Francorchamps. The Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium based Mühlner Motorsport Team has no reasons to complain of boredom over the winter of 2010 / 2011. No sooner was the 2010 season over in Europe with the final round of the German Endurance Championship than the preparations for the two overseas endurance races in January got up to full speed.
In this, the preparations for the 24-hours of Dubai were almost routine – Mühlner Motorsport had already done the event in the past and with events in both FIA GT3 and the UAE GT Championship the team has plenty of experience running in the United Arab Emirates. In fact, the team had tools and equipment still on site locally. A Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S was built up from new parts and shipped by container to the Arabian Gulf at the beginning of December.
At the same time, preparations for the other overseas race, the Daytona 24 hours, was responsible for far more effort. When Porsche Motorsport of North America gave the "green light" to the purchase of a new 2011 model Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Grand Am, the team then needed to form a new company in the USA, thus Muehlner Motorsports America LLC was incorporated in Florida. Less than four weeks later, the newly formed organization took part in the Continental Tyre test in Homestead before the extensive planning and preparations for the participation in the American classic got into full swing in the first half of December.
Back in Europe, the team was setting the course for the 2011 European season and for the driver crew for Dubai. Agreement was reached with Frank Schmickler for an extension to his contract to drive in the ADAC GT Masters and drivers have already been signed for the Spa 24 hours.
Thus the winter break as such was limited to the few days between the public holidays at Christmas and New Year as Bernhard Mühlner and the advanced vanguard flew out to Miami on 3rd January to prepare the Grand Am Porsche for the official test from the 7th to 9th January – the famous "roar before the 24" – and more of the team joined them on 5th January. The test went perfectly and the team were able to work their way through their entire job list. The Bilstein suspension was fitted on the second day and worked fantastically, as did the special compound Pagid brake pads.
Whilst half of the team were in Florida, the second half of the team flew with team boss Renate-Carola Mühlner to Dubai to unload and prepare the car, including fitting a special new Sachs clutch for the marathon race, before the rest of the team flew in from the Florida test in time for the Dubai race.
In qualifying, things ran both technically and tactically entirely to plan. Running too quickly in qualifying was to be awarded with penalty weights in 2011….During the race Mark Thomas, Henri Moser, Jerome Thiry, Armand Fumal and Gilles Vannelet were able to quickly move up to fourth overall and closing on a podium position as the the first problems arose during the night: first an accident for Fumal, then as a result of the collision damage in the accident, a relay started giving electrical problems, then a sudden gearbox failure and the time loss to change it cost all hopes of a good result.
After two further accidents, one each from Thomas and Moser, and the resulting repairs in the pits, plus a repair to a stiff throttle pedal meant that the Mühlner Porsche only finished 40th .
There was not much time to mope as Bernhard Mühlner and the core of the team flew straight back to Florida to continue preparations with the Grand Am Porsche for the Daytona 24hours. The rest of the 16 head team flew a few days later with Renate-Carola Mühlner in order to acclimatize to the time zone change and to make the final preparations for the team's debut race in the USA.
On the Thursday and Friday there were free practice and then qualifying sessions where the drivers Mark J. Thomas, Peter Ludwig, Dion von Moltke and last minute addition Cory Friedman all drove the minimum possible to fulfill the qualification requirements. This looked after the car and minimized risks. All necessary information about the car and circuit had been gained at the official tests and the grid position in a 24 hour race has no influence on the end result.
Through clever tactical strategy, quick pitstops and the reliability of the Mühlner Porsche, at half distance the car was up to 7th place and within striking distance of the leaders as Thomas radioed in "Sorry, I hit the wall". There followed two minutes of worried waiting for the team – would Thomas manage to limp around back to the pits with his wounded Porsche? That he managed, but the repairs necessary to the right hand side front and rear axles and a new radiator took 42 minutes and thus any chance of a good result in the 35th 24 hour race in the Mühlner Motorsport Teams history….
From the back of the field, the Mühlner Porsche ran reliably as clockwork back up through the field and without any technical problems to finish 9th, thus securing a top ten finish. Not the result that the Mühlner Motorsport Team had hoped for on their US debut but nevertheless an impressive performance. If the time lost for accident damage was added back then the result would have been a ….., but you cannot work like that.
Whether or not Mühlner Motorsport take part in the Sebring 12 Hrs, a round of the ALMS, is not yet decided; what is definite is participation in the two home 24 hour races: Nürburgring in June and Spa in July. These will be the 36th and 37th 24 hour races in the team's history.
The running of two GT3 Porsche in the German ADAC GT Masters series is also certain: both cars have been officially entered and with Frank Schmickler the first driver is also signed up. Negotiations continue with other top drivers.
Negotiations are also at an advanced stage for participation in the FIA European GT3 Championship, in which Mühlner Motorsport have been active since 2008. There are numerous enquiries for the new 2011 Blancpain Endurance Serie, as indeed for the Porsche Sports Cup. During February, all decisions as to participation will be made so as to plan for the season ahead.
"We are very pleased that our reliable work in the past, and the results which this has achieved in both national and international events, is recognized in the form of enquiries from all over the world. That makes us proud and serves as a motivation" was the judgement of team boss Renate-Carola Mühlner to the latest developments.