2 Hours complete. 22 Hours to go. 15 laps complete.
With 24 Hours on the clock, Kevin Estre rounded Tiergarten oblivious to the angry pack of GT3 machinery right on his tail itching to get underway. Without warning the Frenchman nailed the throttle on the pole-siting number 911 Manthey Racing Porsche and took off down the road, beginning the race tomorrow.
In no time, Estre began to stretch his legs out front and extended his lead to the tune of 4.7s by the end of the first racing lap over the second placed number 44 Falken Motorsports of Dirk Werner. Maro Engel in the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 slotted his way into third at the start and was immediately hot on the heels of Werner but struggled to find a way by in the opening minutes.
As Estre scampered off out front, the sister number 912 Manthey Racing Porsche was an early pit caller with Patrick Pilet suffering a left rear puncture which dropped him over four minutes behind the leading pack.
Hubert Haupt in the number 6 Black Falcon Mercedes was caught up in an early melee when the German driver made contact with a slower-classed car at Galgenkopf, spearing the latter backwards into the barrier while Haupt continued on, before pitting at the conclusion of his lap. The incident brought out a Code 60 for the recovery of the crashed car at the high speed triple right-hander which leads onto the Döttinger Höhe as traffic began to play an influential part in the flow of the race.
Race leader, Estre, pitted at the end of Lap 8 to hand the number 911 car over to Earl Bamber as the second and third place cars also dived among a number of others for driver changes. Werner made way for Martin Ragginger in the number 44 Falken Motorsports Porsche, however, Engel stayed behind the wheel of the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes, with the pit stop sequences tilting the order at the head of the field.
This resulted in a lead change as the number 98 Rowe Racing BMW M6 of John Edwards assumed the top spot for a handful of laps after dropping off kilter early in the race.
Renger van der Zande found the tyre wall on the exit of Turn 2 in the number 48 Mann Filter Mercedes, leaving considerable damage on the left front corner of the car as the Dutch driver quickly returned to the pits for what would be extensive repairs. Maximilian Götz eventually resumed the race aboard the car, though ten laps down.
Nicky Catsburg and Daniel Juncadella ran out front for a while, before Bamber regained the lead when they pitted at the close of the second hour of the race, with the number 1 Audi Sport Team Land R8 also running strongly in the hands of Rene Rast in the top five.
Top five end of Hour 2:
- Earl Bamber #911 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R
- Martin Ragginger #44 Falken Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-R
- Alexander Sims #99 Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3
- Nicki Thiim #007 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V12
- Franck Mailleux #705 Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus
9 Hours complete. 15 hours remaining. 60 laps on the board.
An electrical issue at the hour three mark saw the number 99 Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3 of Connor de Phillippi grind to a halt at Bergwerk, pulling off the road and into the service area as the American driver vented his frustration. The car has since not rejoined the race and was towed back to the pits by a recovery team.
Towards the end of hour six, drama struck the Audi Sport Team WRT outfit when fourth placed Dries Vanthoor had a high speed crash at the end of the Döttinger Höhe. Slight contact with a slower car moments earlier appeared to give Vanthoor a puncture before the car tipped into a spin just prior to the braking zone for Tiergartner and he was spat into the barriers.
Vanthoor, who emerged from the crash okay, was sharing the R8 with Rene Rast, Robin Frijns and Kelvin van der Linde. Rast and van der Linde are pulling double duty and so will now both focus their efforts on the Number 1 Audi Sport Team Land entry.
As night descended on the Nürburgring, Earl Bamber continued to maintain his lead out front in the number 911 Manthey Racing Porsche ahead of Adam Christodoulou who at one stage, ran second in the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes.
Before long, the only thing illuminating the track was the car’s headlights leaving drivers to cut their way through the dark. Midnight seemingly passed by unnoticed as the sound of race cars serenaded people to sleep one by one in the trackside campgrounds, while some attempted to pull an all-nighter.
By the end of the ninth hour, Romain Dumas cycled his way back to the lead after taking over the number 911 Manthey Porsche from Bamber. Dirk Müller, meanwhile, pitted the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes just before the end of the hour out of second to make way for Maro Engel behind the wheel, while Renger van der Zande also brought the third placed number 47 Mann Filter Mercedes in to hand the reigns over to Edoardo Mortara.
Trouble struck the sister Mann Filter Mercedes, however, when the car’s left rear wheel parted way on pit exit after presumably not being tightened properly during it’s pit stop seconds earlier. The car, driven by Maximilian Götz was pulled from harms way by safety teams after it came to rest at Turn 1.
Top five end of Hour 9:
- Romain Dumas #911 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R
- Fred Makowiecki #912 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R
- Maro Engel #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3
- Maxime Martin #007 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3
- Nico Müller #3 Audi Sport Team Phoenix R8 LMS GT3
Through the lens; Saturday.
15 hours complete. 9 hours remaining. 97 laps on the board.
When night falls on the Nürburgring 24 Hours, there is no doubt strange things happen, and this year’s edition of the race has been no different. The opening hours of the race looked promising for Manthey Racing, with the pole-sitting number 911 Porsche leading hand-over fist; constantly stretching it’s margin out front in an impressive display of dominance.
However, in the early hours of Sunday morning, under the cover of dark, it all came crumbling down for German team. Romain Dumas lost control of the car at high speed, seemingly on fluid laid down moments before he arrived on the scene, spearing sideways into the barrier at Schwalbenschwanz and coming to rest with parts strewn across the circuit.
Dumas managed to get out of the car unscathed, but it was race over for the number 911 – as co-drivers Earl Bamber, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor began thanking their crew members solemnly.
Ironically, Dumas’ shunt handed the sister number 912 Manthey Racing Porsche the lead, with Richard Lietz swooping through to take over the lead which the number 911 once held. Maro Engel inherited second aboard the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes following Dumas’ crash, while the Kelvin van der Linde-driven number 1 Audi Sport Team Land R8 slotted into third after a super-stint from the South African who later handed the car over to Rene Rast.
Aston Martin Racing also benefited from the demise of the number 911 Porsche, as Nicki Thiim found himself in a solid fourth behind the wheel of the number 007 Vantage GT3. As the race steamed towards halfway, the threat of rain increased and before long the heavens opened wreaking havoc around the Nürburgring-Nordschleife.
In the treacherous conditions, Mercedes appeared to find its feet as the number 47 Mann Filter AMG joined the number 4 Black Falcon car near the front of the field. The excitement was short-lived for the number 47 squad, though, with Daniel Juncadella finding the wall at Eiskurve and leaving the car with heavy damage to the left-hand side.
At the same time, drama again stuck the Rowe Racing garage, not for the first time in the race it must be said. A slowing John Edwards in the number 98 Rowe M6 GT3 eventually ground to a halt during Hour 12 on the Grand Prix circuit, leaving the car to plummet down the leaderboard after running in the top ten.
During Hour 14, the sun finally decided to climb over the Efiel mountains, quickly filling the night sky with a spectacular orange dawn period and marking the start of the penultimate leg of the race. After the rain died down at one stage, making conditions far-less perilous than they were at parts in the dark, the clouds decided they would roll back in and hide the morning sunrise as the rain really began to bucket down in the 15th hour of the race.
Parts of the 25km circuit even started to resemble a lake, but that wasn’t going to deter any of the drivers with the end of the race in sight.
Christopher Mies moved up to third in the number 1 Land Audi after a neat move on Darren Turner in the number 007 Aston Martin on the Grand Prix circuit as Tandy continues to lead out front, despite a spin as a result of contact with a slower car.
Top five end of Hour 15:
- Nick Tandy #912 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R
- Adam Christodoulou #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3
- Christopher Mies #1 Audi Sport Team Land R8 LMS GT3
- Darren Turner #007 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3
- Thomas Jäger #5 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3
20 hours complete. 4 hours remaining. 123 laps on the board.
As the race headed into its eighteenth hour, proceedings turned into a game of cat and mouse between the front runners. Adam Christodoulou assumed the lead aboard the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes following a spin for the number 912 Manthey Racing Porsche of Nick Tandy who eventually recovered, though not without losing a wad of time.
When Christodoulou’s co-driver, Dirk Müeller took over the number 4 AMG, the German driver managed to maintain the top spot out front for a handful of laps with the lead changing multiple times in the fluctuating pit stop sequence.
The race passed through a critical phase as the track began to dry rapidly thanks to a cease in rain. Aston Martin Racing were the first to blink, bringing their fourth placed Marco Sørensen-driven number 007 Vantage GT3 into the pits to change over to slick tyres around the Lap 110 mark. Sørensen initially appeared slower than those still on wets once he was back out on track, but the Dane eventually gained speed, with Land also bringing the number 1 Audi in to bolt on slicks a lap later.
Race leader, Müeller, pitted the Black Falcon AMG on Lap 112, leaving Patrick Pilet in the Manthey Porsche to return to the front as strategy became key in maximising your every move.
With under six hours on the clock, drama struck the Land Audi camp. Kelvin van der Linde, who was behind the wheel of the number 1 car, had an unusual moment at Hohe Acht, tagging the wall and coming to rest not much further up the road. In the garage, the team watched on in horror, hearts in mouths, as any chance of a repeat N24 win was ripped from their grasp. Van der Linde was stuck, the car not moving as the South African cycled through the gears trying to drive from wet grass and mud in which he was seemingly trapped.
After what seemed like eternity, van der Linde eventually managed to coax and crawl his Audi from the mud and back onto the race track as he began the agonisingly long journey back to the pits.
Once the Audi arrived back on the pit apron, the full extent of the damage was evident, especially on the left rear corner of the car where a puncture had shredded through the body-work. The team immediately went to work, pushing the battered machine into the garage on the dolly-jacks as every member of Land Motorsport frantically did what they could to repair the damage.
After being replaced in the car by Rene Rast, a distraught van der Linde watched on with his fellow co-drivers as the Land mechanics performed a miracle to get the bruised and battered car back into the race in seventh, however, 3 laps down.
Heavy rain began to fall once again around the circuit with five hours to go as conditions quickly deteriorated, while at the same time, the 912 Manthey Porsche was slapped with a 3 minute stop and go penalty for a Code 60 violation earlier in the race. This left Maro Engel, who took over the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes from Müeller, comfortably out front, with Frederic Makowiecki staying at the wheel of the Manthey Porsche in his proceeding service stop.
Just as the hour came to a close, thick fog started to roll in through the Eifel mountains, blanketing the Nürburgring and lowering visibility to a bare-minimum.
Top three at the end of Hour 20:
- Maro Engel #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3
- Frederic Makowiecki #912 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R
- Maxime Martin #007 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3
Chequered flag. 135 laps completed.
In case you missed it: Nürburgring 24 Hours suspended due to fog
After a lengthy red-flag period due to fog, the race eventually got back underway with 1 hour 30 minutes left on the clock in what would be a tense and thrilling run to the flag.
Adam Christodoulou led the field back to green in treacherous and wet conditions aboard the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 ahead of Fred Makowiecki in the number 912 Manthey Racing Porsche who hooked onto the back of the AMG.
Arguably, the most intense moment of the race came on Lap 128 when Makowiecki capitalised on a mistake for Christodoulou exiting Tiergarten, with the two going head to head in the Turn 1-2 complex.
It was Makowiecki that emerged from the corner out front though, after contact between pair saw Christodoulou endure a half spin as the Porsche skipped off in the lead.
Two laps later, Christodoulou had another wild moment in the Black Falcon Mercedes when the Brit aquaplaned and bounced into the barriers Galgenkopf, though continued on in second place trailing Makowiecki by over ten seconds.
Just behind, a battle erupted for the final spot on the podium as Maxime Martin in the number 007 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 found a way by Hubert Haupt in the number 6 Black Falcon Mercedes on the Nordschleife, with Yelmer Buurman also getting past Haupt in the number 5 Black Falcon Mercedes.
Christodoulou appeared to be in fuel conservation mode for the final hour of the race, falling over 20 seconds behind race leader, Makowiecki – while Buurman sailed his way around the outside of Martin for third with 30 minutes to go.
The top five cars all dived into the pits on the start of the final lap in order to fill their cars with enough fuel to get to the end of the race. Everyone left the pits as they arrived, with Makowiecki setting off on what would be the final lap of the race with a 30 second advantage which balanced out after the stops.
In a contrast to the action of the final 90 minutes, Makowiecki enjoyed a comfortable run to the flag, earning the 2018 Nürburgring 24 Hours victory alongside number 912 Manthey Racing Porsche team mates Richard Lietz, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy. The win is Porsche’s first N24 success since 2011.
Christodoulou held onto second place in the number 4 Black Falcon Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 he shares with Maro Engel, Manuel Metzger and Dirk Müller, while Buurman rounded out the podium aboard the number 5 Black Falcon Mercedes of himself, Thomas Jäger, Jan Seyffarth and Luca Stolz.
Aston Martin Racing came home fourth with the number 007 entry of Martin, Marco Sørenson, Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner as Black Falcon made it three cars in the top six with its Haupt, Abdulasiz Al Faizal, Erik Johansson and Gabriele Piana-driven number 6 car coming home sixth.