1000 km race winner. Pioneer of endurance racing in Lithuania.
When Stasys Brundza would leave his Porsche somewhere in the city, a crowd of people used to gather to check it out. It was the same with Alfredas Kudla’s Porsche. Whenever he left the car in town, he’d come back to find a crowd of people. When he tried to make his way through the crowd, he’d hear: “Hold on, hold on – what do you think you’re doing? We all want to see it.”
I was probably the first one in the former Soviet Union to start endurance racing. At the time, I was doing business with the Germans, and that’s where I met a racing driver. One day he says to me, “Let’s go where real men drive.” And we went to Nürburgring. He took me out in a BMW M3. The first lap was really scary for me – I could never be a co-driver.
The first time I drove myself was maybe in 1995 – I took part in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. I thought the Porsches were really good looking cars. I couldn’t control myself and ended up asking the famous German racer Uwe Alzen to let me take it for a spin. Before letting me into the car, he warned, “Drive carefully – this is no BMW. You have to drive; you have to think – only drive on the GP track.” Everything went smoothly, without incidents, and I really liked it. I started dreaming about becoming a Porsche driver and taking on a 24-hour race.
I went to see Stasys Brundza and suggested we do a project: “Nürburgring 24 Hours with Porsche”. Stasys heard me out in silence, and mentioned that it’d been a while since he’d raced; but he liked the idea and in 1998, we – a Lithuanian team – set out for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Stasys Brundza, Aurelijus Simaška, Marius Budrikis and I made up the team. We stood there lined up nicely next to our red 911 and waited for the start, feeling like real Europeans. We had practice sessions before the race, and I’d ride shotgun because I was the only one who knew the track. Everyone drove well, but Brundza came across to me as a true driving god. He drove like he’d been driving there his entire life. Everything went well. Dalius Steponavičius was an amazing team manager. At night we got into the top 10. However, we didn’t manage to avoid accidents and took a long time repairing the car. The finish was impressive. On the last lap, we ran out of fuel on the straight just before the finish. Brundza pushed the car to the finish line. The whole world saw that image. We finished in 28th place. It was a really good result for the first time, and it was an unforgettable race. We felt great – after all, 200 cars had started.
I think this race was what led to the 1000 km race being held in Palanga. At first, Darius Jonušis was sceptical about my endurance racing. But one time he came to Nürburgring, checked out how everything was done, and before you know it, the 1000 km race was held in Palanga.
When it started, Jonušis suggested that we bring a Porsche race car to Palanga. We managed to both bring it and win the race. Then we started the Porsche winning streak that’s still going to this day.
Porsches are a different car. Even the way they smell is different, unforgettable. And they handle differently – they were just born for motorsports. They don’t need to be reworked – they just up and go. The engine is in the back, so you have to watch out for oversteer. Driving on wet surfaces is especially dangerous. These cars have to be tamed.
In those days, only very experienced drivers would get into a Porsche, because the cars didn’t have any electronic assistance back then, not even ABS. If you braked too hard, you’d burn out two or even all four tyres. I’ve spun out more than once, I’ve slid. You get through it and you feel this sweet taste in your mouth – you calm down and drive on. One time I was tempted to show off a little in front of the TV cameraman. He was standing on this one turn, completely bored, not even turning the camera, because everyone was driving sensibly, predictably. And then I came flying in and tried to drift through the turn. I got the cameraman’s attention – he got some good footage as I grated the side of the car against the fencing.
I’ve driven almost every Porsche model there is, but the ones I like the most are the old ones, without any electronics. That’s what those of us from the old generation are used to. When there are historic car races, it’s the old drivers who win because the kids have a hard time controlling those beasts without electronics.
Porsche has always been known for durability. Its design is pretty simple, and can withstand a huge number of racing kilometres.
My least successful adventure was in Palanga, when I put the Kauno Grūdai car against the fence – it broke down and its nose got bent a little. This was both mine and the mechanics’ mistake. After refuelling, the brakes went – they just completely overheated while filling up. It happened again too, but that time I managed to pull the handbrake and limit the damage to a triple spin. That mistake didn’t cost me much, but Aurelijus Simaška had an incident in an Audi where he was seriously injured and crashed the car.
When asked which Porsche he would choose, Venskūnas says, “A Porsche 993. For me it’s the best.”
Founder and owner of Juta Racing, endurance racing strategist. Jonas ended his kart career in 2006, so we had to decide what to race with next. Our friends and acquaintances led to us choosing Porsche. That same year, we brought a car to Lithuania and won the 1000 km race. Right after that, we started participating in Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia. The Porsche phase in our lives lasted from 2006 to 2021. During that time, Jonas won the 1000 km race 10 times.
In Scandinavia, Jonas made the podium, and his best finish was 5th place in the final standings. We already had more experience when we came to Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain. Jonas was more successful there. In 2013, he was in the running to win the championship and only lost in the last race, ending the season in second place. That was our best year.
Jonas has won the 1000 km race 10 times. Seven of which he won with a Porsche.
Racing driver, 10-time 1000 km race winner.
“When it comes to Porsche handling, it’s hard to lay it on thick,” says Jonas Gelžinis, who has raced not only with Porsches, but also with Spykers, Ferraris and BMWs. “This is a GT class car, and they all handle about the same. You need to brake deep in the turn, load the front of the car so that it turns, and prepare for the best possible exit. The result depends a lot on the last step. Most beginners and intermediates make the same mistake – they enter the turn too quickly and exit it too slowly, losing the entire line. The rear-mounted engine loads the rear axle and allows for a very quick start at full capacity.”
Having won the 1000 km race 10 times, Jonas Gelžinis speaks modestly about his achievements: “Very little depends on the driver alone. The entire team has to work reliably – from the pit crew members to the team manager. It’s very important to have both a reliable team and a reliable car. Only then do drivers make it to the podium. I never thought I was the best – I’m always trying to improve. During the race, I analyse the telemetry data and try to improve the results.”
About Porsche models, Jonas says: “I started my career with a 996. Then came the 997 and a few of its generations. Later I got to drive a few generations of the 991 and most recently – the 992. I’d consider the 996 a collector’s car. It’s rubber, very close to standard – I wouldn’t want to drive it on the track. The 997 was very sensitive, jittery, and had a short base. It’s a formidable car for inexperienced drivers, but it has its charm. The 991 was much more refined and handled better. Porsche has produced a lot of models, but the differences between them aren’t obvious – the cars are improved little by little. That’s how they managed to achieve such high reliability. If I had to choose today, I’d prefer to drive one of the newer models. The newer, the better.”
Jonas has also tried Porsche’s electric cars, but he thinks they won’t be in races for at least another 10 years. According to him, hybrids will dominate racing in the foreseeable future.
One of Lithuania’s best circuit racing drivers. Every day he goes to a job that is the envy of all petrolheads. Robertas is an instructor at the Porsche Driving Academy.
When Vytautas Venskūnas brought a 993 RSR to Lithuania, it looked special. And now it’s just a classic car. Thanks to Vytautas, Porsche triumphed in Lithuania. Since then, drivers who want to win races usually choose Porsches.
Statistically, Porsches run the best on the Palanga circuit. This is confirmed by the fact that out of 22 races, 15 were won with Porsches. In the past, only professionals could win with a Porsche, but with the advent of the 991 model, handling has become much simpler and any amateur can drive fast with a bit of training.
The difference with driving a Porsche is that the front axle load is half that of the rear. The front of the car is very light, and the front wheels tend to slip when cornering. To avoid this, you need to brake in the turn itself, loading the front axle to keep the front wheels from slipping. Thanks to the rear-mounted engine and the rear-wheel drive, the car can start very quickly.
Drivers who won the Palanga 1006 km race with a Porsche
Vladas Laurinavičius, Eugenijus Tumalevičius, Vytautas Venskūnas – Porsche Club Lithuania (Porsche 911)
Vytautas Venskūnas, Alfredas Kudla – Automodus 5 (Porsche 993 RSR)
Vladas Laurinavičius, Eugenijus Tumalevičius, Aurelijus Simaška, Nikita Kondrachinas – Porsche Club Lithuania (Porsche 993 Cup)
Alfredas Kudla, Vytautas Venskūnas – SK D. A. L (Porsche Carrera GT3)
Egidijus Dapšas, Nemunas Dagilis, Nerijus Dagilis – Oktanas-Snaigė (Porsche 996 GT3)
Aurelijus Rusteika, Giedrius Tomas Jarmalavičius, Arūnas Bartusevičius, Jonas Gelžinis – Topo Centras (Porsche 996 GT3)
Sun Moodley, Andrew Culbert, Manogh Maharaj (Republic of South Africa) – Oktanas Racing (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup)
Nemunas Dagilis, Nerijus Dagilis, Benediktas Vanagas – General Financing-Autopaslauga (Porsche 911 GT3)
Jonas Gelžinis, Ignas Gelžinis, Tautvydas Barštys Jr. – Juta-KG Group (Porsche Carrera GT3 Cup)
Jonas Gelžinis, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (Holland), Benediktas Vanagas – General Financing by Pitlane (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup)
Jonas Gelžinis, Ignas Gelžinis, Egidijus Valeiša – Skuba Dream (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 997)
Robertas Kupčikas, Nemunas Dagilis, Steve Vanbellingen (Belgium) – Palanga Spa Hotel by EMG Motorsport (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup)
Julius Adomavičius, Ralf Aron (Estonia), Jonas Gelžinis, Ignas Gelžinis – Circle K Miles Plus Racing Team (Porsche GT3 Cup)
Julius Adomavičius, Jonas Gelžinis, Ralf Aron (Estonia), Oskaras Brazaitis – Circle K Miles Plus Racing Team (Porsche GT3 Cup 2)
Jonas Gelžinis, Ignas Gelžinis, Ralf Aron (Estonia), Julius Adomavičius – Circle K Miles Plus Racing Team (Porsche GT3 Cup 2)