Not since his career-changing victory in the 2016 24 Hours of the Nürburgring had Manuel Metzger returned to the top-step of the podium at the Nürburgring. His fourth Nordschleife win had eluded him for over two years. Until last weekend’s Rowe 6 Stunden ADAC Ruhr-Pokal-Rennen, that is, when the Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 racer took the win after effectively leading from start to finish.
“After we finished second twice this year, it was a bit of a relief to take the win,” says Manuel Metzger of his return to winning form.
“And, to be honest, it’s always a good feeling to beat Rowe at their home race, especially with the strong line-up they had with Philipp Eng and Tom Blomqvist. I know Philipp quite well since we drove here together, so it felt special to race against him in a different car and fighting for P1. It was quite fun.”
Despite the BMW squad having the upperhand in race pace, Metzger says, Black Falcon had luck with them today: The Code 60s, the traffic, no significant issues with the AMG—everything worked to their advantage. Add a superb quartet of drivers and world-class crew, and it’s a recipe for success.
“The car also handled quite well all throughout the race, we didn’t have any big problems with the tyres or anything. We did have some small issues: we had to change the steering wheel after Adam’s two stints because we had some strange behaviour on the upshifts. At the pitstop when I went in we changed the steering wheel and the problem was solved. And we also had a little issue with the rear arch roll bar which caused a bit more understeer, but our engineer Renaud Dufour made some set-up changes so it didn’t compromise our speed.
“The drivers also did a great job: there were no mistakes, no penalties. We got lucky with Adam’s Code 60 moment at the end of Döttinger Höhe. It could’ve ended really badly, but he made the best out of it by keeping the car on the track and letting the Porsche by again to not get a penalty. I think it was smart.”
It was a controversial moment during the race where Christodoulou, in the second hour of the race, overtook a slowing Porsche Cayman at the Hohenrain-Chicane.
Metzger explains: “I was at the engineer’s stand when it happened. The engineer saw on tv that there was a crash and Code 60 in the chicane and told Adam on the Döttinger straight. So, he knew. The problem was, I think, that there was a yellow flag and shortly after the single yellow flag the Porsche was already doing 60. Adam saw him too late and didn’t realise he was going that slow because there was a single yellow.
“Honestly, you try to go as fast as possible, always try to go 60 just at the Code 60 board, trying to carry as much speed into it—like everyone else does. I don’t know if there was a single or double yellow at the marshal’s post right underneath the tv camera. Regardless, the Cayman was going too slow in a single yellow where he should’ve at least done 120 if there was a double yellow.
“The stewards accepted the explanation, also because he let the Porsche go by again and didn’t gain an advantage to Philipp Eng—Philipp had the same problem trying to stop the car so he was also surprised.”
Nearing the halfway point, Blomqvist took the BMW out for his stint. It didn’t go as planned for the young Englishman: on his second lap he returned to the pits with a puncture. The win wasn’t all gone yet, but with the change in pit sequence, all depended on the distance the race would go. It was the task of Metzger to push the race well over the 1,000 kilometre mark.
“We weren’t quite sure yet if we were going to win until the last hour,” the 2011 VLN champion continues.
“When I jumped into the car for the last stint, Renaud Dufour told me I had to push because we didn’t know what the BMW would do at the end and how long the race will be. It was a matter of the race going for 41 or 42 laps. If it was just 41 laps they could’ve made it without a last pitstop, so we knew we had to push—we couldn’t cruise.
“I went out and went flat-out in the last stint until they pitted and I could slow down a bit.”
From there on, Metzger could drive it home for his first Nürburgring win in over two years.
“I’ve never done the final stint when we won a race—it was quite a special stint. The last lap was cool because when the marshals know the race is over they start waving at you and giving the thumbs up from Brünnchen onward which is quite cool to see. To finish a race as a winner and get the congratulations from the team, see the guys wave from the pit wall—I’ve never done that before, I enjoyed it a lot.
“It was also special to get the trust from the team. Normally, I should’ve done the third stint and my race would’ve been over, but they shortened the stint by two laps for strategic reasons. That left a longer last stint which normally Gabriele Piana would’ve done: the plan was for him to do the last two or three laps. Because we adapted a different strategy, the last stint was longer and the team gave it to me. I don’t know why—Piana also could’ve brought it home as his speed was also very good and he was on pace. For some reason they put their trust in me and I’m happy for it.”
For VLN6, Metzger will be back in the Black Falcon Team TMD Friction Porsche 991 GT3 Cup MR. Competing in the class once dominated by Metzger and Black Falcon, he’ll go for the team’s maiden SP7 win of the season.
“I’ll do the next race in the SP7 Porsche again. I was supposed to race it last week as well, but on Friday it unfortunately had a crash. It wasn’t a big crash but we missed a part so the team couldn’t rebuild the car overnight.
“And then I’ll do one or two races again with the AMG. In VLN7 I will be back with the AMG and hopefully one more race.”