Haas RT has secured its first win in the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook on only its third attempt at this weekend’s Hankook 12H MUGELLO, leading home first-time podium finisher Sainteloc Junior Team in the process.
The HAAS RT Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#21, Mathieu Detry / Stéphane Perrin / Frédéric Vervisch) made an immediate impact on its 24H SERIES debut in Dubai, finishing an impressive 5th overall from 43rd on the grid and leading the race outright at numerous stages. The first team to represent Antigua on the international motorsport stage then took its first podium at the Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, and having qualified 7th for this weekend’s Hankook 12H MUGELLO, had already moved into the lead by half-distance.
Thereafter, and in spite of relentless pressure from the Saintéloc Junior Team Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#26, Erwan Bastard / Paul Evrard), Haas RT led a combined 178 of the 341 total laps completed at the 5.245km Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello to secure its first win in the 24H SERIES.
“This is incredible! This is fantastic!” Stéphane Perrin explained to radiolemans.com’s Joe Bradley. “I don’t know if I believe this is just my second race in GT3!”
“It’s amazing!” teammate, and Audi factory driver, Frédéric Vervisch continued. “It’s the team’s first win in only their third race, the whole team is new, and it’s all very emotional. Mathieu [Detry] and Stéphane did a great job, We were pushing a lot at some points, but here in Mugello, it’s more important to manage traffic and fuel, and to be a bit lucky of course! But we definitely had the pace this weekend.
“I’m very happy to be a part of this, and hopefully there will be many wins to follow.”
Just two laps further back, 2nd overall marks the best result to-date in the 24H SERIES for the Saintéloc Junior Team, this despite the French team twice losing time by pitting mere moments before a Code 60 caution period was thrown.
The Heart of Racing by SPS Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#27, Ian James / Gray Newell / Roman De Angelis) completed an impressive comeback to round out the overall podium. The American team, which collaborated with Germany’s SPS automotive performance once again this weekend, had dropped well into the midfield after a moment in the gravel during the opening hour, but were brought back into contention after an “accidental” double stint from Gray Newell. A radio glitch meant the young American mistakenly stayed onboard the Mercedes midway, on old tyres, during his second stint at the wheel on Sunday!
Heart of Racing simultaneously secured GT3-Am honours ahead of the Hofor-Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#11, Michael Kroll / Chantal Prinz / Alexander Prinz / Carsten Tilke) in an extraordinary finish in GT3-Am. The Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#34, Dr. Johannes Kirchhoff / Ingo Vogler / Tim Vogler) looked on course to finish 2nd in-class, and 4th overall, only to suffer a left rear puncture 12 minutes from home. In a heartbreaking moment, a broken driveshaft meant the Audi was forced to retire almost within sight of the flag.
The German team’s demise subsequently propelled AKKODIS ASP Team (#88, Mauro Ricci / Jean-Luc Beaubelique / Jérôme Policand / Benjamin Ricci), which finished 6th overall, onto the final step of the GT3-AM class rostrum on the latter’s series debut.
Land Motorsport’s afternoon had already got off to a poor start when the sister #55 Audi (Stefan Wieninger / Tim Müller / Christopher Mies), which led most of yesterday’s opening hour, was found to have a water leak during the overnight intervention. The car, which ended ‘part one’ of the Hankook 12H MUGELLO 4th overall, was then handed a 10-lap penalty when repairs were affected in parc fermé without prior permission from the event’s scrutineers. An issue with the Audi’s camshaft meant the early pacesetter eventually finished 18th overall.
Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors (#955, Fabrizio Broggi / Sergiu Nicolae / Sabino de Castro) took a commanding class win in 992, 12 months removed from the former 991 Teams’ champion’s high-speed accident at last year’s Hankook 12H MUGELLO. Despite a brief on-track brush with 992 rival Centri Porsche Ticino shortly after the restart, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup led the class throughout the remaining six hours en-route to 4th place overall, the Porsche even chasing down, and passing, a heavily-fuel saving Hofor Racing Mercedes on the final lap. It was a performance that earned the Romanian-Italian team radiolemans.com’s coveted Spirit of the Race award.
In 7th overall, and despite a trip into the gravel trap at three-quarter distance, the Red Camel-Jordans.nl Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#909, Ivo Breukers / Rik Breukers / Luc Breukers / Fabian Danz) eventually came out on top of an incredibly close fight for the final 992 podium positions, with reigning 992 Teams’ champion Red Ant Racing (#903, Ayrton Redant / Yannick Redant / Kobe de Breucker) just 9.453s adrift at the flag after 12 full hours of racing.
One place further back on the road, the Centri Porsche Ticino Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#912, Valerio Presezzi / Max Busnelli / Ivan Jacoma / Francesco Fenici) survived both its earlier brush with Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors as well as a left rear puncture inside the closing 10 minutes of the race to secure 992-AM class honours, just 37 seconds clear of the hard-charging Neuhofer Rennsport (#985, Felix Neuhofer / Markus Neuhofer / Michael Birkner / Martin Ragginger).
Further back, Ebimotors (#973, Paolo Venerosi / Paolo Gnemmi / Gianluigi Piccioli / Gianluca Giorgi) completed a successful weekend on home turf with 2nd in 992-AM, while RPM Racing (#907, Tracy Krohn / Niclas Jönsson / Philip Hamprecht) rounded out the class podium. So strong was the pace of the 992-generation Cup car in Mugello, the top eight ‘992’ runners all finished inside the overall top 13.
Following its heavy shunt out of the lead in ‘part one,’ the fully repaired CP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#85, Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Shane Lewis) completed more than 50 per cent of the full race distance in 29th overall, banking points for its championship campaign in the process. A similarly impressive comeback from Kessel Racing (#8, ‘L.M.D.V.’ / Alessandro Cutrera / Marco Talarico / Marco Frezza / David Fumanelli), which also hit the tyre barriers yesterday, saw the field’s only Ferrari 488 GT3 rise back through the field to 14th overall.
A surprisingly close fight in GT4 eventually went to the Atlas BX Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#403, Steven Cho / Roelof Bruins / Jongkyum Kim). This despite the South Korean team losing a wheel on the cusp of the overnight intervention and earning a five-lap penalty while repairs were made before the restart. AtlasBX was kept honest throughout Sunday afternoon by the Buggyra Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#416, Aliyyah Koloc / David Vrsecky / Adam Lacko), despite the Emirati team being forced to pit with a puncture just moments after the restart, though Buggyra eventually fell four laps behind when the Mercedes lost drive in the closing 15 minutes.
The podium was completed by the Simpson Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 (#438, David Holloway / Carl Cavers / Vasily Vladykin), a fitting reward for the British team which had to replace the BMW’s broken rear subframe during the night.
Fan favourite Vortex V8 has secured a 1-2 finish in GTX, albeit under bizarre circumstances. Victory initially looked set to go to RD Signs – Siauliai racing team (#720, Audrius Butkevicius / Nicola Michelon / Paulius Paskevicius), which led GTX for most of the event despite an on-track collision early on Saturday. The Lithuanian team’s race was brought to a premature end just two hours from home however when the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo hit the barriers hard at San Donato, the result of oil spilt on the apex. The Lamborghini was followed into the barriers moments later by the NKPP by HRT Performance Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#928, Gijs Bessem / Harry Hilders), though fortunately, after checks at the circuit’s medical facility, neither Audrius Butkevicius nor Harry Hilders were injured.
Rd Signs’ accident thus put the #701 Vortex 1.0 (Lionel Amrouche / Philippe Bonnel / Philippe Gruau) into the class lead only for the vehicle’s right rear wheel hub to disintegrate on-track heading into the final hour. The sister #702 Vortex (Laurent Misbach / Lucas Sugliano / Pierre Fontaine) – which had already lost time to several spins as well as a moment of its own in the gravel trap – dutifully took the top spot, though this lead was also short-lived. The #702 was brought back into the pits several times to attend to the vehicle’s left rear wheel mounting points, ultimately moving the recovering #701 back into the class lead.
This marks the first GTX class win for the Vortex 1.0 in the 24H SERIES, and the first for the French independent since its SP3-class victory at the 2019 Hankook 24H DUBAI.
Unable to leapfrog the RD Signs Lamborghini in the closing stages, the 9und11 Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR (#719, Georg Goder / Ralf Oehme / Martin Schlüter / Leonard Oehme) eventually finished 4th in GTX, the German team having lost time repairing the Porsche’s rear wheel housing, its diffuser and its brakes.
Primus Racing (#251, Peter Larsen / Johan Rosen / Hampus Hedin) completed a flawless run to take overall TCE victory on its first 24H SERIES start since the 2016 Hankook 24H DUBAI. The Swedish team’s BMW M2 CS Racing collected the chequered flag two laps clear of TC-class winner, Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#331, Martin Kroll / Felix Partl / Michael Bonk / Max Partl), becoming the fourth different winner in TCX since last year’s Hankook 12H MUGELLO.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Johan Rosen explained to radiolemans.com’s Joe Bradley. “12 hours in a little car is not so easy. You are always busy and it’s tough, but it’s been a lot of fun. You get a couple of laps here and there to really push it, and we’ve been doing, I think, everything right in this team. It’s been amazing!”
The second of Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport’s two BMW M2 CS Racings (#332, Volker Piepmeyer / Martin Kroll / Hermann Bock / Michael Bonk) looked set to round out the overall TCE podium, only for a leak in the oil cooler to strike inside the final 90 minutes. Incredibly, after myriad drivetrain issues, the AIKOA Racing Audi RS3 LMS DSG (#147, Sandro Pelatti / Nicola Baldan / Francesco Cardone / Filippo Barberi / Franco Girolami) thus came through to take the final podium spot with just 30 minutes left on the clock.
TCE polesitter SK Racing Ligier JS2 R (#215, Franck Eburderie / Franco Lemma / Jérôme Dacosta / Alain Ferté), which opted to take a five-lap penalty to find the source of the Ligier JS2 R’s electrical problems overnight, survived to finish 5th.
After a headline-grabbing Hankook 12H MUGELLO, the second European round of this year’s 24H SERIES powered by Hankook – the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – is scheduled to take place at the vaunted Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on 6-7 May, with the returning Hankook 12H MONZA set to take place on 10-11 June. Further details regarding the 2023 24H SERIES calendar and championship standings can be found at 24hseries.com.