Rarely was a VLN race as exciting all the way to the end as last weekend’s VLN4. In a three-way battle for victory between the #6 Black Falcon Team AutoArena Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3, #2 GetSpeed Performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 and #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, it was the Black Falcon team with drivers Manuel Metzger and Patrick Assenheimer claiming the win on the final lap.
On the back of a strong but misfortunate Nürburgring 24 Hours for Black Falcon, the win came as a relief for Metzger, whose Mercedes-AMG GT3 retired from the lead during the night while Assenheimer—in hindsight—was looking to win the race when his car also retired after an accident hours before the end.
“Any race win on the Nordschleife feels great, but after our misfortune in the 24-hour race it feels even better to get rehabilitated from what happened four weeks ago. I’m quite happy that we could bring the win home for Black Falcon and especially for Patrick, because they were also on their way to a very good result at the 24-hour race and unfortunately crashed out as well at the end.”
To take the 50. Adenauer ADAC Rundstrecken-Trophy, Metzger first had to deal with Philip Ellis. The #2 GetSpeed Performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver saw teammate Marek Böckmann take the lead in the second stint and wasn’t going to give up easily.
“When I left the pits, I was in P2 and hoping we could jump them at the pitstop; we didn’t, there was a gap of 2 or 3 seconds when I left the pits. I caught up quite quickly and was hoping for a clean Döttinger Höhe to pass him on the first lap, but unfortunately for 3 laps there was a Code 60 so I had no chance. He did a great job, driving very well and the car was quick, so I had no chance to come closer than like two or three car lengths.
“Because of running that close I ruined my front tyres a bit. I was pushing to stay really, really close to force some mistakes, but unfortunately, he didn’t make any. I ruined my tyres a bit and was fighting the understeer.”
Three laps later the Code 60 at the high-speed Döttinger Höhe straight was lifted and Metzger set his plan in motion, drafting out of Galgenkopf and onto the straight for an overtake down into Tiergarten where both Mercedes-AMGs touched.
“I was a bit surprised that we touched because I thought I left enough space, but I think because it’s so bumpy there he kind of jumped into me. Luckily nothing happened; it was just a bump, it felt rougher from the inside than it looks from the outside on the video so at first I was a bit shocked. When I saw the footage afterwards, I think it was fine and legit to fight there so for me it is no problem.
“After I passed him, I could pull somewhat of a gap but some laps later I was a bit unfortunate in traffic on the Nordschleife and he got close again. When I again had traffic in the Veedol chicane he had a better run out of it. I took the inside line while he went outside going two-wide into Coca Cola and T13. As I had the inside, I had the shorter way and ran a bit wide to make clear it was my corner.”
With this move, Metzger consolidated his position as race leader.
Behind him Ellis and Christian Krognes in the Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 where eager to get in front during the final laps. As time was running out, however, one by one the leaders dove into the pits for a short splash-and-dash.
Counting on a two-stop race, Black Falcon was the last one to blink, calling Metzger in on the penultimate lap for a third, fuel-only pitstop.
That strategy, along with an excellent drive by Patrick Assenheimer to keep pace with the full-pro drivers leading the race, was key to the victory, Metzger says.
“We had the advantage of the pit stop. They stopped after 6 laps in the first stint; I don’t think that was the plan of the team because we thought if the race is shortened by half an hour, it could happen that with some rain or Code 60s it would be a slow race of 23 laps which makes it possible to do just two pitstops. It was our guess that could happen; therefore, we extended all the stints and didn’t do an undercut.
“The pace of Patrick was also a bit key for the victory. He lost one or two positions at the start but gained them back with a very consistent and quick pace. To have the right strategy and to have him perform like he did, was the key. He out-performed Böckmann and Jody Fannin in the Walkenhorst car, especially in the second stint to create this gap and bring me into the position to overtake the GetSpeed car on the track and make sure they cannot gain any time back.
“I think that was the key and was overall a great result for us. I’m very happy for the team and everyone at Black Falcon and Patrick to have this victory and looking forward to more races this year on the Nordschleife.”
While VLN hosts its longest race of season in three weeks, Metzger won’t be there to defend his victory from last year. Instead, the Black Falcon pilot teams up with Récardo Bruins in the Solite Indigo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia round at Korea International Circuit.
“I’m supporting my Dutch-Korean friend Récardo, he’s fighting for the title there just 6 points behind, so I’m looking forward to supporting him in South Korea and to hopefully go for the title.”