Race 1: Championship Battle Goes Down to the Wire
Marvin Kirchhöfer and Daniel Keilwitz in the #1 Callaway Corvette won a fraught, close race at the Hockenheimring, with championship leaders Robert Renauer and Mathieu Jaminet, driving the #99 Precote Herberth Porsche, in second after starting on pole and leading the early part of the race. In third, #26 Land Motorsport Audi brothers Sheldon and Kelvin van der Linde scored more points to keep their championship hopes alive, fending off a resilient Maxi Götz and Markus Pommer in the #47 HTP Mercedes for 4th.
An early safety car after a clash between the #3 Aust Motorsport and #24 Mücke Audis bunched up the field, with other cars including the #19 GRT Lamborghini also incurring damage due to other clashes at the tight hairpin. When the safety car came in, Renauer kept his lead in the #99 Porsche, but Kirchhöfer’s #1 Corvette was hot on his heels. Meanwhile, for fellow championship challengers in the #47 Mercedes, Markus Pommer sent the car wide, losing 3 vital points-paying positions and ending up in seventh, turning the race into a recovery drive for the #47 Mercedes team.
At the front, meanwhile, Kirchhöfer was bearing down on Renauer, eventually taking the lead with a fantastic pass up the inside of the right-hander after the hairpin. Kirchhöfer duly stretched his lead to two and a half seconds before pitting the #1 Corvette, along with Renauer in the #99 Porsche, once the pit window opened. Pommer also brought his car in early in an attempt to undercut his rivals and make up the positions lost earlier in the race, handing the #47 Mercedes over to Maxi Götz for the second stint of the race.
Sheldon van der Linde then briefly took the lead in the #26 Audi, bringing the car in at the end of the pit stop window, eventually coming out back in third place once the pit stops had shaken out the order, with #1 Corvette, now with Daniel Keilwitz at the wheel, regaining the lead. Mathieu Jaminet had replaced Robert Renauer in the #99 Porsche, and continued in second, meaning with the race finishing in that order, the #99 Porsche duo would continue to lead the championship going into the final race of the season, which would decide the championship.
Götz, meanwhile, went on a charge, taking sixth from Claudia Hürtgen in the #13 Corvette, then soon after snatching fifth from the Christopher Haase-driven Mücke #25 Audi. After a very close battle with Kelvin van der Linde for third, Götz couldn’t find a way past despite being side by side multiple times, with both drivers going off track in an effort to score more vital championship points, as it went down to the wire in Race 2.
Race 2: Renauer and Jaminet win GT Masters title, van der Linde brothers win final race of the season
Herberth Motorsport’s duo of Renauer and Jaminet sealed the title in the second race, which saw drama from the start, and Land Motorsport’s #28 Audi take the final win of the year.
Maxi Götz, starting on pole in the #47 HTP Mercedes, and Dries Vanthoor in the #12 EFP Audi, clashed when Vanthoor, who started second, went up the inside of Götz. Vanthoor took too much kerb and skidded into Götz, punting him off track. Götz was then collected by Frank Stippler’s #33 ISR Audi, which had gone wide, and the two went into the wall, along with Klaus Bachler’s #18 KÜS TEAM75 Bernhard Porsche which had incurred heavy damage in the incident after getting a tap from Stippler’s Audi.
Somehow, fellow championship challengers the van der Linde brothers in the #28 Land Motorsport Audi and Mathieu Jaminet in the #99 Precote Herberth Porsche got through the carnage to end up second and fourth. Leading the race, however, was Christian Engelhart in the #82 GRT Lamborgini, with Timo Schieder in the #42 Schitzer BMW in third.
After a lap behind the safety car, the race was stopped to clear the stricken cars. 10 minutes later, the race restarted, with Engelhart leading the pack away in the #42 Lamborghini. Engelhart started to create a gap, with one and half seconds to Kelvin van der Linde’s #26 Audi by the end of the first lap after the restart.
The other championship challengers in the race, and winners of Race 1, Daniel Keilwitz and Marvin Kirchhöfer in the #1 Callaway Corvette, was making its way up the field after starting 26th. By the end of the third lap, Keilwitz was in 17th, just behind a large group of tussling cars including Mirko Bortolloti in the #63 GRT Lamborghini. Keilwitz used this to his advantage, and by the end of the fourth lap was in 14th.
Engelhart was continuing to create a gap at the head of the field, meanwhile, with almost four seconds over van der Linde. The South African had Schieder hot on his heels, but van der Linde was not going to give the place up easily: the two brothers had to finish in the top two in order to have any hope whatsoever of winning the championship. With Jaminet continuing with a strong showing in fourth, though, the #99 Porsche had done enough at this point to secure the championship, with a predicted 10 point lead over the van der Lindes, who would move up to second if they stayed in second in the race.
A few laps later and Keilwitz had caught Christopher Haase in the #25 Mücke Audi, overtaking him at the right-hander after the hairpin to take 13th. Crucically, however, the #1 Corvette was still out of the points, requiring a fifth-placed finish in order to take championship victory. The next lap he also took 12th away from Phoenix’s Racing #6 Audi, piloted by Oscar Tunjo.
Kevin Estre in the #17 Bernhard Porsche was the first of the lead group to pit, coming in from 6th. Kelvin van der Linde was the next to pit from second in the #26 Audi, with his brother Sheldon replacing him for the final 25 minutes of the race. The third-placed #42 BMW and the championship leader #99 Porsche was next in, leaving the pits in the same order, with Robert Renauer now on board the Porsche. However, Bernhard in the #17 Porsche was a lot closer to Renauer than it had been pre-pitstops, with Bernhard looking for a way past Renauer.
Engelhart then came in from the lead of the race in the #82 GRT Lamborghini, along with Keilwitz in the #1 Corvette after a fantastic stint. Rolf Ineichen replaced Engelhart, whereas Marvin Kirchhöfer took over from Keilwitz in the Corvette. He then managed to wrestle 10th off #84 AutoArenA Mercedes, driven by Patrick Assenheimer, and then 9th off Victor Bouveng in the #43 Schnitzer BMW moving up into the points, although still with a mountain to climb in order to win the championship.
Somehow, once the pit stops had shaken the order out, the #48 HTP Mercedes had climbed up to fourth, demoting the #99 Porsche to fifth. Kirchhöfer meanwhile was on the attack, taking 11th from Andrea Caldarelli in the #63 Lamborghini in a daring move, putting two wheels on the grass. Sheldon van der Linde, meanwhile, was catching Rolf Ineichen, reducing the gap to below four seconds with 15 minutes to go. With 10 minutes to go, the gap was then below two seconds, with van der Linde taking chunks out of Ineichen every lap in his pursuit to win the title.
The Callaway #1 Corvette meanwhile made short work of Ferrari works driver Davide Rigon in #7 HB Racing Ferrari. He then did the same to Mike David Ortman’s #24 Mücke Audi on the next lap, moving up into seventh after starting 27th on the grid.
The battle at the front, meanwhile, was hotting up with six minutes to go, the gap between the #82 Lamborghini and the #26 Audi now less than a second. With four minutes to go van der Linde was right on Ineichen’s gearbox. With less than two minutes to go he eventually took the lead with a fantastic move up the inside as Ineichen left room in a great display of fair, clean racing. This put the van der Linde brothers a single agonising point behind Mathieu Jaminet and Robert Renauer. The #99 Porsche with Renauer at the wheel had Bernhard in the #17 Porsche and the #1 Callaway Corvette hot on its heels, but held off for the final few laps to win the championship with a 5th placed finish.
The #26 Land Motorsport Audi, then, took the flag with a 2.2-second gap to the Rolf Ineichen/Christian Engelhart-driven in the #82 GRT Lamborghini, with Indy Dontje and Maxi Buhk taking the final podium the #48 Mercedes. In fourth was the #42 BMW of Mikkel Jensen and Timo Scheider, and fifth was of course taken by Robert Renauer and Mathieu Jaminet in the #99 Porsche. Sixth went to the #17 KÜS TEAM75 Bernhard of Timo Bernhard and Kevin Estre, while in seventh, after a fantastic drive making up 20 positions was Marvin Kirchhöfer and Daniel Keilwitz in the #1 Callaway Corvette. Finally, in eighth was Davide Rigon and Luca Ludwig in the #7 HB Racing Ferrari.
This put Renauer/Jaminet a single point ahead of the van der Linde, 137 to 136, with Kirchhöfer/Keilwitz a little way behind on 120. Maxi Götz and Markus Pommer, due to the disasterous start, finished the season in fourth place on 117 points.
Images courtesy of GT Masters