Muhlner Motorsport take dominant win in the Spa 24hrs
Van Splunteren, Ian Khan, Simon Frederiks and Gosse Stielstra mistake free
Spa-Francorchamps. The Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, based Muhlner Motorsport Team demonstrated their skills to the full at their home race, the Spa 24hrs, to take the win in the hotly contested FIA GT3 category.
This, their sixth class win in the event, had its foundation in the same core elements as the previous five (1995, 1996 and 1997 with Opel touring cars and 2004 & 2005 with Porsche in the GTs), namely a well balanced driving crew, top preparation of the car, based on endurance rather than purely on speed, and the right race tactics. Thus the team did not go for a time in the Thursday qualifying, rather they concentrated on just doing their minimum qualifying laps. Nevertheless this was enough to qualify behind two Ferraris and two Vipers as best of the eight Porsches in the class. The team did not run at all in the Friday qualifying, with the car already well qualified the team felt the time was better spent concentrated on preparing the car for the race.
For the race, team boss Renate Carola Muhlner gave the instruction not to get mixed up in fights for position, rather to concentrate on consistency of lap times. Paul van Splunteren (NL) did a long first stint without incident and handed over to Ian Khan (MC) who continued the strategy perfectly, as did Simon Frederick (NL) und Gosse Stielstra (NL) in their turns, so that dependant upon where they were in their pit stop sequence the Muhlner Porsche was always in position one, two or three of the twelve car strong GT3 class.
The first big jump in the direction of the class win came when, with the onset of drizzly rain, Ian Khan took the decision to remain on slicks when much of the competition changed to wets. The track was wet enough for rain tyres to be better for a couple of laps but it dried quite quickly, forcing the competition to make another stop for slicks whilst Khan stayed out. This smart tactic, plus the need for a brake disc and pad change by the leading challenger, the Ferrari, gave the Muhlner Porsche a big lead. This, in turn, set the competitor Ferrari under pressure and they made an aggressive charge to make up lost time which ultimately ended in an accident.
The Muhlner Team was then able to reel off the laps without pressure or stress, running in the Top 15 of the 46 car field comfortably ahead of all other GT3 class cars. In the last 90 minutes after the final Safety Car period the team was able to try a new challenge -- that of keeping ahead of the final remaining factory supported GT2 Ferrari. This they were also able to do so at the chequered flag, the Muhlner Porsche not only won their class, the FIA GT3 category, but beat the GT2 Ferrari to take 14th overall and a class win with16 laps advantage over the second placed car.
"Our drivers followed the agreed strategy perfectly and did not let either the competition or the weather put them off their stride. Our Porsche was perfectly prepared and ran without problem, we just had to refuel it and change tyres, which our experienced pit crew were able to do very quickly. That is the way to win races against tough competition from quicker cars" summarised team boss Bernhard Muhlner a race which was mistake free from all concerned.