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24h series Hankook 12h circuit Paul Ricard - France

23rd - 24th April 2021

Event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello

Since mid-September 2020 and the 60th Grand Prix de Nogaro - Historic Tour (to see on RSC) I have not returned to a circuit, the pandemic and its cancellation/postponement have been right in my travels.

My camera was starting to rust.

It's now over and I'm back on a circuit for the 4th Hankook 12H Paul Ricard initially scheduled at Spa.

Hoping that this is the start of a long series and that I will have the pleasure of meeting you on RSC for as much coverage as possible.

So here we are, on this Friday, April 23, 2021, with a negative PCR test, travel authorizations, validated accreditation, charged batteries, empty memory cards and camera cleaned to make you experience the 4th Hankook 12h Paul Ricard.

Let's get to the heart of the matter

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Qualifying

MiddleCap racing with Scuderia Praha Ferrari 488 GT3 (#11, Josef Kral/Miroslav Výboh/Matúš Výboh), in 2:02.3 03, has come out on top in a thrilling three-car shootout for pole position.

Ferrari fends off Herberth Motorsport Porsches 911 GT3 R (#91, Ralf Bohn/Daniel Allemann/Robert Renauer/Alfred Renauer) (#92, Jürgen Häring/Bobby Gonzales/Stefan Aust/Marco Seefried) to take Pole Position.

Reiter Engineering KTM X-BOW GTX (#724, Eike Angermayr/Nicolai Elghanayan/Horst Felbermayr Jr./Mads Siljehaug) seals GTX pole which will also start 9th overall.

The Vortex V8 Vortex 1.0 (#701, Olivier Gomez/Bastien Gouret/Philippe Gruau) had been on course to take GTX class pole position but lost power halfway down the Mistral Straight and ultimately retired from the session. The French team’s fastest lap was still quick enough for 2nd in-GTX.

Former 24h series class champion Porsche Lorient Racing Porsche Lorient Racing Porsche 911-II Cup (#911, Philippe Polette/Frederic Lelievre/Lionel Amrouche/Frédéric Ancel) made a good start to its series return by taking 991 pole position ahead of category standings leader, DUWO Racing (#909, Andrey Mukovoz/Stanislav Sidoruk/Sergey Peregudov)

The ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 (#438, Samantha Tan/Chandler Hull/Jon Miller), which currently leads the GT standings outright, made a good start to its maiden run at Circuit Paul Ricard with GT4 class pole position.

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Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing Golf GTi TCR (#112, Fabian Danz/Marlon Menden/Rhys Lloyd/Yannick Mettler) has secured an incredibly close pole position, the Swiss team pipping nearest challenger AC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS (#188, Stéphane Perrin/Mathieu Detry/David Dermont) by just 0.067s.

In TCX, the CWS Engineering Ginetta G55 (#278, Colin White/Jean-Francois Brunot/JM Littman) started on class pole position ahead of the returning Nordschleife Racing Ligier JS2 R (#226, Guillaume Roman/Daniel Waszczinski/Thierry Chkondali).

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The race

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Starting from the first row, the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R #91 was ahead of the polesitting MiddleCap racing with Scuderia Praha Ferrari 488 GT3 #11 on the opening lap, thus anticipating a high-speed collision between the Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (#8, L.M.D.V/Alessandro Cutrera/Marco Talarico/Marco Frezza/Nicola Cadei), the second Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R #92 and the MP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo (#58, Thomas Gostner/David Gostner/Corinna Gostner).

Incredibly, the latter, survived the impact.

The Kessel Ferrari however suffered heavy damage to its front left suspension and eventually retired without a single classified lap on the board. The Herberth Porsche #92 returned to the track after an hour’s-worth of repairs, but was later withdrawn from the race.

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The lead then swapped back and forth repeatedly between the Porsche #91 and the Ferrari #11 before a succession of fast stints at half-distance allowed Herberth Motorsport to pull away.

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Porsche 911 GT3 R #91 collected the chequered flag and for Herberth Motorsport completed 315 laps of the Circuit Paul Ricard to victory. The result marks the third time the Bavarian team has won a 24h series event at Circuit Paul Ricard.

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After a sensational performance, the Reiter Engineering KTM X-BOW GTX #724 claimed a commanding GTX class win and finished 5th on the road, just behind the Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 (#88, Milan Dontje/Pierre-Yves Paque/Tim Müller/Robin Rogalski) with which the KTM had earlier battled on-track.

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The returning SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#20, Valentin Pierburg/Christian Hook/Steffen Görig) finished a hard-earned 6th, despite contact in the opening laps causing lasting damage to the Mercedes’ front right diffuser.

The component was eventually replaced altogether, dropping the German team out of podium contention.

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The Porsche Lorient Racing Porsche 911-II Cup #911 made an impressive return to the 24h series with 7th overall in the GT division and 991-class victory, despite being hit on the entry to the Mistral Straight by the RC2 Junior Team by Cabra Racing Cupra (#108, Rubén Fernández/Victor Fernández/Felipe Fernández).

Suspension failure two hours in dropped the team’s nearest rival – the DUWO Racing Porsche 991-II Cup #909, an hour behind, although the Luxembourg team survived to finish 2nd in-class and 14th overall.

Stuck in gear, the second Speed Lover entry (#978, Olivier Dons/Dominique Bastien/Eric Mouez) lost more than two hours in the pits, but managed to secure the final spot on the 991-class rostrum.

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Speed Lover (#979, Jean-Pierre Verhoeven/Jaxon Verhoeven/Gilles Smits) finished an impressive 8th overall and 2nd in the GTX class on the maiden competitive endurance outing for the new 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, one rogue puncture aside.

Despite losing an hour to accident damage at the beginning of the race, the Vortex V8 Vortex 1.0 (#701, Olivier Gomez/Bastien Gouret/Philippe Gruau) beat its sister entry (#712, Philippe Bonnel/Pierre Fontaine/Nicolas Nobs) to the final spot on the GTX podium.

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Bad luck plagued the GT4 class runners meanwhile. Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 PROsport Racing (#401, Nico Verdonck/Rodrigue Gillion/Kurt Hensen) was unable to contest qualifying at all after a collision.

Having started the race with its spare car, the German team later suffered turbocharger problems, but managed to re-join the race to secure class victory.

The ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 meanwhile (#438, Samantha Tan/Chandler Hull/Jon Miller) retired shortly before half distance with terminal engine problems.

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At the start of the race, the AC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS (#188, Stéphane Perrin/Mathieu Detry/David Dermont) got the jump on the polesitting Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR (#112, Fabian Danz/Marlon Menden/Rhys Lloyd/Yannick Mettler) and, with only two hours left to run, had pulled two laps clear of the rest of the TCE field.

Issues with the Audi’s rear left wheel though forced two unscheduled pit stops on AC Motorsport, a delay that ultimately dropped the Belgian team to 3rd outright in TCE behind the Autorama Volkswagens.

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In the end, the first Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR (#1, Constantin Kletzer/Emil Heyerdahl/Jérôme Ogay/Yannick Mettler) led the sister #112 entry across the line to secure the team’s first TCE victory of the season, completing 287 laps.

Behind a frustrated AC Motorsport, one late-race brake change aside, the Tictap Totcar Sport Cupra TCR (#123, Jorge Belloc Diaz/Jorge Belloc Ruiz/Álvaro Rodríguez Sastre) finished a solid 4th.

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The Nordschleife Racing Ligier JS2 R (#226, Guillaume Roman/Daniel Waszczinski/Thierry Chkondali) finished 5th overall and collected class victory after an eventful race for the TCX runners.

CWS Engineering (#278, Colin White/Jean-Francois Brunot/JM Littman) had been in the lead when a broken hub insert brought the Ginetta G55 to a halt after just seven laps, immediately losing the British team more than 40 minutes in the pits.

Nordschleife Racing was then sent into a spin by the MP Racing Mercedes two hours later, the resultant damage to the transmission costing the French team over an hour in the pits.

Additional handling issues for CWS Engineering though, plus a front tyre delamination that destroyed much of Ginetta’s front left headlight assembly, allowed the Ligier to resume the lead and take the class win.

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The RC2 Junior Team by Cabra Racing Cupra Leon Competición TCR #108 was classified a frustrated 7th.

The Spanish team ran 2nd in TCE throughout the opening stints, but was eventually eliminated before half distance after contact with the Porsche Lorient Racing 911-II Cup broke the Cupra’s steering.

Red Camel-Jordans.nl Cupra TCR (#101, Ivo Breukers/Rik Breukers/Luc Breukers) had a weekend to forget at Circuit Paul Ricard.

Team mechanics worked until 4am to replace the Cupra TCR’s engine and a broken wishbone, but electrical problems and broken steering ultimately led to the Hankook 12h Mugello TCE winner’s retirement.

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Bonus

The night

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In the pit

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The one who brakes at the panel too late and the tightrope walker

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Evolution of a bumper

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See you soon

Take care

Based on 24h Series press release

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