It was one of the most exciting and dramatic 24-hour races at the Nürburgring, Porsche emerged triumphant in front of 220,000 spectators lining the legendary Nordschleife in the Eifel region of Germany. And with so many manufacturers using the Nürburgring 24-hour race to prove the durability of their machinery, the race is gaining more international recognition every year. Below you will find reports from Porsche, Audi and Aston Martin on the success of their respective teams at the 39th ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hour race.
It was all smiles at Porsche, where works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Timo Bernhard (Germany), Romain Dumas (France) as well as Lucas Luhr (Switzerland) won the 39th running of the long distance event with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. It fought off strong challenges from BMW, Mercedes and Audi to take overall victory.
For Porsche, and the Porsche Team Manthey, this marked the fifth victory at the race in the last six years – likewise for Timo Bernhard. And for the Porsche 911, it is the eleventh triumph since the event began in 1970.
With the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, the Porsche quartet snatched the lead on Saturday at 23.25 hours and held it to the flag. What followed were 16 hours and 35 minutes at the head of the field, 108 consistent laps under immense pressure on one of the toughest race tracks on earth.
A new distance record was set with a total of 156 laps and 3958.968km to underline the superb effort of the winners and their team. “We already knew before the start that we could only win if we worked together as a team, from the drivers through to the mechanics,” said Timo Bernhard.
Indeed, aside from the usual tensions on the track, there was just one truly critical situation. “During a pitstop, the petrol pump didn’t work. Fuel simply didn’t come out. So we had to push the car to another pump and, in doing so, lost almost a minute,” said Lucas Luhr.
The Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid also gave an impressive performance, even though its second start at the 24-hour classic did not yield the anticipated top result.
Fielded by Porsche Team Manthey with Porsche works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria), Marco Holzer (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA), the innovative racecar with its flywheel drive concept finished an impressive 28th, 17 laps behind the winner.
Showing its true potential, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid moved into the lead on Saturday about four hours after the start. But a broken flange in the differential sent it into the pits for repairs, which cost six laps to the leader.
The trouble didn’t stop there. After seven hours, the same problem struck again necessitating a second unplanned pitstop. This time the repairs took 40 minutes. With a ten-lap gap to the front-runners, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid rejoined the race in 105th. Clocking lap times which were sometimes faster than those at the front, it ploughed through the field to 23rd. However, on Sunday morning the vehicle’s charge was interrupted yet again: While lapping a slower competitor, Patrick Long was nudged and spun at high speed at the Flugplatz but luckily no damage was inflicted.
Manned by Porsche factory pilot Wolf Henzler (Germany) as well as Peter Dumbreck (Great Britain), Martin Ragginger (Austria) and Sebastian Asch (Germany), the Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by Falken Motorsports took up the race on intermediate tires. This proved to be a good decision. Wolf Henzler made up several places before pitting after two laps once the rain had stopped to change to slicks.
An engine change in the first quarter of the race robbed the team of any chance for a better result. At the flag, the Falken quartet occupied 49th place. The swift lap times after the long repairs was a poor consolation. “It was somewhat frustrating to drive such great times and yet be so far down the field,” said Wolf Henzler.
After a trouble-free early phase under difficult conditions, the Porsche 911 GT3 R, which Manthey Racing ran parallel to the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, was taken out of the race after two hours, as the team wanted to concentrate on just one car. This proved to be the perfect strategy that was rewarded with victory. And as Timo Bernhard crossed the finish line with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, the Eifel at last showed its true sunny colors.
Meanwhile, the Audi R8 LMS was once again a class winner on its third outing. The mid-engine sportscar won the GT3 class for the third time in succession and, like last year, finished third overall.
The Audi TT RS also impressed the spectators: the development car from quattro GmbH took the checkered flag in 14th position overall and won the SP 4T class as best front-wheel drive car in the field of 202 cars.
In a thrilling finale, the #14 Audi R8 LMS from Audi Sport Team Phoenix (driven by Marc Basseng/Marcel Fässler/Frank Stippler) passed the Mercedes SLS class leader 43min before the finish when it pitted with a technical problem. Christopher Haase/Marc Hennerici/Markus Winkelhock (Audi Sport Team Phoenix) and Mattias Ekström/Timo Scheider/Marco Werner (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) completed the Audi one-two-three in the GT3 class and took fourth and fifth positions overall at the finish.
Audi’s dream of overall victory in the endurance classic was not fulfilled, however. The GT2 cars from Porsche, BMW and Ferrari were superior to the GT3 cars at the 39th running of the 24-hour race. There was joy and sorrow at Raeder Motorsport, which fielded a brace of Audi TT RS on behalf of quattro GmbH. Despite a tire failure at the start of the race and a collision on Sunday morning, Michael Ammermüller, Frank Biela, Jens Klingmann and Martin Tomczyk made the finish as the best FWD car in an excellent 14th position overall and, in doing so, convincingly won their class in the development demonstrator.
Christian Hohenadel/Jimmy Johansson/Miguel Molina Andrea Piccini in the second TT RS lost 75 minutes early on with a faulty wastegate valve, and more time just before the end with a gear shifting problem.
The Aston Martin team took a brave decision to field two of its new V12 Zagato concept cars in the 24-hour test. They hoped to maintain the company’s 100% finish record at the race, and were joined by a factory-entered V8 Vantage N24. As the checkered flag fell at 16.00 CET, Aston Martin’s #5 V12 Zagato took 5th place in the SP8 class with sister car, #3 V12 Zagato finishing 6th.
In the SP10 class, a factory-backed V8 Vantage N24 raced to 5th place, but the final positions do not tell the full story of the incident-packed Nürburgring 24 Hour.
Aston Martin’s twin V12 Zagato entry marked the next step of an ambitious project, which began when the concept car was premiered at the Concorso D’Eleganza at Villa D’Este in May this year, winning the Design award for Concepts and Prototypes.
The show car was then transformed into the #3 race car, nicknamed ‘Zag’ (red livery) while in parallel, a sister car – #5, nicknamed ‘Zig’ (green livery) was built. The intention to enter the new V12 Zagatos in this year’s race offered an extension of the company’s philosophy of signing-off new products by entering a vehicle which is as close to the road car as possible and publically subjecting it to the toughest 24-hour test, by entering a car in prototype form.
Speaking after crossing the finish line in the red V12 Zagato, Aston Martin CEO, Dr Ulrich Bez said: “All our cars finished today, and two out of the three customer teams also crossed the line. This includes two brand new cars, which we launched only four weeks ago.
“With a little more luck we could have finished higher up the order, but finishing first wasn’t the goal, we aimed to have the cars running at the end – I am really pleased with the team which did such a great job keeping the cars running throughout.”
Of Aston Martin’s customer team entries, Team Pflanz managed a 7th place finish in SP10 GT4, while Bratke Motorsport finished 7th in SP8. Special thought is reserved for Mathol Racing who endured an agonizing finish to the 24-hours having dominated SP10 GT4 and remaining in first place for the majority of the race, only to be forced to retire with little more than one hour remaining.
In parallel with the German event, Aston Martin’s Americas team joined forces with Road & Track magazine to run a standard-spec Rapide at Spring Mountain Motor Sports Ranch in Nevada.
Despite extreme temperatures in the Nevada desert, the four-door Rapide covered more than 1300 miles in the 24-hour endurance run, demonstrating the durability of the standard production sports car, while raising money for charity. The drive, held concurrently with Aston Martin’s participation at the Nürburgring, saw a total of nine drivers from Aston Martin and Road & Track magazine complete nearly 500 laps.
Nürburgring 24-hour race Results
|1.||Lieb/Bernhard/Dumas/Luhr (D/D/F/CH)||Porsche 911 GT3 RSR||156 laps|
|2.||Müller/Farfus/Alzen/Lamy (D/BRA/D/P)||BMW M3 GT||+4:23.7 seconds|
|3.||Basseng/Fässler/Piccini/Stippler (D/CH/I/D)||Audi R8 LMS||- 1 lap|
|4.||Stippler/Hennerici/Haase/Winkelhock (D/D/D/D)||Audi R8 LMS||- 1|
|5.||Ekström/Scheider/Werner/Abt (S/D/D/D)||Audi R8 LMS||- 2|
|6.||Heyer/Jäger/Bleekemolen/Seyffarth (D/D/NL/D)||Mercedes-Benz SLS||- 3|
|7.||Arnold/Margaritis/Brück/Frankenhout (D/D/D/NL)||Mercedes-Benz SLS||- 3|
|8.||Farnbacher/Simonsen/Seefried/Melo (D/MC/D/I)||Ferrari F458||- 4|
|9.||Abbelen/Schmitz/Kentenich/T Bergmeister (D/D/D/D)||Porsche 911 GT3 R||- 4|
|10.||Weiss/Kainz/Jacobs/Krumbach (D/D/D/D)||Porsche 911 GT3 R||- 5|