Kevin Estre said that “full attack” was the motto of Manthey Racing’s Nürburgring 24 success in a “very unusual” race that ran for only nine and a half hours due to a red flag.
Estre, Michael Christensen and Matteo Cairoli beat ROWE Racing’s No. 98 BMW crew to deliver Manthey’s seventh N24 victory in a race that was impacted by heavy rain in the early stages followed by thick fog that required an overnight stoppage on safety grounds.
It marked Manthey’s first win since 2018, with a different driving crew, and made up for the team’s disappointment at failing to defend that result the next year when Estre, Christensen and their teammates lost a huge lead to a penalty before being disqualified.
“In summary, it was a very tough race – both before the red flag and afterwards,” said Estre, who rose from 11th to first in the opening stint to set up Manthey’s bid for the win.
“[Saturday] afternoon was just crazy. We lost touch with the leaders before the red flag, followed by a long break and a long night – that’s very unusual for a 24-hour race.
“We were able to sleep for a long time and then had a long phase on the grid before we could finally start again. Then the motto was: full attack. And each of us gave everything and we were able to fight our way back to the top. That was the key to winning this race.
“In recent years we have always been very close to overall victory and this year it is the reward for the hard work of the past few years. And all of this in the year of Manthey’s 25th anniversary.
“I am very happy for Olaf [Manthey] and of course for the whole team. To drive the ‘Grello’ at the Nürburgring is something special and to win with it is simply unbelievable.”
After Estre’s initial charge to the front, Manthey lost the lead to Haupt Racing Team’s No. 4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in hour three.
Christensen kept HRT driver Manuel Metzger in check through the fourth hour, but the No. 911 Porsche dropped back over the next phase of the race to the point that Cairoli was down in fifth when fog caused the event to be halted at one-quarter distance.
Estre took the reins for the delayed restart at midday on Sunday and worked his way up to second behind the No. 1 ROWE BMW, which had taken the lead courtesy of when the red flag results were taken, but a long pit stop for that car returned Manthey to first.
Christensen then jumped in for a full eight-lap stint, while the chasing No. 98 ROWE BMW M6 GT3 attempted an undercut with a shorter six-lap stint. This move gave ROWE the lead at the top of the final hour, but its earlier and therefore longer last stop handed the advantage back to Manthey, which re-installed Estre for the checkered flag run.
“The race started for me [on Saturday] afternoon when the track started to dry up,” said Christensen, who together with Estre has now won the three major European 24-hour GT races at the Nürburgring, Spa and Le Mans.
“It was difficult to get into the right racing rhythm. When we were able to switch to slicks, we were able to come back to the front. That was a very good sign for us.
“I got in after the red flag and was in top form. I tried to push hard every lap and fight for victory. We weren’t sure whether it would work – but everything worked. I am very happy about it.”
Manthey Racing team principal Nicolas Raeder added: “We’re incredibly proud that we managed to win the Nürburgring 24-hour race on our 25th anniversary.
“It was a very short but extremely intense race. We didn’t compete last year and I’d almost forgotten how exciting it is. The team and the Porsche back office worked brilliantly.
“We didn’t make any mistakes, and that gave us the leading edge in the end.”