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Nürburgring Endurance

Top Porsche Crew “Never had the Pace” in Challenging Event

Wet condition struggles contributed to Porsche hardship in Nürburgring 24, according to Lars Kern…

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

Frikadelli Racing Team driver Lars Kern said the highest-finishing Porsche 911 GT3 R at the Nürburgring 24 “never had the pace” to match the top cars from its rival marques.

Kern, Mathieu Jaminet, Maxime Martin and Lance David Arnold finished sixth, almost five minutes off the winning ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3, but were ultimately classified seventh due to a time penalty applied post-race for Jaminet nudging Philipp Eng’s BMW.

Porsche was the only one of the four major German brands not to have a car feature at the front of the field while BMW, Audi and Mercedes-AMG all led at various stages.

Porsche’s race week started in challenging circumstances as nine of its drivers were ruled out due to positive COVID-19 tests from its working group at the previous weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This resulted in sweeping driver lineup changes, which included Earl Bamber being drafted in from the U.S and Joerg Bergmeister effectively coming out of racing retirement to drive for KCMG.

The Porsche teams then struggled in the official track sessions, while the highest qualifying 911 was the Pro-Am Frikadelli car at 14th on the grid.

KCMG’s No. 18 Porsche had a strong race-day showing that saw it reach the top five in the hands of Dennis Olsen before Bergmeister lost ground through a puncture with two and a half hours to go, while Frikadlli had a clean but uncompetitive run to seventh.

“For us it doesn’t feel great, to be honest,” Kern told Sportscar365.

“In the dry, we found out that our pace was pretty good, but we had just four laps of dry conditions today. In the wet the tire never came into the right window, no matter if we did full wet or drying wet.

“We were really struggling, even if we didn’t do any mistakes and [had] no spins.”

Kern added that Frikadelli Racing Team had been struggling to dial in its No. 31 Porsche throughout the sessions leading up to Saturday’s race start.

“We felt it already on Thursday and Friday,” said Kern. “Even in the dry we were searching for a problem in the car. We were never happy going into the race and wet changed the setup completely to give it a try, thinking maybe it works.

“It was not too bad, but we never had the pace to be on top. The best position we were running was P4 or P5, but only because of different pit stop strategies.

“At the end we haven’t had the pace to fight for the lead. The BMWs and the Mercs were about 15 to 20 seconds quicker on rain tires.

“It’s something I think we have to analyze, where this comes from and why we couldn’t get in the right window for these tires. It’s the same tires as everybody.

“We are the best Porsche, but this doesn’t help for the moment.”

Mercedes Left Ruing Missed Opportunity

The Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo was the car to beat in the stanza before the red flag, as GetSpeed Performance and Haupt Racing Team set a fierce pace at the head of the field.

However, Mercedes’ effort at the front was halved in the fifth hour when Manuel Metzger crashed HRT out at the small Karussell, before GetSpeed’s Raffaele Marciello spun out from the lead to dash the manufacturer’s hopes of a first win since 2016.

While HRT’s two other cars managed to climb into the top 10 by the end on Sunday afternoon, Mercedes-AMG didn’t pose a challenge to BMW and Audi after the red flag.

Metzger explained his heavy accident coming through the Schwalbenschwanz section, which marked the first notable chink in the armor for the Pro-class Mercedes contingent.

“Before my crash last night, we had switched to drying wets,” said the German driver, who was partnered with Maro Engel, Adam Christodoulou and Luca Stolz.

“That was the perfect decision. However, it then started to rain again. I eased up slightly, as I knew from my teammates that the tyre did not cope so well in those kinds of conditions.

“I personally had never driven on that compound. I wanted to accelerate gently out of the little Karussell, but then suddenly lost the car. I feel really bad for the team. The car was mega.”

Mercedes-AMG’s head of customer racing Stefan Wendl added: “Given the date late in the year and the weather forecast, it was already clear beforehand that this 24-hour race would become a very special challenge for drivers and teams.

“We all prepared very well for that. Of course, the course of the race and our achievements are therefore all the more annoying, especially as we got ourselves into very good grid positions in qualifying.

“Having dominated the race in the wet for a long time, we sadly fell victim to exactly these changeable conditions just before the race was suspended.

“Of course, the overall result is disappointing as we weren’t allowed the necessary bit of luck this weekend.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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