All the talk at the 42. DMV 4-Stunden-Rennen was about the Balance of Performance. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was too slow, the Audi R8 LMS GT3 too fast. Others were still sandbagging, hanging back in the hope that the governing body will give them a Balance of Performance boost before the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. Porsche was the only one without complains. Instead, last race’s winners sent out its best teams and drivers for the second VLN round with one clear goal: Win. And that’s exactly what Manthey Racing did.
It’s an unusual sight on the grid. The Pro-Am class Manthey Racing Porsche 991 GT3R slowly makes its way to pole position. Otto Klohs is behind the wheel, steering his way around the fans and teams on the packed start-finish straight. The gentleman driver watched on as his team mate Mathieu Jaminet surprisingly scored a pole-winning lap in the morning qualifying session. For the young Frenchman it’s his debut in the GT3 class and he wasn’t quite sure himself either how he managed the almost sub-8 minutes lap. But he did it and by doing so beat an armada of Porsches and a lone Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Klohs might have the honour of leading the field to the green, the old man won’t be drawn into a fight he knows he can’t win. He knows very well he won’t last very long up against the 30-plus field of GT3s, many of whom are works cars driven by pilots chosen by the manufacturers. Already on the front stretch the red-white Porsche is swallowed by a tsunami of GTs as he holds back. It works out well: Klohs races onto the Nordschleife many places back, but doesn’t waste a single breath fighting a lost fight.
Norbert Siedler in the second Frikadelli Racing Porsche 991 GT3R takes over at the top of the charts. It’s the first outing for the Motul-sponsored GT3R. With Siedler and Lucas Luhr driving the car, it hardly comes as a surprise that the first stint is dictated by the Barweiler squad. But only the first one.
Far behind, deep in the GT3 field, Connor De Phillippi is determined to get to the front sooner rather than later. Having gotten stuck in traffic during qualifying, the American is forced to start the carbon-black Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Land Motorsport from 21st place. His two stints in the first half of the race bring him up to seventh place.
Before it’s time for Land to steal the limelight, however, it’s Haribo Racing’s turn. Maxi Götz takes over the car from Uwe Alzen as well as the lead of the race during the pit stops and is pushing like hell, cutting through traffic and throwing the AMG around for maximum performance through every single corner. He has to, for the traffic, with almost 200 cars entered for this race, is dense and the top speed of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 as compared to the chasing Bentley Team Abt Continental GT3 is low.
AMG doesn’t really stand a chance on the long straights when not in the slipstream of another car. Before long the big yellow-black Bentley goes through into the lead, much to Götz’s chagrin. Despite his frustration of the risks he must take when lapping slower vehicles, he tries, and manages, to keep up.
At the halfway mark the Bentley veers off into the pits, closely followed into pit lane by Götz who chased Christian Mamerow from a small distance throughout the stint.
Arriving in the third hour, Manthey leads the way with Haribo and Bentley breathing down Makowiecki’s neck as they serpentine over the Nordschleife and around slower cars.
One and a half minute behind the leading trio, Audi Sport Team Land drivers De Phillippi and Christopher Mies are making a push to the top. They’re on Dunlop tyres rather than the usual Michelins and it’s going well. While the sister car of Marks Winkelhock, Christopher Haase and Kelvin van der Linde is eating its own Michelin tyres, the Dunlops are holding on extremely well and prove key in the Audi’s march to the front.
After two stints by De Phillippi, Land unleashes Mies for the final two stints. Emboldened by the Dunlop’s durability and his team mate’s performance in the first two hours, the works driver goes in for the kill.
Haribo isn’t giving up. Götz is back in the car for the final stint after Lance David Arnold took over from him for hour three. The Bavarian has stalked the Porsche ever since Makowiecki retook the lead after Götz momentarily held it after a fast pit stop. Götz tries to swing at the Frenchman but never lands a punch. Mako is too often saved by the busy track.
Then it’s Mies’s time to shine. The gap to the leader is rapidly closing. First, he takes down the Bentley, then Haribo falls. Finally, the leader is in his sights. Fitted on wearing Michelins, the Porsche doesn’t stand a chance. Mies needs just a single move at the start of the final lap to make it stick and claim the lead.
Makowiecki’s hope is still alive. With another Audi fast approaching from fourth place and Götz too close for comfort, he doesn’t have any other choice than to keep up with Mies anyway.
With the clock at zero-to-go, Mies reaches Schwalbenschanz. It’s the last hurdle of corners to overcome before Döttinger Höhe, the place where the powerful Audi should be safe from any assault Makowiecki might have planned. Just as he’s about to slingshot onto the straight via Galgenkopf, the power from the engine cuts out. Manthey, Haribo and WRT shoot past, even Jordan Pepper in the Abt Bentley puts his nose in front of Mies as the Land Audi crawls home. A fuel problem costs the win.
Götz has nothing for Makowiecki in the dash for the chequered flag. Robin Frijns in the WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 gets close but runs out of time to steal the win from Porsche. The Dutchman’s staggering pace in the finale is rewarded with the final step on the podium.
Long after the champagne-soaked overalls of the podium visitors had dried, the talk in the paddock was still about the Balance of Performance. Lance Arnold David felt bad to complain about the BoP, but was compelled to speak out due to the dangerously high pace he had to maintain just to keep up, while Fred Makowiecki called out the slackers and praised Porsche for putting its trust in the governing body and letting them go all out.
Time will tell if Porsche’s trust was deserved.
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