His eyes betray the long night he’s just been through; his enthusiasm among the winning Porsche crew speaks differently. Lars Kern hasn’t had much sleep over the past two days—nothing at all—but he’s been having a blast racing the number 12 Manthey Racing Porsche 991 GT3R to 21st place in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring.
Fighting their way back to the front since a 45-minute repair in the opening hours threw the Porsche deep into the field, Lars Kern and his team-mates Dennis Olsen, Philipp Frommenwiler and car owner and driver Otto Klohs have been going at it with full conviction. At first light on Sunday morning they are already looking to breach into the top 20 and when the race is temporarily stopped shortly after midday, the white-red 911 finds itself in 20th position.
As the most senior pro-driver on the car and Nordschleife expert at that, Kern is tasked with guiding the Porsche through the final phase of the race.
“I was a bit curious to start racing again as the conditions were horrible out there—you couldn’t see anything,” Kern says.
“Personally, the restart was good for us and Porsche. In general, to end the race with a red flag is not how you want to end a race—but it was quite dangerous, to be honest. I couldn’t see anything on the straight. I had to back up and search for visibility, go left and right, just to get an idea of where to go to.
“It was tough and I’m very happy everyone is alive and well.”
Regardless, Kern pushed on in the treacherous conditions.
“The pace of our car was mega and I felt good, I could easily overtake the three other cars that were on the same lap and even some more.
“I was feeling confident and got together with Michael Christensen whom I could follow easily. It was going too easy: I’d been in the car for 10 hours and then there was just one moment where I wasn’t focused, and I spun going into Schwalbenschwanz. I stalled the car before restarting it, and we lost a bit of time but had no damage at all.
“From there on I just relaxed, getting through the last two laps. It was great fun: the Porsche was mega quick and Michelin did a great job with the tyres.”
Like many around him, Kern found himself in a typical endurance racing situation: having the speed to run with the top dogs, but being laps down after an unscheduled repair. As is true for many of his competitors, the end result, 21st, does not reflect the car’s true pace.
“Without the spin and without the 45 minutes in the box… I don’t want to look at the results!
“I think it could’ve been a top 7, top 10, and especially for Otto this would’ve been really, really big.
“In the dry our pace was OK but not really good; in the wet we were really on it. Through the night we always double-stinted and the pace was good.”
For Kern, who over the past two years has raced in Manthey Racing’s Cayman GT4, customer GT3Rs and fan-favourite ‘Grello’, the Nordschleife season isn’t over yet.
“I think I’ll stay with Manthey. We’ll have to see with which car I’ll be racing.
“Otto is going to do the 6-hour race—that one I’ll definitely do with him. I think I’ll be doing all VLN races with Manthey, so we’ll have to see with which car that will be.”
First, there’s a good night’s sleep to catch up to.
“I didn’t sleep. I had a beer and now I’m really tired.”