Porsche 911 GT3 R, Falken Motorsports (#44), Joel Eriksson (S), Tim Heinemann (D), Nico Menzel (D), Martin Ragginger (A)
Nico Menzel posts the sixth fastest qualifying time with the new 911 GT3 R
Falken Motorsports’ second Porsche also in the Top Qualifying 2
Lionspeed by Car Collection tackles the 24-hour race from P12
Manthey EMA driver Kévin Estre misses Top Quali 2 by just 34 thousands
The fastest Porsche 911 GT3 R heads into this year’s 24-hour race on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife from position six. In the individual time trial of the final top qualifying session, Nico Menzel set a lap time of 8:11.211 minutes at the wheel of Falken Motorsports’ GT3 car. The German shares the customer racer from Weissach with his fellow countryman Tim Heinemann, Joel Eriksson from Sweden and Martin Ragginger from Austria. Positions twelve and 14 were claimed by Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorsport and the second car fielded by Falken Motorsports.
The top qualifying session took place on Friday afternoon on a dry track in spring-like temperatures. Like last year, it was the Nürburgring born-and-bred local, Nico Menzel, who planted one of the seven Porsche 911 GT3 R cars on the best grid position in the decisive segment of the individual time trial. In the second race car fielded by Falken Motorsports, Austria’s Klaus Bachler, Germany’s Sven Müller and Belgium’s Alessio Picariello secured a seventh grid row spot. Two positions ahead of them, Porsche works drivers Mathieu Jaminet from France and Matt Campbell from Australia, as well as Germany’s Patrick Kolb and Patrick Pilet head into the 24-hour race through the famous “Green Hell”.
To explain: The top qualifying session consists of two segments. In the second of the two, a total of 19 vehicles fought for pole position and the front grid spots. Thirteen racing cars had already earned themselves entry into the individual time trials thanks to top results in the Nürburgring Endurance Series and the races of the so-called qualifiers weekend – including the two 911 campaigned by Falken Motorsports and the 911 GT3 R of Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorsport.
The five remaining places in the final shoot-out were decided on Friday afternoon in the first top qualifying section. Here, a total of 21 GT3 racing cars from seven manufacturers pitted themselves against each other. The race had to be red-flagged and restarted after an accident in the Hatzenbach section, which was covered in dirt. The four Porsche customer teams involved in this session narrowly missed out on advancing to the final round: Works driver Kévin Estre was just 34 thousandths of a second short of fifth place in the Manthey EMA car. Italian Matteo Cairoli (Rutronik Racing) was seventh, Laurin Heinrich from Germany (Dinamic GT) finished ninth and Frenchman Côme Ledogar set the twelfth-fastest lap time in Huber Motorsport’s Porsche.
“We got off to an unfortunate start in the top qualifying: We’d hoped to advance to the second individual time trial segment with one or two racing cars,” says Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “Kévin Estre drove a superb lap but in the end, we were still a bit short of making progress. In Top Qualifying 2 we put in a clean drive with sixth place for the Falken Motorsports car. Nevertheless, we have to see where we’re lacking performance – if we look at the lap times, the gap to the top is still too big. We now have to work on that. Otherwise, we’re satisfied. Fundamentally, the cars are running well. Now we’re preparing for the race.”
The 24-hour race on the Nürburgring is contested on the 25.378-kilometre combination of the historic Nordschleife and the original layout of the Grand Prix circuit. The endurance classic gets underway on Saturday at 4:00 pm. A total of 133 racing cars will line up on the grid, 44 of which are Porsches.
TV coverage and live streaming of the event
The free-to-view TV channel RTL NITRO televises the entire 51st edition of the endurance classic live. Live footage is also available on the channels of the 24-hour race on YouTube and Facebook. Moreover, the website https://www.24h-rennen.de provides live reports and shows the timing of all sessions.
Comments after Top Qualifying
Nico Menzel (Porsche 911 GT 3 R #44): “That was better than expected, sixth on the grid is really good for us. I’m surprised to end up as the best Porsche driver in the class. The individual time trial is one of the highlights of the race weekend for me: As a sportsman, you live for these moments when everything counts. My lap was perfect. We’ve improved with the car. That gives us a positive feeling for the upcoming race.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 GT 3 R #24): “Our result is not a surprise. When even the ‘Grello’ doesn’t make it into the top 5 in the first run, it’s pretty clear what you can expect – or not. We don’t have the pace of the top cars and we’re still struggling with the setup. I gave everything again on the second lap, but the lap time remained almost identical. That’s all we could do today. We only saw qualifying as a test anyway, after our GT3 R was completely disassembled and rebuilt overnight to iron out a gremlin.”
Klaus Bachler (Porsche 911 GT 3 R #33): “There’s hardly a feeling more awesome than getting the chance to drive two free laps on the Nordschleife all by yourself. The pace set by the other drivers is unbelievable. With our new Porsche 911 GT3 R, we’re pushing many corners almost at full throttle and at the absolute limit – there’s a lot of adrenaline flowing through the veins. I managed a solid lap. We’ll have to see where more would have been possible. But I’m satisfied. Our starting position for the race is okay.”
Qualifying result (SP9 class):
1. Raffaele Marciello (I), Luca Stolz (D), Philip Ellis (D), Edoardo Mortara (CH), Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#4), Mercedes-AMG Team Bilstein, 8:09.058 minutes
2. Maro Engel (D), Jules Gounon (F), Daniel Juncadella (E), Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#3), Mercedes-AMG GetSpeed, 8:09.480 minutes
3. Kelvin van der Linde (RSA), Marco Mapelli (I), Jordan Pepper (RSA), Nicki Thiim (DK), Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo 2, Abt Sportsline, 8:10.498 minutes
6. Joel Eriksson (S), Tim Heinemann (D), Nico Menzel (D), Martin Ragginger (A), Porsche 911 GT3 R (#44), Falken Motorsports, 8:11.211 minutes
12. Patrick Kolb (D), Matt Campbell (AUS), Mathieu Jaminet (F), Patrick Pilet (F), Porsche 911 GT3 R (#24), Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorsport, 8:12.257 minutes
14. Klaus Bachler (A), Sven Müller (D), Alessio Picariello (B), Porsche 911 GT3 R (#33), Falken Motorsports, 8:12.599 minutes
20. Michael Christensen (DK), Kévin Estre (F), Frédéric Makowiecki (F), Thomas Preining (A), Porsche 911 GT3 R (#911), Manthey EMA, 8:11.721 minutes
21. Dennis Olsen (N), Matteo Cairoli (I), Julien Andlauer (F), Porsche 911 GT3 R (#96), Rutronik Racing, 8:12.583 minutes
23. Laurens Vanthoor (B), Laurin Heinrich (D), Ayhancan Güven (TR), Christian Engelhart (D), Porsche 911 GT3 R (#54), Dinamic GT, 8:14.391 minutes
26. Dennis Fetzer (D), Côme Ledogar (F), Lars Kern (D), Romain Dumas (F), Porsche 911 GT3 R (#25), Huber Motorsport, 8:16.562 minutes
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