It was a famous and historic victory for the #30 Frikadelli Racing Team Ferrari 296 GT3 driven by Earl Bamber, Nick Catsburg, David Pittard and Felipe Fernández Laser 21 years after the last non-German winner of the Nurburgring 24hrs.
Making the race look easy and with just one unscheduled stop to fix a puncture, the pace of the Ferrari and the discipline of the team to avoid penalties saw them also beat the distance record logging 162 laps around the 25-kilometre track.
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Following the Ferrari home was the #98 Rowe Racing BMW M4 GT3 of Dries Vanthoor, Marco Wittmann, Sheldon van der Linde and Maxime Martin who had an equally remarkable race having started from 33rd place on the grid.
Third place placed was the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Bilstein Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Raffaele Marciello, Luca Stolz, Philip Ellis and Edoardo Mortara who started from pole position but faced difficulties early on including a penalty for a pit lane infringement.
Raffaele Marciello started the #4 Bilstein Mercedes-AMG GT3 from pole position with Maro Engel driving the #3 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG in second place. At the start it was David Pittard showing his intent from fourth place on the grid attempting to outbrake the front 2 into turn one. His effort got him briefly into P2 but Marco Mapelli in the #27 Abt Sportsline Lamborghini Huracán GT3 pushed back to take second ahead of Pittard and pushing Engel back to fourth place.
The battle for the lead was fierce as the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3, driven by Marciello, Stolz, Ellis, and Mortara, fought to maintain their position against the determined Mapelli in the #27 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2. Lap after lap, the drivers pushed their limits, trading blows, but Marciello held on. And as the first lap came to an end, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 led the pack, closely followed by the Lamborghini and the #30 Ferrari 296 GT3 of Pittard.
After 25 minutes Mapelli made his move on the leader and made his way past the #4 Mercedes of Raffaele Marciello.
Despite pulling away early on, Mapelli was caught through the Stefan Bellof S and Marciello certainly made his presence clear to the leading Lamborghini. Behind the pair fighting at the front, David Pittard was close behind waiting for his own opportunity.
As the three headed down the Dottinger Hohe, the Lamborghini was able to stretch its legs and pulled away from Marciello who had Pittard snapping at his heels.
Maro Engel made his move on Marciello at Flugplatz to take P3. Held up by a back marker Engel took his chance and cleared the Mercedes allowing him to chase after the Ferrari of Pittard and Lamborghini of Mapelli, both of which had pulled out a 3.5 second lead of third place.
However once the Ferrari hit the front of the pack it never really looked back and apart from a slight wobble 4 hours in when a puncture looked to upset the carefully planned race strategy. The team were quick to recover and luck was with them, the puncture occurring close to the pit lane meaning a minimum of time was lost. An exceptional double stint from Earl Bamber late in the night saw him pull out a gap of nearly 2 minutes on the chasing pack.
The mid-section of the race saw the Frikadelli Ferrari changing places with the #2 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Adam Christodoulou, Maximilian Götz and Fabian Schiller. At one point it looked like they would be vying for the win at the end but late on the Mercedes seemed to fade away to come home in fourth place after a long battle between Schiller and Luca Stolz in the #4 Bilstein Mercedes. Stolz took his chance late on in the race executing a perfectly timed overtake at the Dunlop Kurve to cement third place.
The second place #98 BMW fought hard from the start coming from 33rd on the grid. After 6 hours team boss Hans-Peter Naundorf acknowledged the challenges they had overcome, acknowledging, “We’re still here – others haven’t made it this far.” The team’s strategy focused on avoiding the worst obstacles while maintaining a competitive pace, hopeful for a successful outcome.
The #98 team focused on a strategic approach, prioritizing safety and clean driving to navigate through the challenges. Marco Wittmann emphasized their intention to avoid unnecessary risks, considering it too early in the race to take aggressive actions. Nonetheless, their well-executed strategy allowed them to secure a competitive position
In the final hour, the #98 Rowe Racing BMW was the final car of the leaders to pit with 46 minutes remaining but a shorter stop than that taken by the leading #30 Frikadelli Ferrari. Dries Vanthoor climbed aboard the BMW and set about chasing down the Ferrari.
With questions about whether the Ferrari would need a final splash and dash, Vanthoor completed his out lap 58 seconds behind Pittard. With 7 seconds lost by the Ferrari in a slow zone on the GP look which was cleared by the time the BMW arrived, it was still all to do for Vanthoor.
It was to prove too large a mountain for the Belgian to conquer and Pittard in the Ferrari was able to comfortably control the pace finishing the race with a 27-second lead.
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