Rutronik Racing continues to lead the inaugural Hankook 24H SEBRING after a strong opening stint against both Herberth Motorsport Porsches and Leipert Motorsport.
Having held its advantage into turn one on a very wet opening lap – the result of a sudden rain shower as the cars lined up on the grid – the Rutronik Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 (#18, Michael Doppelmayr / Markus Winkelhock / Elia Erhart / Swen Herberger) had already pulled close to eight seconds clear of the chasing pack as the rain began to dissipate. With a dry line beginning to materialize though, the pursuing #92 Herberth Motorsport Porsche 991 GT3 R (Jürgen Häring / Bobby Gonzales / Wolfgang Triller / Felix Neuhofer / Marco Seefried) started closing the gap, first leapfrogging its sister Porsche 991 GT3 R (#91, Daniel Allemann / Ralf Bohn / Alfred Renauer) before making a decisive move for the lead on the Rutronik Racing Audi.
After ditching its wet tyres for slicks shortly afterwards, the Rutronik Audi was quickly back on a charge, re-passing the #92 Porsche on-track shortly after both Herberth Porsches made their own respective pit stops. The Audi has since retained its advantage at the head of the field, while the #91 Porsche has also worked its way back past the sister #92 911 GT3 R.
The out of pit stop sequence Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (#10, Brendon Leitch / Tyler Cooke / Dennis Fetzer / Seb Morris / Sebastian Balthasar) has also jumped ahead of the Herberth Motorsport Porsches, but was expected to pit once again for fuel as the fourth hour ticked by.
The CP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#85, Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Joe Foster / Shane Lewis), which started on the front row and nearly took the lead as the green flag dropped, gambled on extending its opening stint on wet tyres on a drying surface, but has since dropped to 5th.
The Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#955, Fabrizio Broggi / Sergiu Nicolae / Sabino de Castro) is 6th on the road and holds a slim lead in ‘991’. Behind them, the second Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini – the Huracán Super Trofeo (#710, Gregg Gorski / Gerhard Watzinger / Lance Bergstein / Al Miller / Kenton Koch) – leads the way in GTX over the MRS GT-Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup ‘992’ (#989, Raulino Kreis Jr. / Jeronimo Guzman / Pedro Torres / Robert Lorndale). The latter, now 9th overall, had been consistently running inside the overall top eight but was handed a 30-second penalty for exceeding its maximum fuel allowance during the race’s sole Code 60 thus far. The time lost on pitroad has since dropped the Porsche to 9th.
Between the GTX runners, the second of the 991-class runners – the RPM Racing Porsche 911- II (#907, Tracy Krohn / Niclas Jonsson / Patrick Huisman / Andy Lally) – lies 8th outright.
In an extraordinarily tight battle in GT4, the NOLASPORT Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS MR (#470, Matt Travis / Jason Hart / Anthony Noble / Alex Mayer / Zac Anderson) heads the RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#489, David Ducote / Chapman Ducote / Wayne Ducote / Kyle Marcelli / Alan Metni) by barely 90 seconds, despite the former completing no timed laps at all during qualifying. Before its most recent pit stop, the ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 (#438, Samantha Tan / Chandler Hull / Jon Miller / Nick Wittmer / Bryson Morris), which qualified on GT4-class pole position earlier today and also leads the Overall GT Teams’ championship, was also right on the tails of its rivals.
In TCE, the AC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS (#188, Stéphane Perrin / Mathieu Detry / Rik Breukers / Matthew Taskinen) holds a slim advantage over its nearest rival, Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing. The latter, which led the Overall TCE Teams’ standings heading into the 24H SERIES season finale at the Sebring International Raceway, locked out the TCE front row in qualifying earlier this morning, the #112 Volkswagen (Kari-Pekka Laaksonen / Antti Buri / Roberto Ferri / Fabian Danz / Miklas Born) taking the top spot ahead of the sister #1 Golf GTi TCR DSG (Constantin Kletzer / Emil Heyerdahl / Fabian Danz /Jasmin Preisig / Miklas Born).
Both Volkswagens however were caught out in the tricky conditions by an electric start by AC Motorsport, which has consistently continued to hold the lead since then.
A strategic pit stop strategy means the Nordschleife Racing Ligier JS2 R (#226, Guillaume Roman / Lucca Ayari / Cédric Houot / Michel Sallenbach) has now moved ahead of both Autorama Motorsport Volkswagens, which now lie 3rd (#1) and 4th (#112) overall respectively in TCE.
Nordschleife Racing is also the TCX class leader after four hours following an early incident for class polesitter, and Overall TCE Teams’ title contender, CWS Engineering. The Ginetta G55 (#278, Colin White / Jean-Francois Brunot / Matt Rivard / Joe Burris / Warren Dexter) lost more than two hours in the pits after a hefty collision at turn 17, the impact of which brought out the Code 60 caution flags. The Ginetta has yet to return to the track.
BMW M Motorsport continues its test program with the brand-new M4 GT3 (#82, Bill Auberlen / Robby Foley / James Clay / Neil Verhagen / Max Hesse) at Sebring, but has already lost nearly an hour in the pits after an on-track collision with the Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4 (#499, José Garcia / Jörg Viebahn / Patric Niederhauser / Patrick Kolb).
The Hankook 24H SEBRING is scheduled to run uninterrupted throughout the night at the Sebring International Raceway, with the chequered flag set to be flown at 17.00 hrs local time on Sunday 21 November. The action will be live with commentary from radiolemans.com on the official 24H SERIES YouTube channel. Regular updates will also be published on Twitter (@24HSeries), Facebook (24H Series) and Instagram (24H Series). Further information can be found at www.24hseries.com.