Falken Motorsports took the win in the VLN Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS) 6-hour race, marking the first victory at the Nordschleife for both Sven Müller and Joel Eriksson, and the team’s fourth. The #3 Falken Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R had been at the front since the first laps but was gifted the win in the Rowe 6h ADAC Ruhr-Pokal-Rennen when the three leading cars all crashed in the same corner due to a cooling liquid spill.
It wasn’t long before Sven Müller showed himself at the front of the field. Starting from eighth on the grid, the Porsche works driver made a great getaway when the lights went green, quickly working his way forward and coming out of the first lap in fourth place. When the first pitstop window opened, he was already running seconds behind Philip Ellis in the leading #11 Schnitzelalm Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. Ellis had taken the lead at the start when he squeezed himself between the wall and the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 of Ben Tuck to grab first place. Tuck’s teammate Christian Krognes had once again showcased his Nordschleife expertise in qualifying with a pole lap of 7m51.330sec.
With some teams opting for earlier and consequently shorter first pitstops, the #3 Falken Porsche with Joel Eriksson at the wheel found itself back in fifth place for most of the second stint.
The order at the head of the field was turned upside down in the third hour. Ellis ended his double stint to make way for Miklas Born in the #11 Schnitzelalm Mercedes, who was followed by Andy Soucek – in the #34 Walkenhorst BMW – and the #16 Scherer Sport Team Phoenix of Kim-Luis Schramm. With his pursuers hot on his heels, the 20-year-old Swiss arrived at Adenauer Forst where moments before another car had crashed and left the scene leaking cooling liquid. Unaware of the slippery surface, the three cars followed each other off the track and hit the guardrail, terminally damaging the Mercedes and Audi. Soucek escaped with minor damage to the BMW M4 GT3, but was forced to reset the BMW’s system after it had gone into safety mode as the Spaniard fought to keep the car out of the wall costing him heaps of time.
Julien Apothéloz, who had also gone off at Adenauer Forst, inherited the lead in the #55 Landgraf Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3, but by then it was already clear that Sven Müller was on fire and coming for first place. Picking off first Vincent Kolb in the #5 Scherer Sport Team Phoenix Audi R8 LMS GT3 in the slipstream at Döttinger Höhe, the German overtook the Mercedes a lap later at Metzgesfeld.
From there on, Falken’s lead only grew. The team looked on its way to an impressive one-two win when the #4 Falken sister car of Alessio Picariello and Falken debutant Tim Heinemann – who had turned many heads in previous races with the KTM X-Bow GT2 – joined in the lead, until their Porsche eventually dropped out of contention with a puncture with under two hours to go.
Despite a massive 80-second lead, Sven Müller pushed the Porsche 991.2 GT3R to 43 laps at the chequered flag, one more than necessary as he crossed the finish line 40 seconds before the end of the 6 hours. Citing a love for the Nordschleife and feeling confident, Müller wasn’t going to let a slow, celebratory final lap ruin his chance for one more lap around the legendary circuit – so onward for another 24 kilometre to the flag he went before celebrating his and Joel Eriksson’s very first Nürburgring victory.
Second place ended up in the hands of Scherer Sport Team Phoenix’ Frank Stippler and Vincent Kolb after an hours-long battle with the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT3. Vying for second after the #4 Falken Porsche’s puncture, Nordschleife aces Stippler and Krognes fought tooth and nail as they traded places in the final two hours. Taking advantage of the slipstream at Döttinger Höhe, Stippler overtook Krognes with 17 minutes to go. Krognes could stick with Stippler, however, as in NLS4, a lower top speed for the BMW prevented Krognes from slipstreaming back past the Audi. A spin by the normally flawless Norwegian on the penultimate lap brought that fight to a definite conclusion in favour of the #5 Phoenix Audi and left Christian Krognes, Ben Tuck and Andy Soucek with a bittersweet third place.
A minute away from the podium, the #55 Landgraf Mercedes of Patrick Assenheimer, Julien Apothéloz and Luca-Sandro Trefz had their strong performance rewarded with fourth place, while the #7 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Michele Di Martino, Maximilian Hackländer and Yelmer Buurman finished in fifth place, 19 seconds behind the Landgraf trio. Buurman made a last-minute appearance to substitute for Axcil Jefferies, making NLS5 his first outing not at the wheel of a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in many years.
Three other last-minute entries finished a close sixth: DTM drivers Lucas Auer and Arjun Maini alongside the team’s GT World Challenge Europe driver Jordan Love were a late call-up for the #6 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 to gain some extra experience on the Nordschleife. They came up short in the fight with the Lamborghini line-up, but only just by 11 seconds and not for a lack of trying.
The ill-fated #4 Falken Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R of Alessio Picariello and Tim Heinemann eventually crossed the line in seventh place, ahead of the SP9/GT3 Pro-Am winning #23 Lionspeed by Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Dennis Fetzer, Leon Köhler and Lorenzo Rocco. Second place in the Pro-Am class went to the #25 Huber Motorsport Porsche 991.2 GT3R of Nico Menzel, ‘Enzo’ and Joachim Thyssen in tenth place overall. The Pro-Ams were split by the #120 Avia W&S Motorsport Porsche 992 GT3 Cup of Tim Scheerbarth, Daniel Blicke and David Jahn from the highly competitive Cup 2 class, who managed to squeeze in between the GT3s for a remarkable ninth place overall. Their Porsche Carrera Cup victory followed a frantic opening hour in which Scheerbarth battled Gabriele Piana (#104 Black Falcon), Tobias Müller (#102 Black Falcon Team Identica), Christopher Brück (#112 KKrämer Racing) and Fabio Grosse (#117 G-Tech Competition) for the lead.
NLS continues after the summer holidays with the 12 Hours of the Nürburgring on 9 to 11 September.
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