BMW Juniors Dan Harper, Neil Verhagen and Max Hesse took their maiden win in the VLN Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS). In the fourth race of the season, the #44 BMW Junior Team BMW M6 GT3 stayed – mostly – out of trouble and overcame immense pressure from #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 drivers Frank Stippler and Vincent Kolb to celebrate victory in the 52. Adenauer ADAC Rundstrecken-Trophy.
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The win for the RMG-run BMW Junior Team came on a day when many top contenders hit trouble.
The polesitting #24 Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 went into the second stint still leading – courtesy of a stunningly fast opening stint by Patric Niederhauser who handed over the car to his Silver-rated teammate Patrick Kolb with such a gap he could stay ahead even of the early-stoppers. Axcil Jefferies, piloting the #7 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 alongside Michele Di Martino, needed almost a full lap to get past the Audi and take the lead as Patrick Kolb made optimal use of the traffic on his outlap. While the performance certainly was with the Lambo, luck was not: at the halfway mark, the Zimbabwean suffered a puncture, costing him the lead, four minutes of crawling back, and a proper shot at the win.
The Lamborghini’s trouble closely followed the retirement of the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of David Pittard, who was edging in on Jefferies only to have his gearbox go bust. The BMW crew had started the race from third place but fell victim to first-turn chaos with driver Ben Tuck falling down several positions but gambling on an earlier first pitstop to get back in contention for the lead.
And while all that happened, Max Hesse served a drive-through penalty in response to co-driver Neil Verhagen hitting and turning Nico Menzel’s #25 Huber Motorsport Porsche 991.2 GT3R into a spin while fighting for second place. The incident happened on the fourth lap of the race. Split by a slower car in the Mercedes-Arena, Verhagen missed the Porsche to his left and turned in on the young German. Despite the penalty, the BMW Junior Team lost little ground and going into the third hour Dan Harper made a daring overtake into Tiergarten – a popular but dangerous place for overtakes today – for the lead after a short battle with the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by Frank Stippler.
Both Stippler and Vincent Kolb – the latter entrusted with the final stint to take a shot at Harper for the win – put the Ulsterman under pressure in the final two stints. Although cracking, he didn’t break. A high-speed off-road excursion coming out of Galgenkopf while lapping a slower car nearly saw the BMW spinning or worse, but Harper safely returned onto the tarmac of Döttinger Höhe.
One final push by Kolb posed no threat as Harper remained in control until the chequered flag, crossing the finish line 2.5 seconds ahead of the Audi squad for the BMW Junior Team’s first victory.
Phoenix Racing’s second place was the result of a good and clean race going from eight on the grid to first for a few moments and finishing a strong second. Most remarkable was the courageous choice by Phoenix Racing to allow junior driver Vincent Kolb – who has been making noticeable progress since first joining the programme three years ago – to finish the race in favour of Nordschleife veteran Stippler.
Having gotten caught up in a first-turn melee an dropping to the back of the first starting group, the #2 GetSpeed Performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 rocketed back to third place at the finish but as drivers Jakub Giermaziak and Frank Kechele were penalised 5 minutes post-race for a yellow flag infringement, the yellow Mercedes was relegated to sixth leaving the high-paced Saturday of the Polish-German duo unrewarded.
After losing a tremendous amount of time halfway into the race due to a puncture while leading, Konrad Motorsport could send Axcil Jefferies and Michele Di Martino up to the podium. However, with its performance in mind, third place is nothing but a consolation prize for the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 squad.
Fourth place went to Nordschleife debutants Dinamic Motorsport. The #12 Porsche 991.2 GT3R driven by ace pilot Michele Beretta and his Belgian co-driver Adrien De Leener were one of the big movers, bringing the Porsche home unscathed in the team’s first NLS race.
As always, the #25 Huber Motorsport Porsche 991.2 GT3R was an early top contender with Nico Menzel at the wheel of the Pro-Am entry car for the first stint. After Am drivers Johannes Stengel and Stefan Aust had finished the remaining three stints, the team crossed the line fifth overall and beat the #24 Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 to SP9/GT3 Pro-Am victory.
The #24 Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 started the day from pole position and with Patric Niederhauser leaving a six-car group far behind. The gap, in fact, was so large, Car Collection sent co-driver Patrick Kolb back out even ahead of early-stoppers. Patrick Kolb’s own pace allowed the team to retake the lead after the Konrad and Walkenhorst teams hit trouble making it seem as though the Audi team was racing to Pro-Am class victory. Unfortunately, a car that refused to immediately fire up after its second pitstop and a forced repair of its diffusor with two laps to go, kept Patric Niederhauser, Patrick Kolb, Lorenzo Rocco and Milan Dontje from taking a class win, finishing seventh overall and second in class.
Eight went to the #35 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 ‘junior car’ of Jörg Müller, Mario von Bohlen and Thomas Neubauer, ninth to SP9/GT3 Am winners Janine Shoffner and Moritz Kranz in the #9 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG GT3, and the top ten was rounded out by the #22 WTM Powered by Phoenix Ferrari 488 GT3 of father and son duo Georg and Leonard Weiss and Jochen Krumbach.
Next for the Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie is the NLS5+6 double header on 10-11 July.
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