The 24 Hours of Nürburgring took place this weekend with an enormous starting field of over 200 cars. The enduro features a huge array of classes, including GT2, GT3 and touring cars, with everything from Honda Civics to Aston Martin Vantages and even a Porsche 911 GT3 hybrid battling through the Green Hell through the day and night. The race is run over a combined course of the legendary Nordschliefe and the modern Grand Prix circuit for a total of 15.8 miles, and with only 36 pits available, up to eight cars must share each pit, so plenty of coordination is needed. Read on after the jump to read what happened after the green flag fell.
Among of the highlights of this year's 24 Hours of Nürburgring was the endurance racing debut of the Porsche 911 GT3 R hybrid and the 'Ring debut of BMW's M3 GT2. The M3s raced in North America last year in the American Le Mans Series and BMW has expanded its repertoire into its home country this year. The M3s were also joined by a pair of privately entered GT3 class Z4s, along with seven Audi R8 LMS coupes.
Given Porsche's four-year reign, the new 911 GT3 R was the favorite to win, and all came out strong, along with the hybrid and one of its conventional counterparts battling for the lead in the first hour. Unfortunately for the hybrid, it suffered a puncture and had to slowly make its way back losing time and position. Later, it battled back up to the front of the field taking advantage of a 25 percent fuel efficiency advantage that allowed it to run 10 laps between fuel stops as opposed to eight for its chief competitors. The rest of the GT3 R contingent ran into a series of problems over the course of the first twelve hours, eventually falling out.
By the ninth hour it was the 911 hybrid and an Audi R8 fighting for first place and by hour 14, the flywheel hybrid had taken over conclusively. As all of this went on, the M3s were laying in wait several positions down having recovered from their own problems early on. When damn broke, the #25 M3 was sitting third and a little past the 22-hour mark the boxer-six in the hybrid Porsche packed it in and the car ground to a halt, allowing the M3 to take a lead.
The #25 M3 GT2 crossed the finish line having run 154 laps, three minutes ahead of the second place Ferrari F430 GT. Third overall was the Phoenix Racing Audi, one of only two to make it to the finish and the winner in the GT3 class. The new Z4s had an impressive debut finishing fourth and ninth overall. Fifth went to the other R8 that finished. Full results are at the race site.
* Press Release
Nürburgring (DE), 16th May 2010. Team BMW Motorsport has made a triumphant return and won the 2010 24-hour race at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. Five years since the manufacturer's last victory, the no. 25 BMW M3 GT2 claimed BMW's 19th victory at this endurance classic on Sunday. The winning car, with Jörg Müller (DE), Augusto Farfus (BR), Uwe Alzen (DE) and Pedro Lamy (PT) at the wheel, crossed the finish line first after 154 laps of the 25.378-kilometre circuit. The quartet of drivers produced a flawless performance and fought their way onto the top step of the podium despite gearbox problems in the last three hours.
An impressive fight back saw the second BMW M3 GT2, car number 26, driven by Dirk Werner (DE), Dirk Müller (DE), Andy Priaulx (GB) and Dirk Adorf (DE) race through the field to finish in seventh in front of 220,000 spectators. A crash, while swerving to avoid a collision, resulted in the four drivers losing an hour in the pits early on in the race and dropping back to 182nd. In cool, but dry conditions, car number 26 worked its way back up the field lap by lap. The drivers' fighting spirit was ultimately rewarded.
The two private BMW Z4 GT3 cars with numbers 76 and 69, run by Schubert Motorsport and Dörr Motorsport respectively, rounded off an excellent overall result for BMW by finishing in fourth and ninth. In addition to the win, BMW teams secured ten class wins at the Nordschleife. These results have further strengthened BMW's position as the most successful manufacturer in the history of the race. Of the 198 cars lining up for this year's event, 63 were BMWs.
BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said: "That was a fantastic return for us at the 24-hour race here on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. This win reminds me of the triumph in Le Mans in 1999. I have never known excitement like I experienced today. After some of our direct rivals fell by the wayside, our victory was also hanging by a thread. At about 12.00 the winning car developed a gearbox problem, resulting in the loss of one gear. Shortly after 13.00 other gears gradually gave up. It was a masterful performance how Jörg Müller and Uwe Alzen brought the car home in first place in this crucial phase. The tension was enormous for all of us, so the relief was all the greater when the car crossed the finish line. I must say a big thank you to every single member of the team. Everyone worked perfectly together. Thanks also to our loyal fans, who have taken us to their hearts after a five-year break and given us such great support."
For the Schnitzer Motorsport team this is the fifth win in the "Green Hell" after previous victories in 1989, 1990, 2004 and 2005. Team Manager Charly Lamm said: "Days like this are the ultimate reason why I love my profession so much. The commitment shown by the entire team today is really unique. We had to overcome some tricky situations, but always believed in ourselves. The preparation time was tough, as we had to get the best possible package on its feet within a relatively short timeframe. We obviously succeeded. It goes without saying that I feel sorry for the rivals who did not finish the race. However, reliability is crucial in a race like this, and in that regard we were number one today."
The fast and flawless work which Schnitzer Motorsport has demonstrated for decades played a big role in this triumph. Following Werner's crash on the eighth lap, the mechanics changed the front-left suspension, the radiator and the rear-left shock absorber on the number 26 BMW M3 GT2. The winning car also experienced difficulties: tyre damage on lap 46 and a damaged radiator just six laps later also required unscheduled pit stops. In addition, the car developed a gearbox problem in the last three hours. However, the team and drivers stayed calm and refused to be denied victory once they had taken over at the head of the field with two hours remaining.
A fifth victory on the Nordschleife sees Pedro Lamy draw level in the all-time winners' list with Marcel Tiemann (DE), who is the only driver to have enjoyed as much success at the 24-hour race as the Portuguese BMW driver. For Jörg Müller and Uwe Alzen this was the second victory at probably the most challenging circuit in the world. Augusto Farfus also goes into the Nordschleife history books following his first 24-hour start in a works car.
Jörg Müller (Car Number 25):
"During my last stint we lost fourth gear. The problem gradually got worse. The main priority was to be careful and keep the car in the race. Everything worked out superbly in the end. The entire team has worked extremely hard over the last few months. This victory belongs to them. We drove consistent laps over the entire distance. If you can achieve that at a 24-hour race, you normally find yourself up at the front. For us today, it was even enough to finish first."
Augusto Farfus (Car Number 25):
"That is my first victory at a 24-hour race. To win on the Nordschleife is a unique experience. I would like to thank BMW and Charly Lamm for putting their trust in me. I have learned a lot here, particularly from the Nordschleife old hands in my team. We knew that first we had to make it through the event before we could start to dream of winning. Our reliability was our greatest advantage today."
Uwe Alzen (Car Number 25):
"To come away with that kind of result from a race that was anything but easy is sensational. First a puncture, then a damaged radiator and the gearbox problems. I have never seen a pit crew work so quickly and professionally, particularly when replacing the radiator. The whole race was unbelievably exciting. I am back on the top step of the podium for the first time in ten years. That is a great feeling. For me it is a great honour to work with BMW and Schnitzer. I feel on top of the world in this team. Today I am simply over the moon."
Pedro Lamy (Car Number 25):
"That is definitely my best win here on the Nordschleife. Each one of my five victories was special in its own way, but the way we won this one was particularly difficult. Maybe some of the other teams were missing the bit of luck that was needed here. However, as you can make your own luck, this entire team most definitely earned its victory. I am pleased for BMW, everyone in the team and, of course, for myself."
Dirk Werner (Car Number 26):
"Our race started with the worst possible scenario: we fell back almost to last place on the first lap. I felt really bad, as I was the one in the car when we had the crash. However, the team worked incredibly hard to boost my confidence again. My compliments to my fellow drivers, who did not make any mistakes. Seventh place after that start is a great result."
Dirk Müller (Car Number 26):
"That was my fourth 24-hour race at the Nürburgring for BMW – and the third time we have won. We can be very proud. I say 'we' deliberately, although it was car number 25 that crossed the line in first, as we are a true team. Of course we are a bit disappointed that we did not finish higher with the no. 26 car. However, we showed an incredible morale. After the crash the car looked really bad, but the team fixed everything perfectly. First and seventh is a great result."
Andy Priaulx (Car Number 26):
"I am more than happy. Our team claimed victory, which is fantastic for BMW. On the other side, we would have hoped for more with our car. Having said that, we did finish the race – and after a magnificent fight back. I simply cannot rate the performance of my team-mates highly enough. Nobody in our team gave up. We will take this fighting spirit with us from this week at the Nürburgring."
Dirk Adorf (Car Number 26):
"After qualifying, nobody really expected a result like this from us. I am very impressed that we managed to turn the tide in this way. Charly Lamm and his team were fantastic and always believed we could win. The morale in the team is very impressive. Over the course of the race we made up three laps. I don't like to think what might have been in it for us if we hadn't been so unlucky at the start of the race."
Audi R8 LMS wins again at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife
# Phoenix Racing wins the GT3 class in the 24h race
# No luck during the race in fight for overall victory
# Only two of the seven Audi R8 LMS on the grid make the finish
Ingolstadt/Nürburg, May 16, 2010 – The Audi R8 LMS remains as best in class in the 24-hour race on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife: Also during its second outing in the "green hell", the world's longest and toughest race track, the mid-engine sportscar crossed the finish line as winner of the GT3 class (SP9).
With third place overall in Phoenix Racing's Audi LMS R8 Marc Bronzel (Siek), Luca Ludwig (Roisdorf), Dennis Rostek (Porta Westfalica) and Markus Winkelhock (Berglen) presented the team with an unexpected surprise since this quartet did not even number among the favorites before the race started. The conservative and mechanically easy going driving style of the Phoenix squad, however, paid dividends: The Audi R8 LMS with start number 97 ran – apart from a small electronical problem during the opening stages – with the smallest technical problem.
Of particular note was the performance of DTM driver Markus Winkelhock, who, after only landing a drive in the Phoenix team at the last moment, drove constantly fast lap times without any experience of the Nordschleife and in the closing stages convincingly defended the class lead. "The Audi R8 LMS and this race were great fun," beamed the Swabian following his successful Nordschleife debut. "It was a fantastic experience. My thanks go to Phoenix Racing which did a fantastic job. I'm speechless that I managed to finish on the podium here!"
Great delight also erupted in the Black Falcon team that brought one of its two Audi R8 LMS home in fifth place overall and third position in the GT3 category. Sean-Paul Breslin (Great Britain), Christer Jöns (Ingelheim), Kenneth Heyer (Wegberg) and Johannes Stuck (Liechtenstein) also choose the best compromise between speed and reliability.
Nevertheless, the 24-hour race around the Nürburgring did not run as desired for the newly opened Customer Sport Center at Audi Sport. The 38th running of the long-distance classic was plagued by numerous accidents and incidents from which none of the favorites escaped unharmed – also not the Audi customer teams ABT Sportsline, Black Falcon and Phoenix Racing which were deserted by the necessary luck during the race following the strong qualifying performance.
All three teams lost one of its Audi R8 LMS in accidents. Nordschleife typical defects on two other cars ensured that only two of the seven Audi R8 LMS competing saw the checkered flag in this unusually hard and incident packed 24-hour race.
The race on the world's longest and toughest race track ended particularly early for the two fastest Audi R8 LMS. Both the Phoenix R8 LMS with start number 98 (Marc Basseng/Mike Rockenfeller/Frank Stippler/Hans-Joachim Stuck) and the ABT R8 LMS with start number 100 (Mattias Estkröm/Oliver Jarvis/Timo Scheider/Marco Werner) retired as early as Saturday evening due to accidents.
Shortly after 9:00 p.m. it claimed Marc Basseng (Phoenix Racing R8 LMS #98), who was running second at this time, in the track sector "Pflanzgarten 2". "I was overtaking a slower car which had its left-turn signal blinking," explained the Phoenix driver. "I was completely alongside him when he suddenly moved over. I wanted to avoid having an accident and swerved onto the grass, and hit a curb exactly with the centre of the car." The impact from below was so hard that the V10 engine was damaged and the R8 LMS ground to a halt in around the "Tiergarten".
Only about an hour bad luck also claimed Marco Werner (ABT Sportsline R8 LMS #100). The three-time Le Mans winner experienced a near identical situation in the sector "Pflanzgarten" when also running in second position. Werner was barged off by another car and had to park his R8 LMS with the rear-left suspension torn-off.
Marcel Fässler (Phoenix Racing R8 LMS #99) also had external contact on Saturday night, which fortunately ended with a damaged wheel. At 10:22 p.m. the silver-red R8 LMS took the lead for the first time and which Marcel Fässler, Frank Biela, Pierre Kaffer and Marc Hennerici temporarily extended to more than two-minutes during the night. After almost 17 hours a defect on the engine mounting also brought the race to an end for the second Phoenix-R8. "That really was a shame as we were really running strongly up to that point," said Marcel Fässler.
Christian Abt was also involved in a collision in the second R8 LMS of the ABT Sportsline (#2) team. The result was tire failure and deranged wheel alignment. Nevertheless, on Sunday morning at 10:42 p.m. after a fantastic fight back Christian Abt, Emmanuel Collard, Lucas Luhr and Christopher Mies were once again in second place on the same lap as the then leading hybrid-Porsche, when Lucas Luhr stopped on the track around the "Pflanzgarten" with a transmission problem.
Black Falcon Racing lost one of its two Audi R8 LMS (#111) during the night because of an accident. The second R8 LMS fielded by the private team from the Eifel ran just as reliably throughout the entire 24 hours as the third Phoenix team car – apart from gearbox issues just at the end of the race.
"We are happy that the R8 LMS remains unbeaten in its class in this race," explained Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, who was at the race himself. "We developed this car logically for customer sport, and the cars which finished third and fifth overall embody our customer sport idea perfectly. Congratulations to the Phoenix Racing and Black Falcon teams. The other cars put in great performances, but like many other top cars the extremely fast pace claimed its victims. ABT Sportsline and Phoenix Racing both lost a car when in promising positions due to accidents, which are typical on the Nordschleife. The two technical defects are also typical for this race track."
1 Müller/Farfus/Alzen/Lamy (BMW) 154 laps in 24h 00m 18.168s
2 Farnbacher/Simonsen/Lehman/Seefried (Ferrari) + 3m 54.191s
3 Bronzel/Ludwig/Rostek/Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS) - 1 lap (1st GT3)
4 Hartung/Söderlund/Sandström/Öhlin (BMW) - 2 laps (2nd GT3)
5 Breslin/Jöns/Heyer/Stuck (Audi R8 LMS) - 2 laps (3rd GT3)
6 Alzen/Schwager/Jäger/Bert (Porsche) - 3 laps
7 Werner/Müller/Priaulx/Adorf (BMW) - 4 laps
8 Zehe/Schelp/Roloff/Bullitt (Porsche) - 4 laps
9 Aust/Adams/Übler/Grossmann (BMW) - 5 laps
10 Weiland/Forbes/Riemer/Horn (Porsche) - 6 laps
Strong performance from Porsche teams – but no happy ending
Stuttgart. After four straight overall wins at the Nürburgring 24 Hours from 2006 to 2009, the Porsche teams once again performed brilliantly, but without the necessary luck. In an exciting and dramatic race which was hard to top, Porsche vehicles dominated the action over almost 15 hours.
Out of the series of retirements, the end of the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid's eight hour lead was the disappointing lowlight. Up until this point the innovative race car from Weissach clearly proved that the hybrid technology developed by Porsche is very competitive in racing and at the same time considerably lowers fuel consumption.
After 22 hours and 15 minutes, the leading orange-and-white 911 GT3 R Hybrid retired with engine damage in the Metzgesfeld passage. "I heard a loud noise at the rear of the car and suddenly the power went," says Porsche works driver Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) describing the abrupt end of all hopes for victory.
Despite a disappointing race, Chairman of the Board at Porsche AG, Michael Macht, who visited the race on Sunday, came to a positive conclusion: "It wasn't enough for a win, but the Porsche hybrid technology clearly proved its potential at one of the world's toughest races. We will continue developing this innovative drive concept. That was certainly not the last race for a Porsche hybrid car."
Wolfgang Dürheimer, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG, gives an outlook to the future: "The 911 GT3 R Hybrid has proven that highest performance and a unique efficiency don't exclude each other. The vehicle shows the technological path to racing in the future."
The street-legal Porsche 911 GT3 RS, which had been driven to the Nürburgring from Weissach, greatly exceeded all expectations. Ex-DTM pilot Roland Asch (Germany), race driver and TV commentator Patrick Simon (Germany), as well as journalists Horst von Saurma (Germany) and Chris Harris (Great Britain) crossed the finish line in a 200-strong field ranking an exceptional 13th. "We're totally over the moon," grinned Asch. The German and his three teammates completed a total of 145 laps without any technical mishaps. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think a normal street car could not only keep up at such a demanding race but can also finish so far up the field. After this race there is no doubt the Porsche 911 GT3 RS is the best sports car in the world!"
The streak of bad luck that hit the 911 racing thoroughbreds began well before the retirement of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. Already after five hours, Chris Mamerow (Germany) retired after an accident with his 911 GT3 R of the Mamerow Racing squad. Two and a half hours later, a rival's accident abruptly punted the favourites for overall victory out of contention. The 911 GT3 R fielded by Manthey Racing and crewed by the winning team of the last four years had taken the lead in lap one and was running a clear first when a competitor crashed and spun across the track, hitting the Manthey vehicle. The heavy damages sustained by the 911 signalled an early end for the successful quartet with works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) as well as Manthey pilot Marcel Tiemann (Monaco).
Both the 911 GT3 R of the Wochenspiegel Team Manthey and the Haribo Team Manthey were forced to retire with damaged transmissions. The charge of the Wochenspiegel car was halted half way through the race. The Haribo vehicle was sidelined four and a half hours before the end.
1. Müller/Farfus/Alzen/Lamy (D/BR/D/P), BMW M3 GT2, 154 laps
2. Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen/Seefried (D/AUS/USA/D), Ferrari F430 GTC, + 3:54.1 minutes
3. Rostek/Ludwig/Bronzel/Winkelhock (D/D/D/D), Audi R8 LMS, + 1 laps
4. Hartung/Söderlund/Sandström/Öhlin (D/S/CH/S), BMW Z4 GT3, + 2
5. Jöns/Breslin/Stuck/Heyer (D/GB/A/D), Audi R8 LMS, + 2
6. Alzen/Schwager/Jäger/Bert (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S, + 3
7. Werner/Müller/Priaulx/Adorf (D/D/GB/D), BMW M3 GT2, + 4
8. Zehe/Schelp/Roloff/Bullitt (D/D/D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S, + 4
9. Aust/Adams/Übler/Grossmann (D/D/D/D), BMW Z4 GT3, + 5
10. Weiland/Forbes/Riemer/Horn (D/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, + 6
11. Gayday/Kruglyk/Basov/Schratz (UKR/UKR/R/D), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, + 7
12. Dumbreck/Schoysman/Tanaka/Hoshino (GB/D/J/J), Nissan Z33, + 9
13. Simon/von Saurma/Asch/Harris (D/D/D/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 RS, + 9