The GT Winter Series entered its second round of the season on 14-15 January 2023 in Estoril. The legendary ex-Formula 1 circuit near Lisbon had a lot of action in store and provided one or two surprises. With 44 entries, the field was not only large, but also high-class, with established racing greats such as Kenneth Heyer and Marcel Marchewicz making an appearance. A capricious weather, at least at the beginning, added salt to the soup of the contested championship.
Qualy from wet to clammy
The Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Estoril was literally pounding the night before the 2023 GTWS opener, with waves up to 7m high and plenty of rain along the coast. So the morning qualifying session was to take place wet, but looking increasingly friendly as the clouds visibly cleared. So the secret of the fast times seemed to lie in the right timing, as the Portuguese sun slowly ate up the drops.
At the front, Krystian Korzeniowski in the Olimp Audi R8 GT3 immediately set a time that no one else could match – pole for race 1. In GT4, an old acquaintance – the AMG GT4 from CV Performance with Simon Primm – was back at the front. In Qualy two, however, he had to prove himself inferior to Daniel Schwerfeld, who in the Lemmerz-Audi GT4 left no doubt about his rain class.
Also worthy of mention is the Andreas Greiling / Jens Richter combo, who put their MS Racing-prepared 718 Cayman GT4 on class pole. The Porsche Sports Cup Switzerland champion seems to know how to turn the steering wheel nimbly even in the rain.
An impressive scent mark was set by Dustin Blattner, who in his Manthey Porsche 992 Cup roughed up the class of thoroughbred GT3s struggling for grip on the still damp tarmac. Blattner knew how to make the most of his tyres and easily distanced all his “classmates” in the Cup Porsche category, which was packed with 13 cars. In the end, he was only about a quarter of a second slower than the pole setter in the overall standings.
What Korzeniowski did in Q1, Marcel Marchewicz did in Q2, as he drove a solid but blazingly fast 1:48.834 and thus never threatened to take pole for the afternoon race with his Schnitzelalm-AMG GT3.
Sprint 1 shorter than expected
After the track gradually became drier in the course of the morning, all the drivers had decided to start on slicks. However, as the track still showed changing conditions, the experienced race director Werner Aichinger decided to increase the number of introductory laps to two so that the drivers could familiarise themselves with the conditions. This sightseeing didn’t seem to work for everyone, as CV’s AMG GT4 caught Jens Richter’s Cayman on lap 1 and spun it into the Cup Porsche of Leandro Martins (LMR Racar Motorsport), which was driving next to it. The race was barely reopened after two laps of clean-up when the Ligier JS2R of Julien Lemoine rolled out and caused the next safety car phase. This was quickly lifted, but the drivers were now under pressure to decide about victory or defeat within only 4 remaining laps. Kenneth Heyer and Michael Joos in particular had a thrilling duel at the start, which Heyer won at first, but had to give up the position to Michael Joos and his Porsche GT3-R again. Both, however, lost out to the overall winner Krystian Korzeniowski, who had his Olimp Racing Audi R8 GT3 just as well under control as the race lead and the resulting victory.
In GT4, Schnitzelalm celebrated two successes at once, namely 1st place (Hartling/Walsdorf) and 2nd place (Hahne/Mesch). Lemmerz, as a racing rookie, came third with his Audi R8 GT4.
In the Cup 1 class, which was exclusively occupied by Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo, Thomas Fleming won ahead of James Owen and the teammate of racing ace Dominik Schwager, Mutlu Tasev.
Sprint 2 with real performers and an absurd interlude
The number two seemed to be a permanent fixture in safety car operations this weekend. At least the safety car was deployed twice in the second sprint, but this time only for a good lap each, so that it did not detract from the exciting racing action.
Strangely, the start-finish winner Marchewicz often saw a rear-view mirror full of Blattner in his Schnitzelalm-AMG GT3. The USA Yankee on the Manthey Cup 992 was dazzling and followed Marchewicz like a shadow before the GT3 gradually pulled away. Behind Blattner, the Carrera Cup-experienced Sebastian Glaser kept up valiantly and secured Cup position 2 ahead of another Mathey driver, Tareq Mansour. Incidentally, the Manthey drivers had several duels with the two Huber Racing drivers (Michael and Johannes Kapfinger) that were well worth seeing, and they did so without exchanging any paint. Chapeau!
Meanwhile, Thomas Fleming in his FF Corse Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo made his way to third place overall with surgical precision – great! Unfortunately, he lost out on the fruits of his labour, albeit by the skin of his teeth, as he overtook under safety car conditions and was given a 25-second penalty for it. It was only a matter of a few centimetres, but the rule is the rule. However, he had built up such a superior lead that he was still able to celebrate the class victory.
The most absurd performance of the day was undoubtedly delivered by Andreas Greiling. Loosely leading his class, he gave away the victory because he thought the race was over after crossing the start/finish line, but this was not to be the case until one lap later. By the time his pit crew radioed him about this, one or the other car had already passed him. He can count himself lucky that he still managed to finish second in the Cayman GT4 class.
Endurance with many battles
The starting grid for the 60-minute Endurance is determined by the addition of the two sprint results. Therefore, it was not the Schnitzelalm-AMG that was at the front, but Blattner on the Manthey-Porsche. Not surprisingly, he could only hold the lead for a short time, Marchewicz passed and took off, Joos chased after him, albeit with a respectable distance, but had to pit with a puncture. Once again Thomas Fleming showed his class. Efficient in his driving style, fast as an arrow in his lap time, he blithely drives to P3 in the overall standings and holds it until the finish.
Endurance also seemed to suit ANS Motorsport very well. Team boss Nicholas Schatz looked very pleased with his pilot Jonathan Bossard, who drove consistently – and consistently fast. The lone driver stormed to a great P2 overall before spinning around while overtaking colleague Wira, bending the car in the process and Dustin Blattner in the Manthey Porsche inherited second overall. Bossard dropped out.
Speaking of alone – Piotr Wira looked particularly concentrated and quite obviously in top shape on the long haul, but could not reap the fruits of his flawless drive as he dropped out due to the tussle with Bossard. The same fate befell the Olimp Audi with Jedlinski at the wheel, it spun with the assistance of a competitor.
The field was mixed up unnaturally by the fact that no less than four drivers did not find their way to the grid in time before the pit lights turned red and thus had to start from the pits. However, 60 minutes was enough for most of them to return to the solid midfield in a good team performance, including Thomas Röpke, himself a race series coordinator in Germany, and his teammate Martin Heidrich on their Cayman GT4.
Overall winners are Marcel Marchewicz and Kenneth Heyer. They were not threatened at any time and together with their team Schnitzelalm Racing gave a perfect team performance. The squad also took second and third place in the GT4 class.
Next stop: Jerez
The next race in Jerez will take place on 11 and 12 February. “We are practically fully booked and have therefore reached the capacity limit of the maximum number of cars prescribed by the FIA,” said GTWS project manager Robin Selbach. “We are very pleased that the GTWS concept is so well received. Jerez as the heart of Spanish motorsport is a special highlight that we are really looking forward to.”