24-hours of Spa-Francorchamps : Four Porsche 911 GT3 R in the top twelve after four hours of racing

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– Klaus Bachler took an early lead in the 24-hour classic with Dinamic Motorsport’s Porsche.
– GPX Racing’s daring pit stop strategy catapulted the works driver trio Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz to second place.
– Spirited charge brought KCMG’s Porsche 911 GT3 R from 66th to twelfth.

The 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps got off to a promising start for the Porsche customer teams. Twelve of the sports car manufacturer’s 13 GT3 racing cars were still in the race after four hours. In the Pro category, all five of the 911 GT3 R had a chance for a top placing.

The Porsche customer teams got off to a good start at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. After four hours of racing, four 911 GT3 R were running in the top twelve in the overall standings. Ranking second, the ca. 368 kW (500 PS) 911 fielded by GPX Racing was within striking distance of the lead. Works drivers Kévin Estre from France, Dane Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz from Austria share driving duties in this car. P8 is occupied by Dinamic Motorsport’s No. 54 Porsche with drivers Côme Ledogar (France), works driver and DTM-winner Thomas Preining plus his Austrian compatriot Klaus Bachler. The trio had taken up the race from the first grid row. The 911 GT3 R campaigned by Toksport WRT driven by Frenchman Julien Andlauer and the two Germans Sven Müller and Marvin Dienst were running in ninth place. After a spirited charge through the field, the Porsche from KCMG advanced to P12: Nick Tandy from England, Dennis Olsen from Norway and works driver Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) had to start from the very back of the grid in P66.

In sunny and dry track conditions, the world’s largest GT3 race started without incident at 4.45 pm. Despite the high volume of traffic, the race ran for almost two hours without interruption. At the start, Bachler immediately snatched the lead and handed Dinamic Motorsport’s Porsche off to Ledogar in first place. The Frenchman soon dropped back to third place, before letting Estre overtake him. In fourth place, Ledogar successfully fended off attacks from a Ferrari. After the first of several Full Course Yellows with the safety car, Preining took the wheel of the No. 54 entry. Given that the Austrian now had the faster car at this point, he swapped positions with his compatriot Lietz in the GPX Porsche, whose team used the next yellow phase for an early pit stop. This clever move catapulted the No. 221 Porsche 911 GT3 R into second place during the third safety car phase after 3.5 hours of racing.

Tandy, Vanthoor and Olsen put in an outstanding performance in the Porsche of the customer team KCMG. Taking up the race from the last grid spot, they made up 54 places in the first four hours and battled their way back into the top 12. In the Pro-Am category, the professional drivers Nico Menzel from Germany and Alessio Picariello (Belgium) with the gentleman drivers Niki Leutwiler (Switzerland) and Stefan Aust (Germany) held the lead for a long stretch. After four of 24 hours, they occupied second in their class with the 911 GT3 R of Herberth Motorsport. The No. 91 Porsche fielded by Allied Racing is out of contention. Florian Latorre (France), Alex Malykhin (United Kingdom), Julien Apothéloz (Switzerland) and the former Porsche Junior Ayhancan Güven from Turkey had to park their car after becoming entangled in another competitor’s accident.

Live streaming of the event
The 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps counts towards the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup and the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC). Drivers and vehicles receive points towards the GT World Challenge after six, twelve and 24 hours. The race takes off on Saturday at 4.45 pm and will be live streamed on the website www.intercontinentalgtchallenge.com.

Comments after the first four hours of the race:
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R): « Our 911 GT3 R racers could match the pace of the frontrunners right from the start. So our preparations paid off. KCMG’s Porsche has done a tremendous job: The number 47 car ploughed its way through to the top 12 from the very last grid spot. Our cars in the Pro-class are within striking distance of the leader. Even though the positions are constantly changing due to different pit stop strategies, things are looking very positive. Now we’re heading into the night. We have to make sure we get through this phase unscathed. »

Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 GT3 R #221): « After an hour, I took the wheel of our car in fourth place and managed to close the gap to the front a bit. We’ve now settled in among the frontrunners and are well positioned. Many punctures have left a lot of dirt and debris on the track – you have to be very careful where you drive. And track limits are a big issue. When you lap the slower cars it’s difficult to stay within the track boundaries. If you make a mistake doing this, you’re penalised immediately. »

Klaus Bachler (Porsche 911 GT3 R #54): « Our start was fantastic – to be honest, I didn’t expect to take the lead at the very start. I got the jump off the line and passed the polesitter. But it wasn’t easy defending the lead spot because I was under intense pressure from behind. We’re pleased we have a good car. The balance and the performance are perfect. »

Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 GT3 R #47): « We had an interesting early phase – surprisingly, the race went without any major interruptions with caution phases or other incidents. We wanted to work our way up the order carefully and close the gap to the leader before the first safety car phase. That worked perfectly. We’re sticking to the same strategy as the frontrunners. Instead of 65 places, we’re now only eleven places behind. For us, it’s as if the race has only just begun. »

Alessio Picariello (Porsche 911 GT3 R #47): « I really enjoyed my double stint at the start of the race. After the beginning, we managed to immediately snatch a few positions and take the lead in the Pro-Am class on the first lap. I then tried to eke out as much of an advantage at the front as possible. We started the race from 49th place and have now reached the top 20. I’m very happy with that. »

Holger Eckhardt,