With the first half of the race out of the way, we caught up with a number of drivers in the paddock, including Maro Engel, Daniel Juncadella and Konrad Motorsport’s Matias Henkola and Michele Di Martino.
A strong first half of the race has seen the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Engel, Adam Christodoulou, Manuel Metzger and Dirk Müller climb to the lead of the race. GT REPORT talked with Maro, who could barely give us his full attention while simultaneously watching the exciting challenge his team-mate, Metzger, brought to the leading Manthey Porsche, moments before the 2016 winner took the lead with a daring manoeuvre into Wehrseifen.
“Now it’s really wet as you can see on the onboards,” says Engel. “It was tough to do that lap on slicks in the wet when the rain started coming down – it’s never nice on the Nordschleife.
“I seem to have a season ticket for that because last year it rained at the end and I was on slicks in the finish and even in 2016 when it rained in the beginning I was also out there on slicks. It’s tough, so I’m really happy just to have brought the car back without any scratches.
“We’re obviously there up front, the team has done a great job and my team mates and us drivers kept the car clean, so that’s the aim, to keep it like that. There’s still a long way to go.
“I feel like we’re not very lucky with the yellows; there was a few areas where we had a Code 60 and I could see they were removing it just behind me and you’re like, ‘ah, god damn’ because you know the guys behind are going to gain 15 or 20 seconds on you just for that one occasion. What come around goes around I guess, so hopefully over the rest of the race it equals out.”
Daniel Juncadella also spoke to GT REPORT before he got aboard the number 47 Mann Filter Mercedes in the tricky wet conditions, with the car sitting third in the order at the end of the 12th hour.
“Rain and night is a bit of an in-experience for me together, I’ve never had it before so I will take care in the beginning and see how the track is,” Juncadella said before he got behind the wheel.
“There’s too many hours in the race to go, but we will try to have fun. A sick track, with sick weather is an exciting combination so I’m ready for the challenge. We are going very well, but everything can change with the rain and strategy so we have to see what happens and where we are once the rain comes. We are fighting for the win so that’s the goal.”
Meanwhile, in the Konrad Motorsports garage, an engine issue has seen the demise of Michele Di Martino, Christopher Brüeck and Matias Henkola-driven Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
“Seems like we have a problem with the engine,” said a sorrowful Henkola. “We don’t know what it is, but definitely the engine won’t turn so it’s game over for us, unfortunately. The race was quite hard because we had to start from P50 I think after we got a penalty which dropped us down the grid before the start.
“We had already worked ourselves up to P17, so the pace was really good up, especially, I’m really happy with Michele.
“I struggled with the pace because I don’t have much experience in that car and in the middle of a 24 hour race it’s hard to kind of find the extra second here and there. At this time, it was what it was, but Michele had a really good race.”
“For me, I’m really sad that the engine has stopped after nine hours, we had a failure on the engine,” added Di Martino, who enjoyed an incredible stint behind the wheel of the Konrad Lamborghini, racing his way up the field following the penalty which set them back at the start of the race.
“What can I say, I’m an optimistic guy and it was a lot of fun to fight with the top guys and I saw our pace was really good, but that’s motorsport. It was not easy, but I could follow the top guys really good – I think the performance was there but we were just on the wrong side of the starting grid.”
Miguel Bosch contributed to this report.