With 5-percent less power output from the engines, speed limits on sections of the track, and several spectators zones that were off-limits for the fans, a boring race was expected. In the end, though, the qualifying race for the Nürburgring 24 hours turned out one to be one that was as exciting as any other race.
The weekend opened with night qualifying were the first glimpses of a potential winner for Sunday were caught. None other than the Haribo Racing Team with GT ace and new AMG DTM driver Maxi Götz took provisional pole during the night session that ended with a heavy downpour.
Back on track early for morning qualifying on Sunday, the fans around the Nordschleife were greeted by a rising sun and brilliant blue sky. Typical Eifel weather: where I left the track with wind and rain, I returned the next morning with the sun in my back while shooting at Brünnchen, as the hardcore fans rolled out of their tents and started the day with a morning barbecue.
One of the biggest surprises of the weekend was the Lexus LFA Code X from Toyota Team Gazoo Racing. The four Japanese drivers directed the brand-new car to P2 the night before. Only the Zakspeed SLS managed to get past it in the morning qualy, pushing the LFA down to third place. Nevertheless, a brilliant qualifying result for Gazoo squad that no one in the paddock expected days earlier.
But no one was able to kick the Haribo SLS down from the top with their stunning time from the yesterday’s night session, which was only around five seconds slower than the pole time from last year’s N24h. As it turns out, the speed limits many were complaining about only cost five seconds around a race track that’s over 20 km long!
It was Uwe Alzen who took the green in the Haribo SLS, turning pole position into the lead during his first stint by pushing hard and creating a big gab between himself and the rest of the field.
The #40 Glickenhaus SCG003c needed to head to the pits during the formation lap because of an electric issue and was never seen again.
Until then, both Glickenhaus cars where running very well in the training and qualifying sessions, putting the cars on P4 and P6 for the start.
The situation of the Dutchman Tom Coronel was even worse: his second placed Zakspeed Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 didn’t even make it to the grid, courtesy of problems after morning qualifying.
After some changes for the lead during the six hours, Haribo Racing was in a promising position to win the race and to crown their perfect weekend with a start-to-finish victory. But 15 minutes before the chequered flag flew, Götz reported vibrations.
After a quick tyre change he went back onto the track, now in second place trailing the #20 Schubert BMW Z4 GT3 by seven seconds. Everyone expected to see the SLS right onto the rear bumper of the Schubert car as it crossed the line with only a second on the clock remaining, but the Goldbär was missing…
Deep into the final moments of the race, Maximilian Götz had to stop the car on his way to the Karussell. Much to the frustration and disappointment of the team, the SLS AMG GT3 had to retire with a broken wheel bearing.
After a long and hard battle, it was Team Schubert who took home the victory, in front of the mysterious Manthey Porsche 991 GT3 Cup MR. Third place was taken by another Porsche, from Black Falcon.
Concerning the speed limits: according to race director Walter Hornung, not one penalty had to be handed out during the race. All drivers acted as true professionals and obeyed them. But what will happen during VLN2, when hundred additional cars will enter the track? We will see in two weeks time.