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Hankook Epilog Brno 12 Hours race

10th October 2015

Event report

Hankook 12H Epilog Brno

The Epilog race has its long traditions in Brno. It started about two decades ago, originally as four-hour race, soon prolonged to six hours. In the past entries over 40 cars, with powerful GT1 cars, including Maserati MC12, Ferrari Maranello, Saleen, Chevrolet Corvette or Pagani Zonda present. At one time DTM specials dominated the race, which however in recent years struggled to attract former entries. Two years ago, the entry was down to some 15 cars, couple of which entered only Czech National Championship, which used to be run concurrently, but lasted only two hours. Last year the Epilog tradition almost collapsed with no endurance race actually held. It all was set to change dramatically this year when Brno Epilog was revived as 12-Hour race and became part of newly FIA-sanctioned International Endurance 24H Series.

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The race attracted a huge entry of 50 cars. Unfortunately local hero Tomáš Enge, who was scheduled with a KTM could not take part in the race following a crash of one of his co-drivers.

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Among the various classes and groups, which are not familiar to other international and national series, the most attractive and fastest cars were placed in the class A6. In really those were mainly GT3 cars. It consisted of 10 cars. Lone Ferrari, Porsche and BMW took a battle against seven Mercedes-Benz. No other cars had any real chance for overall victory.

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The class A6 cars dominated the qualifying. The Ferrari entered by Czech team Scuderia Praha (Písařík/Jiřík/Malucelli/Kox), the BMW of Senkyr Motorsport was fifth followed by the Porsche. The only other car that gridded among A6 class was the only Lamborghini in the field - it was the new Huracan model, however not in GT3 specs. but rather Supertrofeo modification. The Lambo was ninth fastest in qualifying. All the rest placed on the grid up to position 11th were taken by GT3 Mercedes-Benz.

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The next fastest cars belonged to classes 997 (actually Cup Porsches 997 or newer 991) and SP2 matched almost equally. The SP2 class was mainly formed by V8 Supercars but the fastest of all these was the second and last Ferrari in the field, a Challenge version entered also by the pole-sitting team Scuderia Praha, however running under the RPD Racing banner.

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The last class primarily destined for GT cars was called SP3 and it consisted mainly of GT4 machinery: Ginettas, Lotus Evora, Aston Martin, KTM, BMW M3, but also inviting cars like BMW M235i Racing Cup (2016) or Saker, which was actually a Group C-like looking prototype, unfortunately fitted with a bad diesel engine, which was slow and sounded badly. It ran among the smallest touring cars, and was among least reliable cars as well. On the other hand, we considered this to be the prettiest looking car in the field - at least by a prototype fan standards. Unfortunately it was the slowest GT car and actually never broke it into the top 40.

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Then there were A5, A3T and A2 classes for touring cars, which actually helped to make the field so big, though the best of them, BMW M3, did not qualified better than 22nd.

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While all practice sessions were held on Friday (private, free, qualifying, night sessions), the race started on Saturday, exactly at noon, in front of 8000 spectators and in very cold weather (cloudy, air temperature only 5°C for most of the race). Since the beginning it was a battle between the fastest Ferrari of Scuderia Praha and Ram Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 - both cars also shared the first row. They changed the leading position almost during the entire race, sometimes running very close to each other, mainly depending on which driver was just in which car. In the end Peter Kox and excellent Matteo Malucelli, who also set fastest lap of the race - in its really final stages (lap 311 of 324) - both helped the Czech team to win the first 24H Series race in Brno. Behind their Ferrari, there were as many as four Mercedes-Benz, of course led by the Ram Racing team.

The only GT3 Porsche, which usually ran between 3rd and 4th position, finished 6th behind the Mercedes armada ahead of the GT3 BMW Z4. Various Cup, Challenge and V8 Supercars followed. The best pure Touring car in the finish was Peugeot 208 GTi placed 14th overall.

Most of the cars that started the race actually finished it. There were only six retirements. But some cars were delayed during the early stages of the race and very really recovered. Most notable example was that great Lamborghini Huracan, the only representative of the make in the race, which was much delayed in the third hour and then improved continuously. Unfortunately 18th gained place was lost in the last lap, not sure how as it was then listed as 20th.

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Actually the 24H Series do have some interesting moments and idea, which much higher level series could adopt. Most notable were lights with a number of an actual overall position. Why WEC and Le Mans cannot use something like that - it was much, much more entertaining to follow the race even after many hours and without a need visit timing screens in the press room. Code 60 was also used in Brno, something which is finally making its way to WEC. Other interesting points included parc fermé on the main straight in front of all spectators and also refuelling stations - refuelling was not done in the pitlane as usually but there were several gas stations forming a loop at the end of the pitlane. The stations were supplied by the series organiser so that individual teams did not need to have separate solutions in their garages.

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Overall it was a great race, one of the best in years in Brno. According to the announcers, the race should be repeated next year as it was already included into the 2016 Series calendar.

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