For the second year in a row Black Falcon was triumphant in the Rowe 6 Stunden ADAC Ruhr-Pokal. The #6 Black Falcon Team AutoArena Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel and Patrick Assenheimer edged out the Black Falcon sister car of Adam Christodoulou, Hubert Haupt and Luca Stolz for the win, bringing the AMG team a rare one-two victory in the longest VLN race of the year. The inter-team battle for the win was spiced up by Phoenix Racing’s veteran-junior combination of Frank Stippler and Vincent Kolb who joined the fight and completed the podium.
Black Falcon’s decisive victory was the result of a day of dominance that started under dreary weather conditions during qualifying. Maro Engel grabbed pole position with a lap of 9:38.917 which gave him an 8-second cushion over second-placed GetSpeed Performance, albeit helped by the increasing downpour that followed in the minutes after Engel set his quick lap.
When the lights went green on the still wet Eifel track for the 6-hour race, Engel again showed himself a master of the Nürburgring with an astonishing opening lap that set him many seconds apart from the fiercely battling trio of Fabian Schiller in the #23 GetSpeed Performance Rooster Rojo J2 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, Frank Stippler in the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 and Adam Christodoulou in the #16 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3. Christodoulou shook off his opponents on the second lap with a maneuver three-wide around the outside through the Mercedes-Benz Arena and set sail for Engel, leaving Stippler and Schiller to deal with #99 Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3 pilot Philipp Eng who had joined the fray.
That’s where the team dual began: Within the first hour, after the track had tried up sufficiently for slicks to become the tyre to run on, Christodoulou bridged the gap to his teammate. With the go-ahead from Black Falcon to bring the fight to Engel, Christodoulou made a successful attempt to take the lead. Engel returned the favour a few minutes later going into Antoniusbuche and side-by-side through Tiergarten, placing his AMG next to Christodoulou’s in a fight for centimetres in the high-speed section and retaking the lead as the battle raged on for the next few corners.
Finding his place amongst the two leaders shortly thereafter was Frank Stippler. The veteran Audi racer joined the AMGs after the one-hour mark, mixing it up at the front as he took the lead until the next round of pitstops.
Making use of a shorter minimum pitstop time, the #16 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Christodoulou went for the ‘undercut’ and dove into the pits a lap earlier, moving into the lead for the following stints.
While Luca Stolz and later Hubert Haupt took over from Christodoulou and stretched their legs at the head of the field, Vincent Kolb and Patrick Assenheimer and later their co-drivers Frank Stippler and Maro Engel duked it out for second place, exchanging the lead of the two-car mini train several times during their stints.
The undercut didn’t work out as planned for the #16 Black Falcon AMG, however: Under the now sunny sky, Engel retook the lead as he came in later for his last pitstop. Bringing the AutoArena AMG out of the pits far ahead of Christodoulou, Engel returned to the lead, upped the pace, and was never seen by the sister car until after taking the chequered flag in victory.
Phoenix Racing held off a late-race charge by Rowe Racing to keep the BMW M6 GT3 of Philipp Eng and Nick Catsburg to claim the third spot on the podium, helped by a time penalty for overtaking under yellow handed to the Rowe crew.
The top 5 was completed by the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Christian Krognes, David Pittard and Jody Fannin, the trio taking fifth place away from Klaus Bachler and Martin Ragginger’s #4 Falken Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R in the final laps.
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