BMW Juniors Dan Harper, Neil Verhagen and Max Hesse have taken their second straight win in the VLN Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS) in a matter of two weeks. The trio, piloting the #44 BMW Junior Team BMW M6 GT3, took the overall lead after just thirty minutes into the 4-hour race to take this year’s 61. ADAC Reinoldus-Langstreckenrennen.
At the start of the race it was the pole-sitting #7 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo of Jakub Giermaziak – sharing the car with Michele Di Martino – which opened up a sizable gap between its competitors, however the car suffering an unfortunate tire puncture before reaching Kallenhard just thirty minutes into the race. Giermaziak was able to bring the car successfully into the pits albeit losing plenty of time and placing themselves out of contention.
While BMW Junior Max Hesse took the lead, just behind were the #3 and #4 Falken Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R, the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3, and the #6 Haupt Racing Team Bilstein Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo all battling for the lead before the first pit stops got underway.
The GT3 field saw itself catch traffic relatively quickly and cars began to spread out, but bad luck struck some just before the completion of the first hour. René Streurer in the #40 Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 lost control of his vehicle after suffering slight contact with the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 and colliding with the barrier, having come to a stop around Pflanzgarten and eventually retiring from the race just five laps into the event. The Walkenhorst BMW carried on without troubles.
The second hour went by with no major incidents reported, with pit stop sequences changing up the front of the field. Assuming the lead after having been one of the first to come in was the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW with Christian Krognes double stinting, managing to open a gap of almost 20 seconds ahead of the #4 Falken Motorsport Porsche of Martin Ragginger. The top six cars however all remained within a minute of each other.
An intense battle for second brewed between the #44 BMW Junior Team BMW M6 GT3 and the #4 Falken Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R, with Ragginger giving it his all to get past the speedy BMW of Harper, but just as the second hour came to a close, the Austrian was not able to complete the overtake and came in to the pits to hand the car over to teammate Picariello.
More bad luck struck the #7 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo, with the car having come to a full stop at the entrance of Döttinger Höhe.
Once the third hour began it was the #44 BMW Junior Team BMW M6 GT3 that lead the way, opening up a gap of 12 seconds ahead of the #4 Falken Porsche and 58 seconds ahead of both the #6 Haupt Racing Team Bilstein Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Hubert Haupt and the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Vincent Kolb. The latter two battling out neck and neck before coming into the pits at the same time.
As for the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, which came in to pits leading, it fell back to seventh after returning to the track.
Mid-way through the third hour however saw major changes in the field, as teams began to implement sophisticated race winning tactics and executing another round of pit stops. The battle between the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi and the #6 HRT Mercedes got more serious after Audi ace Frank Stippler took over the drivers seat and overtook Adam Christodoulou when exiting the pits. Both drivers returned to the track at the same time however, forcing Stippler to defend his position against the Mercedes works driver in a defensive way. Ben Tuck in the #34 BMW M6 GT3 began to carve heavily through the field as well, eventually taking over the lead yet again as the rest of the front runners came in. The #34 car however finding itself just 6 seconds ahead of the #44 BMW Junior Team.
Just as the last hour began, Walkenhorst Motorsport brought Ben Tuck in and David Pittard assumed driving duties to bring the #34 car home, while the #44 BMW Junior Team carried on and took over the lead, stretching its fuel run.
After teams finished their last round of pit stops, BMW Junior Neil Verhagen saw himself still leading the race overall, thanks to its short minimum pit stop time. Just behind the leading BMW was the #4 Falken Motorsports Porsche of Martin Ragginger, the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi of Vincent Kolb, the #6 HRT Mercedes of Adam Christodoulou, and the #34 Walkenhorst BMW of David Pittard.
But drama unfolded with less than half an hour to go, with the second-placed Martin Ragginger suffering heavy contact with a slower car at Brünnchen and retiring from the race. Minutes later it was David Pittard who was hit with bad luck, with the second place BMW suffering a rear right tyre puncture, albeit inside the Grand Prix circuit. Pittard was able to bring the car into the pits without issues but lost precious time and positions, returning to track in fifth place overall.
As race proceedings came to a close, it was the #44 BMW Junior Team BMW M6 GT3 of Dan Harper, Neil Verhagen and Max Hesse who crossed the finish line in first, over a minute ahead of the second-placed #6 Haupt Racing Team Bilstein Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Patrick Assenheimer, Hubert Haupt and Adam Christodoulou. Rounding out the podium was the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Frank Stippler and Vincent Kolb, which finished five seconds behind the HRT Mercedes after Christodoulou successfully made a late pass on Kolb for the silver. The #3 Falken Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R of Dennis Olsen and Tobias Müller came in fourth, while the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW of David Pittard, Ben Tuck, and Christian Krognes claimed fifth.
Tune in tomorrow for race 6 of the VLN Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS), scheduled for Sunday at 11:15 CEST for the start of the 44. RCM DMV Grenzlandrennen. Qualifying starts at 8:20 CEST and can be watched via our German language stream.
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