This year’s Hankook 12H MONZA marks only the second time that the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook has been hosted at the evocative ‘temple of speed.’ And alongside that glowing headline, there’s a few other stories you may want to pay attention to this weekend. For instance…
Words – James Gent
Images – Nico Mombaerts / Petr Frýba
Already in 2023, the 24H SERIES has celebrated three brand-new overall GT winners in the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook. Haas RT, in only its third-ever race, secured its maiden win at this year’s Hankook 12H MUGELLO barely two months after Pure Rxcing took its own first victory at the non-championship Hankook 6H ABU DHABI (amazingly, both teams had been founded less than a year before). The Saintéloc Junior Team makes three courtesy of its win last time out at the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS.
With a suitable dose of salt, one could even argue that Team WRT’s first win as an official BMW customer – at its first attempt, no less – at this year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI is a worthy addition to this list.
There’s a possibility this trend could continue at the Hankook 12H MONZA. A new ‘secret weapon’ could potentially put Kessel Racing among the frontrunners – more on that HERE - and, but for turbocharger failure, 24H SERIES newcomer 7TSIX might well have taken GT3-AM victory on its debut at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, such is the pace of the McLaren 720S GT3. Who knows? After a run of poor luck, reigning 991 Teams’ champion E2P Racing may strike gold with its 991.2 GT3 R at the third time of asking in Monza.
Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – Overall GT podium
1. Saintéloc Junior Team (#26) – Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II – 250 laps
2. Herberth Motorsport (#91) – Porsche 992 GT3 R - +1m 57.062s
3. Heart of Racing by SPS (#27) – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – 249 laps
Although the #1 Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II was well among the leaders during the early stages of the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, time lost in the pits to a severe vibration, plus a coming together with Land-Motorsport and PCR Sport at Les Combes – an incident that almost wiped out eventual winner Saintéloc – meant Scherer Sport PHX could only manage 24th overall and 11th in the GT3 class. High attrition elsewhere in the sub-class, ironically, means the reigning European champion is currently 2nd in the GT3-PRO/AM Teams’ standings, but does have a lot of ground to recover in the Overall GT Teams’ standings. A win in Monza would be a good start.
Land-Motorsport could also use a strong result in Lombardy. True, the 2009 24H DUBAI winner, which has entered just one Audi R8 (#34) for Monza, is a far-from-disgraceful 2nd in the GT3-AM Teams’ standings, but lost a near-certain class podium in Mugello to driveshaft failure in the closing 11 minutes just 10 minutes. Constantly changing conditions and a brief scare when the Audi’s gearbox started overheating didn’t help at Spa, and, ironically, without late-race mishaps for CP Racing, Hofor-Racing and E2P Racing at Spa, Land-Motorsport would likely have finished 5th in-class rather than 2nd last time out. No doubt both team and drivers will hope for a clean run at Monza, an event at which the #34 Audi, then run by ‘Car Collection Motorsport’, finished 5th overall in 2020.
As in 2022, the fight for 992 Teams’ honours looks set to go down to the wire this season. Heading into the third European round of the season, just four points split the top two in the standings, while the top four are covered by only 18 points.
A relatively fault-free run at Spa – one spin at the restart aside – plus a commanding win in Mugello means Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors retains its 992 standings lead heading into the Hankook 12H MONZA. An unfortunately timed Code 60 shortly after the team’s final pit stop meant reigning 992 Teams’ ‘European’ champion Red Ant Racing had to ‘settle’ for 2nd in-class at Spa, although the second consecutive podium – a more reliable run than its puncture-afflicted 3rd place in Mugello – meant the #903 Porsche has now halved its championship deficit from eight points to four.
Clipping the wall at La Source, and the resultant damage to the steering, meant a potential podium for Red Camel-Jordans.nl turned into 6th in-class at the flag, although that still leaves last year’s 992 runners-up just 16 points – or one 8th place – adrift of Willi Motorsport in the standings. A phenomenal run to 992-class victory in Spa meanwhile has rocketed HRT Performance, just two points further back, into the title hunt.
And we haven’t even mentioned potential show stealers from RPM Racing, the returning Neuhofer Rennsport, and series debutant Q1 Trackracing. With three European rounds left to run, the 992 Teams’ championship is very much alive.
Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – 992 Podium
1. HRT Performance (#930) – Porsche 992 GT3 Cup – 246 laps
2. Red Ant Racing (#903) – Porsche 992 GT3 Cup – 245 laps
3. Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors (#955) – Porsche 992 GT3 Cup – +1m 25.409s
As in 992, the fight for championship honours in GTX is similarly close with just eight points covering the top three.
RD Signs – Siauliai racing team is currently the team to beat on 64 points courtesy of two consecutive 3rd place finishes: the Lithuanian team was unlucky to lose a probable GTX win in Mugello when the Lamborghini hit the barriers hard at San Donato in the closing stages, and only just lost out to a hard-charging GT3 Poland for 2nd in Spa. Nearest rival Vortex V8 meanwhile will hope to put a tough Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS behind it in Monza, ideally by repeating its first GTX win in Mugello.
And then there’s 9und11 Racing. The German team made a sensational start by winning its first two 24H SERIES events at Hockenheim in 2021 and Spa-Francorchamps in 2022, both in the GTX class. Braking and diffuser issues though, plus damage to the right rear corner – the aftereffects of a puncture – meant the #719 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR dropped off the podium earlier this year in Mugello, though a rain-affected but still relatively fault-free run to 4th in Spa means 9und11 Racing is still only eight points behind the GTX standings leader. A return to the top step of the podium therefore can’t come soon enough.
Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – GTX Podium
1. VDS Racing Adventures (#758) – MARC II V8 – 241 laps
2. GT3 Poland (#763) – Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo – 239 laps
3. RD Signs – Siauliai racing team (#720) – Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo – 238 laps
Although not fully confirmed before we went to print, reigning GT4 Teams’ ‘Europe’ champion Team ACP - Tangerine Associates is set to make its 24H SERIES return at the Hankook 12H MONZA.
Recurring electrical issues on its most recent outing last year in Portugal notwithstanding (nine hours in, the #421 BMW M4 GT4 had completed just 21 laps as the team struggled to find the root of the problem), Team ACP took two class wins last year at Mugello and Spa-Francorchamps en-route to an otherwise controlled GT4 Teams’ title. Don’t be too surprised to see the Belgian team in the mix on its return as well.
Standings leader Buggyra ZM Racing may have something to say about that of course. The Emirati team took its second GT4-class win of the year at Spa (its first was in Abu Dhabi), and although a late-race clutch problem meant the #416 Mercedes-AMG was unable to make the chequered flag in Mugello, Aliyyah Koloc, Adam Lacko and David Vršecky were still able to salvage 2nd in-class after a solid run. Similarly, South Korea’s Atlas BX, currently 2nd in the standings, will want forget its alternator failure in Spa and look to repeat its season-opening class win in Mugello.
With both teams gunning for GT4 title honours in 2023, beating the category’s reigning champion would be a sizeable feather in their respective caps.
Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – GT4 Podium
1. Buggyra ZM Racing (#416) – Mercedes-AMG GT4 – 232 laps
2. TCL Motorsport by AR Performance (#488) – BMW M4 GT4 – 229 laps
3. Lionspeed GP powered by SRS Team Sorg Rennsport (#427) – Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport - + 17.303s
For two years in a row, Holmgaard Motorsport has taken overall TCE victory at the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS: Holmgaard brothers Magnus and Jonas, Roy Edland, and Martin Vedel Mortensen scored the team’s maiden TCR win aboard its Volkswagen Golf GTI in 2021, and followed that up with a controlled victory at this year’s event with the #102 CUPRA Leon Competición (which, incidentally, took its first 24H SERIES podium on its debut last year in Hockenheim). An overheated engine aside at last year’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA, momentum is clearly on the Danish team’s side, making a second overall TCE win on the bounce a srong possibility. A result that would, incidentally, also propel Holmgaard Motorsport to the top of the TCR Teams’ standings.
There is of course the TCX contenders to consider. Roma Racing by BMW Team Van Der Horst for example completed an impressive maiden series run at Spa-Francorchamps to finish 2nd in TCX on its 24H SERIES debut. A similar, if not better, result in Italy would propel the Italian-Dutch collaboration into the class lead in the standings. Quite the incentive.
Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – Overall TCE podium
1. Holmgaard Motorsport (#102) – CUPRA Leon Competición – 232 laps
2. Wolf-Power Racing (#121) – Audi RS 3 LMS TCR – 231 laps
3. RAIL EQUIP by TOTCAR SPORT (#123) – CUPRA TCR – 228 laps
Kessel Racing has confirmed that it will make its first competitive start of the season with its new 296 GT3 at the Hankook 12H MONZA.
The Swiss team, a long-time Ferrari customer, has already contested this year’s 24H SERIES European season opener at Mugello with the outgoing 488 GT3, securing 14th overall and 6th in the GT3 class despite a heavy shunt against the Correntaio tyre barriers. The Hankook 12H MONZA though will mark the first series outing for Ferrari’s brand-new GT3 flagship.
Can Herberth Motorsport do it? Can the 2017 Overall GT Teams’ ‘Continents’ champion, having finished as the runner-up three times already in 2023, finally put a rancid 2022 season to bed and take its first outright series win since the Hankook 12H HUNGARY in 2021?
To do so at the Hankook 12H MONZA would be particularly fitting, given that Herberth Motorsport finished a decisive 1-2-3 overall at the inaugural event in 2020, becoming the first – and so far only – GT team to lockout the overall podium at a 24H SERIES event. Not that this was the only talking point from that weekend, of course...
Read the full story HERE