992 polesitter TORO Racing by HRT Performance was left frustrated after the 2023 Hankook 12H MONZA when five punctures dropped the #930 Porsche 992 GT3 Cup out of contention for victory and to 5th in-class at the flag.
Words – James Gent
Images – Nico Mombaerts
TORO Racing by HRT Performance’s Adam Christodoulou has stated that 6th in-class at the Hankook 12H MONZA was “not the weekend we deserved” after an incident-paced race.
The Mercedes-AMG factory driver, who took class victory aboard the #930 Porsche with Eric Zang and Xinzhe Xie last time out at Spa-Francorchamps, looked set to also be in contention for victory in Monza after securing pole position by almost half a second. Four separate punctures on the race’s opening day however meant the #930 Porsche had already fallen away from the podium contenders heading into the overnight intervention, while further delays on the Sunday meant TORO Racing by HRT Performance could only manage 5th in-class at the flag.
“Not the race weekend we deserved,” Christodoulou explained through his social media accounts, post-race. “The whole line-up was looking strong enough to go for the win again, but never in my life have I experienced five tyre punctures during a race, and not just us, almost every car had multiple tyre failures. Was just frustrating as each stint was a lottery on if you’d survive or not.”
Teaming with Porsche Carrera Cup Asia contenders Zang, Xie and Luo Kai Luo at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza this past weekend, Christodoulou demonstrated the pace of the #930 Porsche 992 GT3 Cup with the fastest 992 lap of his 15-minute qualifying session, a performance that helped secure TORO Racing by HRT class pole.
A conservative approach to the start meant Xie slipped back to 4th during the opening stages, albeit only a few seconds adrift and still well in podium contention (a charging Felix Neuhofer had already left the 992 field behind, and had opened up an almost-20-second advantage before his first pit stop).
TORO Racing’s frustrations however began with the first of an eventual four rear-left punctures on Saturday alone just 40 minutes into the event, a delay that dropped the #930 Porsche to 9th in-class and two laps down after the opening hour. Three further punctures – including two in the last hour during Luo Kai Luo’s final stint – and an issue with the driver’s safety net meant TORO Racing by HRT went into the overnight intervention five laps behind 992 class leader Neuhofer Rennsport.
“We had a great day the first few days, and then as soon as we put the new tyres on during testing, we ended up with two punctures,” Christodoulou explained to radiolemans.com’s Lewis McGlade mid-race on Saturday. “We adjusted the setup accordingly, and then yesterday [Friday], before qualifying, we decided to ‘ease’ a few sets of tyres in. We thought that might help, but a fourth puncture… something’s not right.
“We think is that it’s a temperature-related thing. Obviously Monza, being such a high-speed circuit, the more camber you run, the more this heats up the inside edge. But I’ve never run such little camber on a car before, so we can’t even blame it on that! For whatever reason, it keeps on failing on us… if we push too hard [during] the first 10 laps, it just gets too hot and let’s go on us.”
Fortunes did improve slightly on the Sunday as the team suffered ‘just’ one puncture, but Eric Zang was lucky to escape heavy damage against the tyre barriers after losing the back end of the Porsche at Ascari during the second hour (unable to right the Porsche without bogging down in the gravel trap, Zang’s incident brought out the second Code 60 of the afternoon). The final three hours were mercifully smoother, and, ironically, TORO Racing by HRT Performance benefited from a late-race puncture for Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors to clinch a hard-earned 5th in-class at the flag.
Though reigning class champion Red Ant Racing has now moved to the the top of the 992 Teams’ standings, TORO Racing by HRT Performance has retained its 3rd place in the championship fight. The Chinee-German collaboration even clawed back four points to nearest rival Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors heading into the next European round of this year’s 24H SERIES powered by Hankook at Estoril on 7-8 July.