You may remember, last time I filed a column, that the launch of the 2016 “Gringos Racing Abroad” tour fizzled at the 24 Hours of Dubai in January as myself, Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Xavier Maasen were packing our things less than 40 minutes into the race and a pile of parts formerly known as a Porsche were being scraped into a shipping container.
We shuffled off to the airport thankful our friend Xavier was in one piece after being collected in someone else’s accident and resolved for a better run in Round Two of the International Endurance Series by Hankook at the 12 Hours of Mugello-Italy.
Although a schedule conflict with the 12 Hours of Sebring, it didn’t take long in the Tuscany region of Italy to realize we were way better off in terms of weather, and food, than our many friends remaining in Florida.
Mugello is a fantastic traditional circuit steeped in history and nestled into amazing up/down terrain in the Tuscan foothills. It didn’t take long on a brief promoter test day to appreciate the high-speed blind corners and roller coaster style….reminded me a bit of Mosport.
I mean who wouldn’t like two crazy fast corners named Arrabiata 1 and Arrabiata 2? Its not just a spicy pasta sauce.
The remaining usable parts from the Dubai crash had been built up into a new Porsche chassis by our skilled MRS-GT crew at their German base and the new car was hustled down to Mugello for the promoter test day.
Normal teething issues ensued and we worked down the list and had her at least running well in time for first official practice.
Our 991 Class in the Creventic Series is populated by a wide array of drivers from gentlemen up to and including current Porsche Supercup standouts who always rise to the top in qualifying.
It was not a surprise as we adopted a strategy of focusing on old tire, higher fuel load running in practice. Having not had the benefit of much set up work, a P6 Qualifying effort from Charles honestly boded very well for the race.
With over 70 entries in a wide array of classes from small stuff to proper GT3 iron, working traffic consistently is by far the most important part of doing well in these races and Charles started off with a very clean, fast first stint easing through the traffic and putting us up into P3 and eventually P1 as we pushed through to the very limit of fuel consumption.
Charlie Putman followed with another fast, trouble free stint keeping us in the top 3 the whole time.
As pit stops ensued, the race evolved into a two-horse deal with ourselves and a very fast and very well driven entry filled with Italian Carrera Cup standouts traded the top spot with us back and forth.
Honestly capable of more pace than our car, we relied on quick pit stops and traffic to keep in touch. I was last of the three drivers in rotation and as my first stint wound down we were the only two cars left on the lead lap when……we all stopped for dinner!
Yep, the schedule called for a four hour segment on Day 1 and an eight-hour segment on Day 2. Isn’t it great to come to Italy and have the race pause just in time for dinner? So with all the cars in Parc Ferme and our slightly dirty but otherwise intact No. 78 Porsche spending the night on the front straight in P2 we went out for an amazing dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Another beautiful Tuscan morning saw us pair of leaders push each other harder as the day progressed as ourselves and our Italian friends put the field another lap down.
Nine hours into the 12-hour race, Charles was able to inch up on the leader and execute a beautiful outbrake pass at the end of the long winding front straight. Great racing indeed!
The lead swapped again during the pit stops and Charlie Putman beautifully held position setting me up for a final run at the lead and the flag.
Alas, just as I was getting in the car for the last 1.5 hrs our Italian friends in the No. 56 car ran afoul of lapped traffic and damaged their car. So instead of a final duel I was able to cruise the last hour to the flag with a four lap lead on the rest of the field.
So after the disaster of Dubai what a fantastic way to put Charles and Charlie back into the championship hunt with a win!
It was a great team effort by our MRS crew to get a new car back together and a super consistent yet aggressive race from all three drivers to use the ebb and flow of traffic to keep our car at or near the front for 12 hours. Big Fun. Ciao from Italy and talk to you again after Zandvoort!