BMW continued its supremacy at the Nürburgring with victory in the first race of the ADAC 24h Nürburgring Qualifiers and a should-have-been win in the second. While the BMW Junior Team took the top honours in the Saturday evening race, the youngsters were first to cross the finish line on Sunday as well, but a penalty handed Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed the win in a much-needed boost for the Mercedes-AMG brand.
Two weeks on from their pole-to-victory in NLS3, Rowe Racing was back on pole position for the race into the night. Philipp Eng, at the wheel of the #99 BMW M4 GT3, took the green from the lead but saw BMW Junior Neil Verhagen nip just ahead of him in the run down to the first turn. However, as the Austrian defended the inside line going into of the hairpin, Eng held on to the lead as the field cautiously snaked through the tight right-left corners of the Nürburgring’s ‘24 Hours’ configuration.
An earlier first pitstop give Jonathan Hirschi in the #26 Octane126 Ferrari 488 GT3 the lead after the first pitstops, but with Nick Yelloly in the #99 Rowe Racing BMW M4 GT3 and Dan Harper in the #72 BMW Junior Team M4 GT3 hot on his heels, the Ferrari pilot was soon passed in the draft going from Flugplatz to Aremberg. Close enough going onto Döttinger Höhe at the end of the lap, Harper slipstreamed past Yelloly as well to take the lead and never let it go. Max Hesse, who lost the win in NLS3 in the final minutes, this time stood his ground in the third stint to drive home victory for the BMW Junior Team.
For a little while it seemed like the #3 Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed could make a hit by climbing from 15th on the grid all the way to second in the middle stint, however, a pitstop infringement cost the team a 38-second penalty and dropped it down to eighth place at the finish. Their revenge would come the next day.
GetSpeed’s pain was softened somewhat by the result of the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed. Without any fanfare, the second of the striking pink BWT Mercedes-AMG GT3 was piloted to third place by Jules Gounon, Maro Engel and Daniel Juncadella, finishing behind the #99 Rowe Racing BMW of Philipp Eng, Nick Yelloly and Augusto Farfus. The chequered flag couldn’t have come out any later for Gounon, as Sheldon van der Linde was rapidly closed in on the Mercedes-AMG, the #98 Rowe BMW missing out on a podium finish by just eight tenths.
Fifth place went to the #16 Scherer Sport Team Phoenix Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Jakub Giermaziak, Kim Luis Schramm and Markus Winkelhock. Giermaziak, like Van der Linde, jumped up a few places when a sudden and short rain shower close to the end of the race gave drivers going down the hill to Breidscheid a good scare. Amongst the victims were the fourth and fifth-placed Audis from Audi Sport Team Car Collection and Audi Sport Team Phoenix driven by respectively Patric Niederhauser and Fred Vervisch. The duo, running nose to tail, misjudged the wet surface at Wehrseifen and slid into the guardrail at the Nürburgring’s lowest point. An on-track overtake on Björn Grossemann in the Octane126 Ferrari with 15 minutes to go brought Giermaziak into the top five.
Yet again it was BMW topping the charts in qualifying as Christian Krognes squeezed an 8m08.566s out of the #101 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT3. Having led the opening stint, Walkenhorst fell down the order after the first pitstops when Sami-Matti Trogen caught a puncture.
Different pitstop strategies brought the two Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed cars to the lead in the second hour, but it was the #71 BMW Junior Team that emerged in the lead at the start of the final hour. Slowly moving away from the two pink AMGs, Hesse looked like he was going to make it two for two until the announcement came that the Juniors would be slapped with a 40-second penalty for speeding in a Code 60 Zone. At the line, the gap of 15 seconds was not enough to be classified the winner, handing the gold to Adam Christodoulou, Maximilian Götz and Fabian Schiller in the #3 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG.
A one-two victory by then was already off the table. Racing to keep up with Götz, Jules Gounon ran too wide exiting Breidscheid and hit the wall, damaging the #4 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG. That meant that the BMW Juniors had enough of an advantage to the #24 Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorport Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Patrick Kolb, Mattia Drudi and Christopher Mies to keep second place. The late dash of Mies got the #24 Audi close to the BMW in the final standings, but despite a personal best lap and a tow on Döttinger Höhe from teammate Christopher Haase – who gave up third place by helping his fellow Audi works driver – in the #22 Audi Sport Team Car Collection, Mies came only 1.6 seconds short for second.
Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in the #18 KCMG Porsche 991.2 GT3R rounded out the top five.
While on track the event was a success, the weekend ended in tragedy. At Pflanzgarten, a marshal lost his life due to racing-unrelated causes. GT REPORT extends its condolences to the marshal’s friends, family and colleagues.
The 24 Hours of the Nürburgring kicks off on Wednesday 25 May with the Adenauer Race Day, followed by first practice on Thursday and the start of the race on Saturday.
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