For the first 22 hours and 15 minutes of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid demonstrated pretty conclusively that being able to go 25 percent further on every tank of gas can be very beneficial in endurance racing. After running at the front of the 200 car pack in the first hour and then falling back with a tire puncture, the hybrid stormed back into the lead. From hour 14, the new flywheel-hybrid-equipped sportscar led the field for more than eight hours.
Unfortunately for the orange and white car, the internal combustion part of the powertrain packed it in with just over 100 minutes left in the race. It's not clear what the engine problem was, but the hybrid system developed by the Williams Formula One team apparently performed very well. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of this car starting this summer in the American Le Mans Series.
Strong performance from Porsche teams – but no happy ending
Stuttgart. After four straight overall wins at the Nürburgring 24 Hours from 2006 to 2009, the Porsche teams once again performed brilliantly, but without the necessary luck. In an exciting and dramatic race which was hard to top, Porsche vehicles dominated the action over almost 15 hours.
Out of the series of retirements, the end of the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid's eight hour lead was the disappointing lowlight. Up until this point the innovative race car from Weissach clearly proved that the hybrid technology developed by Porsche is very competitive in racing and at the same time considerably lowers fuel consumption.
After 22 hours and 15 minutes, the leading orange-and-white 911 GT3 R Hybrid retired with engine damage in the Metzgesfeld passage. "I heard a loud noise at the rear of the car and suddenly the power went," says Porsche works driver Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) describing the abrupt end of all hopes for victory.
Despite a disappointing race, Chairman of the Board at Porsche AG, Michael Macht, who visited the race on Sunday, came to a positive conclusion: "It wasn't enough for a win, but the Porsche hybrid technology clearly proved its potential at one of the world's toughest races. We will continue developing this innovative drive concept. That was certainly not the last race for a Porsche hybrid car."
Wolfgang Dürheimer, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG, gives an outlook to the future: "The 911 GT3 R Hybrid has proven that highest performance and a unique efficiency don't exclude each other. The vehicle shows the technological path to racing in the future."
The street-legal Porsche 911 GT3 RS, which had been driven to the Nürburgring from Weissach, greatly exceeded all expectations. Ex-DTM pilot Roland Asch (Germany), race driver and TV commentator Patrick Simon (Germany), as well as journalists Horst von Saurma (Germany) and Chris Harris (Great Britain) crossed the finish line in a 200-strong field ranking an exceptional 13th. "We're totally over the moon," grinned Asch. The German and his three teammates completed a total of 145 laps without any technical mishaps. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think a normal street car could not only keep up at such a demanding race but can also finish so far up the field. After this race there is no doubt the Porsche 911 GT3 RS is the best sports car in the world!"
The streak of bad luck that hit the 911 racing thoroughbreds began well before the retirement of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. Already after five hours, Chris Mamerow (Germany) retired after an accident with his 911 GT3 R of the Mamerow Racing squad. Two and a half hours later, a rival's accident abruptly punted the favourites for overall victory out of contention. The 911 GT3 R fielded by Manthey Racing and crewed by the winning team of the last four years had taken the lead in lap one and was running a clear first when a competitor crashed and spun across the track, hitting the Manthey vehicle. The heavy damages sustained by the 911 signalled an early end for the successful quartet with works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) as well as Manthey pilot Marcel Tiemann (Monaco).
Both the 911 GT3 R of the Wochenspiegel Team Manthey and the Haribo Team Manthey were forced to retire with damaged transmissions. The charge of the Wochenspiegel car was halted half way through the race. The Haribo vehicle was sidelined four and a half hours before the end.
1. Müller/Farfus/Alzen/Lamy (D/BR/D/P), BMW M3 GT2, 154 laps
2. Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen/Seefried (D/AUS/USA/D), Ferrari F430 GTC, + 3:54.1 minutes
3. Rostek/Ludwig/Bronzel/Winkelhock (D/D/D/D), Audi R8 LMS, + 1 laps
4. Hartung/Söderlund/Sandström/Öhlin (D/S/CH/S), BMW Z4 GT3, + 2
5. Jöns/Breslin/Stuck/Heyer (D/GB/A/D), Audi R8 LMS, + 2
6. Alzen/Schwager/Jäger/Bert (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S, + 3
7. Werner/Müller/Priaulx/Adorf (D/D/GB/D), BMW M3 GT2, + 4
8. Zehe/Schelp/Roloff/Bullitt (D/D/D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S, + 4
9. Aust/Adams/Übler/Grossmann (D/D/D/D), BMW Z4 GT3, + 5
10. Weiland/Forbes/Riemer/Horn (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, + 6
11. Gayday/Kruglyk/Basov/Schratz (UKR/UKR/R/D), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, + 7
12. Dumbreck/Schoysman/Tanaka/Hoshino (GB/D/J/J), Nissan Z33, + 9
13. Simon/von Saurma/Asch/Harris (D/D/D/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 RS, + 9