Kuba Giermaziak and René Rast took victory in NLS4 with the #16 Scherer Sport Team Phoenix Audi R8 LMS GT3 putting in place a pit stop strategy that at the final stops cut the lead of the dominant #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 from 22 seconds to just half a second. For both Giermaziak and Rast it was their first VLN Nürburgring Endurance Series race win.
At the start of the 45. RCM DMV Grenzlandrennen, pole sitter Christian Krognes in the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 was slow away and found himself swamped in the run down to turn 1 and quickly found himself down to fourth place. Second place starter Frank Stippler in the #5 Scherer Sport Team Phoenix Audi R8 LMS GT3 faired better and took the lead with Luca Stolz in the #6 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 taking second and Kuba Giermaziak following behind.
At the the start of the second lap, Stolz challenged Stippler into turn 1 and the pair fought all the way round to the cut through where Stolz with the inside line took the lead. Behind the front pair, Krognes got past Giermaziak on lap 3 whilst further back Ben Tuck in the #35 Walkenhorst BMW had been circulating in fifth but dropped behind the #55 Landgraf Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Julien Apothéloz.
Stippler retook the lead a lap later as the top 3 started to break away whilst Giermaziak fell back a little in fourth place.
As the first hour ticked by, the Pole was the first of the leading group to stop along with Krognes in the BMW. Giermaziak stayed in the car to complete a second stint whilst Krognes handed over to Finnish driver Sami-Matti Trogen. At the end of lap 7, the leaders stopped and Stippler handed over to Kolb. Stolz continued for a second stint and Patrick Assenheimer took over from Apothéloz in the Langraf Mercedes.
The early pit stops worked out well for #34 Walkenhorst BMW of Trogen which leapt up the order from third to first with the time gained due to a shorter stop. Giermaziak in the #16 Scherer Sport Team Phoenix jumped up to second place, then took the lead from Trogen on the following lap. Stolz was down to third and Vincent Kolb was in fourth, followed by Assenheimer in fifth place.
Giermaziak was pushing hard to get away from Trogen and was building up a solid lead on the Finn. Behind Trogen, Stolz was also flying and was catching the second-placed BMW by around 5 seconds a lap when a Code 60 intervened. Giermaziak and Trogen had passed through Schwalbenschwanz just as the #112 KKrämer Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup came to a halt and brought out a Code 60 covering Brünnchen to Schwalbenschwanz.
Stolz was caught along with Assenheimer and Kolb and as a result lost 19 seconds to Trogen leaving the front pair over half a minute ahead with Giermaziak continuing to stretch his lead.
At the halfway mark, Christian Krognes took over the lead of the race pulling out a 22 second lead over René Rast who had taken over from Giermaziak in the #16 Audi. Hubert Haupt took over from Stolz in the #6 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 and returned to the track in third, some 30 seconds behind Rast. Early race leader Frank Stippler was back out in the #5 Scherer Sport Team Phoenix Audi but down in fourth over a minute behind the leader.
The big loser in the half way pit stops was the #55 Langraf Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 which left the pit lane 7 seconds ahead of time resulting in a penalty for driver Luca-Sandro Trefz.
On the twentieth lap, the first major retirement occurred when the #6 Haupt Racing Mercedes came to a stop from third place along the Döttinger Höhe. What appeared to be just a flat rear left tyre saw team owner Hubert Haupt choose to stop the car and neatly reverse it behind the barrier before changing his mind and making his way to the pit lane under escort of an intervention vehicle.
In the final hour, the momentum seemed to be with the #34 Walkenhorst BMW of Christian Krognes who had a strong lead over second-placed René Rast who appeared to be suffering with pace. However, with the final pit stops out of the way, Krognes and Rast were suddenly together and with 40 minutes remaining and with fresher tyres on the Audi, Krognes would have a fight on his hands.
The BMW seemed to have the legs on the Audi but along the Döttinger Höhe, Rast crept up behind Krognes and was able to slipstream past the Walkenhorst car. Krognes fought back on the Grand Prix loop but Rast wasn’t giving up any track which saw Krognes putting two wheels into the gravel on the exit of the Warsteiner Kurve as he attempted to take the long way around the Audi.
For the remaining laps, the BMW seemed stronger through the GP loop and up to Hatzenbach, but on the rest of the lap the Audi would pull ahead and with back markers also coming into play, Krognes found himself dropping back from Rast.
In the final couple of laps, Krognes had dropped a little way behind Rast and barring the intervention of backmarkers or mechanical failure, the result seemed to be settled.
The final podium spot went to the second Scherer Sport Team Phoenix car, the #5 of Frank Stippler and Vincent Kolb which had led the race early on. Patrick Assenheimer brought the Langraf Motorsport Mercedes home in P4 ahead of the #11 and #2 Schnitzelalm Racing Mecedes-AMG GT3.
NLS continues on 9 July with the Rowe 6 Stunden ADAC Ruhr-Pokal-Rennen before going on a summer break until September.
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