Istanbul: Mike Rockenfeller race report

Mike Rockenfeller scored his eighth FIA GT Championship GT2 podium finish in as many starts, after an unusual race in Istanbul, Turkey. The Sept. 18 race was shortened to two hours, but teams were required to make two pitstops and a driver change,...

Mike Rockenfeller scored his eighth FIA GT Championship GT2 podium finish in as many starts, after an unusual race in Istanbul, Turkey. The Sept. 18 race was shortened to two hours, but teams were required to make two pitstops and a driver change, and each driver had to drive at least 35 consecutive minutes. The rules made for some interesting strategies.

Rockenfeller, of Monaco, and Marc Lieb of Ludwigsburg, Germany, were quickest in GT2 in every practice and qualifying session, despite carrying 50 kilograms of penalty weight in their No. 66 GruppeM Racing Porsche 996 GT3 RSR. Rockenfeller qualified on the class pole position with a lap time of one minute 55.45 seconds (166.45 kilometres per hour) on the 5.333-kilometre Istanbul Park circuit. He had high praise for the venue.

"It's a new, modern F1 track, but it has a lot of elevation changes, some fast parts, some tricky slow parts. The facilities and everything are perfect," he said.

Rockenfeller started the race and stayed first in class through his 30-minute stint. A caution period allowed the team to pit and change drivers under yellow, and still hold the lead. However, their teammates in the No. 88 Porsche employed a different strategy -- they pitted after just two laps and again during the caution period, giving them enough fuel to finish the race. Lieb had a 25-second lead, but had to pit under green-flag conditions. Rockenfeller took over and returned to the track 22 seconds behind the No. 88 Porsche. He closed the gap to 1.8 seconds during his 40-minute stint, but ultimately had to settle for second place.

"I was pushing and they were pushing," he said. "We were much quicker the whole weekend than the other car -- and we had 30 kilos more in our car -- so of course we are a little disappointed. But what can you do? They were a lot more lucky because many things happened to help them. We just got caught by the yellow."

Rockenfeller and Lieb have a 26-point lead in the GT2 championship, with 30 points available in the remaining three races. "Now we have to score five points in the next three races to win the championship," Rockenfeller noted. With their string of podiums to date, one fourth-place finish (or higher) will do it.

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Marc Lieb , Mike Rockenfeller