Porsche squad Manthey Racing took a dominant victory in the opening VLN race of the season at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, aiding the team’s preparations for May’s Nürburgring 24 Hours.
Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber and Kévin Estre steered the ‘Grello’ Porsche 991 GT3R to the top step of the podium after starting from pole position – minimising mistakes and executing strategy to perfection before crossing the line with a more than comfortable 51 second lead over its nearest challengers.
“Everything went to plan,” Vanthoor told GT Report after the race.
“I had a good start and was able to quickly build a gap to the Ferrari (at the start) and hold on to it. In traffic it also went well.
“Kévin [Estre] had some bad luck with a Code 60 causing everyone to come back together, but in the end the car was amazing and we had the pace.
“This was my first race with Manthey, my first race on the famous ‘Grello’, so it’s a perfect beginning.
“The car was really good, it was one of the best cars that I’ve driven at the Nordschleife. Everything went perfect for us, it was great.”
The opening VLN races are often used as test runs ahead of the all-important Nürburgring 24 Hours, sparking the argument that some teams are sandbagging in order to not show their true pace or get handed down an increase in BoP (Balance of Performance) weight.
Vanthoor swiftly dismissed any sandbagging though from his Manthey squad, stating, “that’s not my job. I drove as I always do, and the rest is ‘above my pay-grade’, as they say.”
Finishing the race second – which spanned over 4 hours, 28 laps – was the Mücke Motorsport Audi Sport Team BWT R8 LMS GT3 driven by Markus Winkelhock and Nico Müller, while Klaus Bachler and Sven Müller completed the podium in the Falken Motorsport Porsche .
Behind the top three, Audi Sport Team Land took fourth place, with the first Mercedes-AMG GT3 in fifth courtesy of HTP.
The top BMW M6 GT3 was fielded by ROWE Racing, coming home in tenth.
Teams will reconvene at the Nürburgring for VLN 2 on April 7.
VLN 1 Highlights Clip: