Porsche’s lineup of factory GT drivers have been deployed for one final mission in today’s Motul Sepang 12 Hours, which will bring to a close a full year’s worth of racing, and lessons learned with the new-for-2016 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Launched in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona some 315 days ago, the German manufacturer’s latest GT3 weapon has shown its potential in numerous championships worldwide, both in speed and reliability with its customer teams.
From a runner-up finish in Pirelli World Challenge to success in ADAC GT Masters, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, VLN and 24H Series competition, the new direct-injected 911 GT3 R has already proven to be a worthy competitor, according to Richard Lietz.
“It’s always nice to see the GT3 R fighting for championships, especially Patrick Long in America,” Lietz told Sportscar365. “It was a very close fight.
“In ADAC GT Masters, we had a nice victories from our colleague Timo Bernhard’s team.
“It was a successful year. For sure, the first year is never easy for a race car but it has done well. We’re still developing the car and are trying to improve it.”
Sepang marks the fifth and final key race the car will complete in this year, following the its debut at Daytona, the Twelve Hours of Sebring, Nürburgring 24 and last month’s FIA GT World Cup in Macau.
While all five of the races featured factory support, the Nürburgring and Macau events, like Sepang, have been spearheaded by the defacto works Manthey Racing squad, in what’s being used as a testbed for development in the car’s crucial first year.
“It’s been a big launch for the car,” Nick Tandy told Sportscar365. “And that’s why we’ve put a lot of effort into going to the tracks with Manthey and getting the factory drivers not only to do the racing but the testing and try and get our experience into the new car to pass on to all of the customers.
“It also gives a cast iron set for the BoP when the SRO or FIA, or whoever, are looking into it.
“I think it’s gone pretty well. We’ve never always been at an advantage, without saying we were at a disadvantage with the BoP in certain races. The car is clearly a step forward.”
Lietz, Tandy, as well as the nearly dozen Porsche factory GT drivers have all had considerable mileage in the car, with the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours winner noting some noteworthy gains along the way.
“The first time I drove it in the VLN up until the Nürburgirng , we were really struggling to match the other cars,” Tandy said. “We had a lot of power in reserve but we weren’t allowed to use it.
“When the cars are released a little bit, like in GT Masters or Pirelli World Challenge, it’s capable of winning.
“What we aimed with this car was not just to build a fast car but a car that can hang on, look after its tires and do a stint average that matches.
“That was the main target, the reliability and drivability over an hour-long stint and not just a single-lap.”
The Sepang 12 Hours, formerly known as the Merdeka Endurance Race, offers a set of unique challenges, from hot and humid conditions to to specific pit stop and stint length regulations, which will put the car to the test one final time this year.
Lietz, who served as one of the lead 911 GT3 R development drivers last year, feels today’s race will again be a perfect testbed for reliability.
“I already said it to the engineers, it would be a good development track because the surface is comparable to other surfaces,” he said. “If you have a tire solution here, you’d have a tire solution on a lot of the other tracks.
“You have high temperature, which is really hard for the brakes. We’ve been running temperatures we’ve never had before.
“It would be good to place the development of a car here. It’s hard for drivers and you realize you need more air flow for the driver and realize a lot of things on the engine.
“All of these things would be really interesting in a testing [environment].”
The pair of Manthey entries have already gotten off to a strong start, qualifying first and third, as Porsche seeks its first major endurance race victory with the new 911 GT3 R.