Despite having won this race eleven times prior, Porsche has not won the Nürburgring 24 hour race since 2011. Since that time, it's been a dominant showing from two other German brands, Audi and Mercedes Benz. Porsche's GT3R has had good showings in recent years, but has fallen to poor luck. It looked, early on, to be much the same this year. Porsches locked out the top three fastest times in qualifying, and set a new lap record for GT3s in the process. The early running of the race was dominated by the #911 Manthey Racing car of Kevin Estre, Romain Dumas, Laurens Vanthoor, and Earl Bamber, but before the 12th hour had begun their GT3 was caught up in an incident that ended with the 911 in the wall and damaged beyond repair.
Having been penalized over three minutes for speeding during a code 60 caution flag, and falling back due to an early race tire puncture, it was amazing that the #912 car was able to recover to take the fight to the front of the pack and ultimately take the victory. Taking the lead for the final time with just over an hour to go in the race, the #912 Manthey Racing car of Richard Lietz, Patrick Pilet, Fred Mako, and Nick Tandy were able to bring it home for Porsche in spectacular fashion. The foursome made up a lot of time in the wet nighttime running.
After the race was stopped for fog in the early morning hours, and later restarted, it was on. An intense final phase battle with the Black Falcon Mercedes #4 led to some edge-of-the-seat action, and thanks to an incredible pass executed by closing driver Makowiecki, the team moved into the lead for the first time since their earlier tire failure. It was only the #912, the #4, and its sister Mercedes #5 on the lead lap at the finish, alluding to a dominant run, but the race was anything but.
The next nearest Porsche was the Falken Racing-entered car in 8th, followed by the Frikadelli Porsche in 10th, the Gigaspeed Porsche in 15th, the third Manthey car in 17th, and the KÜS Team75 Bernhard car in 19th.
Porsche, in total, won six classes in this race, including the AT class, the Cup 3 class (an all-Cayman class), SP6, SP7 (an all GT3 Cup class), SP8, and SP9 (overall victory). Of 148 cars entered in this 24 hour endurance race, a full 43 of them were Porsches.
Comments on the race:
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser (Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars):
“That was truly a race of the century, simply indescribable under the circumstances: with the rain, the red flag and that incredible final spurt. At no other endurance race in the world do you get two drivers sprinting against each other for one and a half hours. Fred secured this triumph with his sensational overtaking manoeuvre. We hope that Dr. Wolfgang Porsche is pleased with this belated present for his 75th birthday.”
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager 911 GT3 R):
“I’m simply speechless. That was 24 hours of highs and lows. There were problems, we had to fight our way through the field, but we never stopped believing we could do it. This attitude paid off in the end.”
Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 GT3 R #912), Manthey-Racing:
“It’s unbelievable what we’ve achieved today. We started off with a puncture, fell far behind, but always believed in ourselves. Everyone pulled their weight. Only then is such a victory possible.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 GT3 R #912), Manthey-Racing:
“That was one of the most eventful races in my career. We experienced setbacks, but we knew that we had a winning car, a top team and top drivers. The restart towards the end played into our hands and Fred’s final stint was indicative of the entire race. Whenever we needed to, the team, drivers and car delivered a perfect performance.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 GT3 R #912), Manthey-Racing:
“What a race. Everyone worked perfectly and it was a well-deserved victory for the Manthey team and Porsche. And when you think about the bad luck we had, you can say it was also a well-deserved win for us drivers. This victory is also a win for Mr Porsche, who, as a huge motorsport fan, made it all possible.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 GT3 R #912), Manthey-Racing:
“That was a tough but completely fair fight for the lead and I’m very happy with this win. Our start with the puncture wasn’t good, but we improved from lap to lap. The car was perfectly setup for dry and wet conditions, so we could push hard to the very end.”