW) – 213 laps
- Vr Racing by Qvick Motors (#709, MARC) – 81 laps
- Cor Euser Racing (#717, MARC) – 25 laps
*Images courtesy of Petr Frýba Photographer and 24H SERIES