Just as the 52nd edition of the ADAC RAVENOL 24h of Nürburgring commenced, the heavens opened, dousing the Nordschleife in rain. The changing weather conditions led to a variety of tyre strategies among the teams, ranging from slicks to rain tyres, which created a dynamic and unpredictable start to the race.

Kevin Estre, piloting the #911 Manthey EMA Porsche 992 GT3 R, dominated the first hour, despite heavy pressure from Augusto Farfus in the #99 ROWE Racing BMW M4 GT3. Maro Engel in the #130 Mercedes also showcased strong performance early on but was soon set back by an ill-timed tyre choice.

Dan Harper in the #72 RMG BMW M4 GT3 made a strategic pit stop for rain tyres right after the start, relinquishing his pole position. Despite this, he clawed his way back to fourth place before the scheduled pit stops began. The #34 Aston Martin GT3 suffered a puncture early, losing significant time, while other cars like the #4 Mercedes AMG GT3 and the #44 Falken Porsche faced minor setbacks due to the treacherous conditions.

With a total of 127 vehicles on the grid, the first hour was a testament to the teams’ adaptability and resilience. Estre and Farfus were in a fierce battle, trading the lead multiple times and pulling away from the pack. Harper, meanwhile, staged an impressive comeback, moving from 21st to third within an hour.

The race began with unexpected rainfall just before the formation lap. Harper’s team initially opted for slicks, but the worsening conditions forced a swift change to rain tyres, dropping him to 21st place. Despite this, Harper’s pace on rain tyres soon saw him back in contention.

At the front, Estre and Farfus dueled closely, often less than a second apart. Estre managed to hold off Farfus’s advances despite intense pressure. Maro Engel’s early lead was short-lived as his slick tyres proved inadequate for the wet Nordschleife, pushing him back to 24th place before he too switched to rain tyres.

As the race progressed into the second hour, the track began to dry, prompting teams to revert to slicks during their regular pit stops. Estre, who had led most of the initial phase, suffered significant time loss by delaying his switch to slicks, allowing Farfus and Harper to capitalize and take a BMW one-two lead. The #3 AMG Mercedes GT3 and the #16 Audi R8 LMS GT3 also moved up the ranks, displacing Harper’s BMW.

The race saw its first Code60 zones due to accidents, temporarily slowing the field as guard rails required repairs. Notably, the drivers of the #77 BMW M4 GT4 and the #949 Porsche Cayman were unharmed after incidents. Tyre and technical issues affected several cars, including the #15 Audi R8 and the #130 Mercedes.

Despite the challenges, the spirit of endurance racing shone through. Teams like the #506 BMW 330i faced penalties and mechanical setbacks but continued to push forward. The #706 SCG 004c had to replace its gearbox, and the #776 VW Golf GTI TCR had to fix a worn joint and lighting issues.

Kevin Estre reflected on the early tyre decisions, noting the unpredictability of the weather. “We started on rain tyres and didn’t know at first whether that was the right thing to do. So it wasn’t a relaxed start, but it was still a lot of fun. Maro (Engel) was faster at the beginning with his cut slicks, but the team signaled to me to let him pass – and that was exactly the right thing to do, because he then had problems and fell back. Our choice of tyres was obviously different to that of Augusto Farfus, we had advantages in different places and overtook each other accordingly. We probably changed a lap too late at the end.”

His duel with Farfus showcased the tactical depth of endurance racing, with tyre choices and timing playing critical roles.

As the race moved into its subsequent hours, the #911 Manthey Porsche, the #99 ROWE BMW, and the #72 RMG BMW were key contenders. The fans, despite the rain, continued to show robust support, embodying the enduring spirit of the Nürburgring 24 Hours.


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