Black Falcon Mercedes Prevails in Dramatic N24 Finish

Photo: AMG Customer Sport

Photo: AMG Customer Sport

The No. 4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel, Bernd Schneider, Adam Christodoulou and Manuel Metzger prevailed in a tense battle with HTP Motorsport’s No. 29 car to win the closest Nürburgring 24 in history.

Engel, who qualified the sister No. 9 Black Falcon Mercedes on pole in Friday’s Top-30 Qualifying session, hunted down and passed Christian Hohenadel on the final lap to score the first victory in a 24-hour race for the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Black Falcon’s first victory in the race since 2013.

Additionally, they led home a historic 1-2-3-4 sweep for the German manufacturer.

The race was finely poised when Hohenadel, who shared with Renger van der Zande, Christian Vietoris and Marco Seefried, emerged from the pits with 1 hour and 15 minutes remaining.

Knowing that he would have to balance keeping Engel at arm’s length with trying to manage his fuel, the 2010 FIA GT3 European champion pushed hard to stretch his gap, but it came at the cost of needing a splash-and-dash with 2 laps remaining.

Now with the leader firmly in his sights, Engel dug deep and set the fastest lap of the entire race on the penultimate tour as they weaved through the traffic, before lining Hohenadel up for a firm, but fair pass into Turn 8 on the Grand Prix circuit. Slight contact was made.

Hohenadel was never able to recover his lost momentum, allowing Engel to escape and score an emotional victory.

“It’s incredible, a dream come true for me. This win is on a level with the FIA GT World Cup from Macau,” Engel told Sportscar365. “To be honest the last stint was one hour of Top-30 Qualifying, I put everything I had into it.

“I was frustrated that the gap wasn’t coming down because I knew I was quick and I couldn’t possibly go any faster, it was just traffic and unlucky situations depending on where you hit traffic.

“When he came out ahead of me I thought, ‘this is going to be tough’, but I saw he was struggling for traction out of the Dunlop Kurve and through the Schumacher S.

“I had a run on him and I was surprised he didn’t cover the inside line. If you get an opportunity to overtake on the last lap, you have to take it.”

The Haribo Racing Team No. 88 of Uwe Alzen, Lance David Arnold, Maximillian Götz and Jan Seyffarth completed a Mercedes clean sweep of the podium after leading for much of the night.

However, a 1 minute and 32-second penalty for a Code 60 violation crucially dropped them behind the No. 4 and No. 29 cars and meant they were too far back to factor in the fight for victory.

It was a similar story for the No. 9 Black Falcon which Engel shared with Hubert Haupt, Yelmer Buurman and Dirk Müller. Despite Buurman’s best efforts in the final stint, they finished fourth after losing ground in slippery conditions that hit with a few hours remaining.

On a day dominated by Mercedes, Alexander Sims, Philipp Eng, Dirk Werner and Maxime Martin upheld BMW honour by taking fifth in the No. 23 ROWE RACING M6 GT3.

An engine problem for Eng when the race was restarted meant they were always playing catch-up, and could never quite bridge the gap to the four leading Mercedes.

A sterling stint from Daniel Keilwitz on slicks in the rain helped the No. 75 Zakspeed Mercedes to finish sixth ahead of the best of the ABT Bentley Continental GT3s driven by Guy Smith, Christian Menzel, Fabian Hamprecht and Christopher Brück.

Edward Sandström in the No. 2 WRT was among the most high-profile victims of the rain and required a rear-suspension tow link change, which dropped the best of the Audis to 8th on a difficult day for the Ingolstadt marque.

Porsche also had a tough time, with the sole-remaining No. 912 Manthey Porsche 911 GT3 R ruled out with engine problems while running in 5th.

However, Porsche managed to still claim five class victories in the race, including SP7 class honors with Black Falcon’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car and Rent2Drive taking the SP6 class victory.

Heavy rain and hail brought action to a dramatic halt at the end of the opening hour, with a more than three-hour long red flag due to weather conditions.

Once restarted, however, the race ran fairly clean, with few stoppages and major incidents.

RESULTS: Nürburgring 24

12 Comments

  1. susafan

    May 29, 2016 at 9:54 am

    What a finish after a race over 20 hours without lengthy cautions. You don’t need green-white-checkered for dramatic finishes IMSA 😉

    Congrats to Black Falcon, hopefully HTP doesn’t get through with their complaints, they are crying all the time.

  2. DS

    May 29, 2016 at 10:00 am

    “Passed” isn’t how I would put it. More like “punted off”

    I can only hope HTP do end up protesting this one. Although seems likely they won’t.

    • StueyB83

      May 29, 2016 at 10:13 am

      It was Avery poor defend of the position. The BF AMG was well and truly alongside and better placed for the apex and the HTP gave no racing room. It was no rear ward tag, the HTP chopped right across the apex and got hit square in the door on a move it knew was happening.

      It was delaying the inevitable anyway..

    • Jessie

      May 29, 2016 at 10:15 am

      The move is under investigation

    • Steven

      May 29, 2016 at 11:30 am

      He left the door wide open and the #4 was on the side of the other Merc. It wasn’t the cleanest pass, but it was not a “punt”

    • Adrian

      May 30, 2016 at 12:07 am

      Not sure how that move didn’t have to be re-addressed or even penalized. He just threw it down the inside with every intention of using the other Merc as a brake. It’s pretty clear to see that without the other Merc there, he would have flown off the track. “He didn’t defend the position well” doesn’t really make sense because no one would have with the following car that far back. I don’t have a problem with the contact, rubbin’s racin’ after all, but he shoved the other car so far off the track. It’s ridiculous.

  3. Jessie

    May 29, 2016 at 10:20 am

    No change in result

  4. vanillachinchilla

    May 29, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Great race! The ring delivers. Oh and DS, almost all the takes i heard, my own included thought the move was a fair pass. The HTP car should have given him more room, he had earned the lane. Maybe if he had given him room he wouldnt have lost so much momentum and had another shot at it through traffic.

  5. chevee

    May 29, 2016 at 11:54 am

  6. rennsport4.4tV8

    May 29, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    I think most of us saw that coming 8 hours into race. The Mercedes dominance was quite boring even the last lap didn’t really make it worth it. Hopefully next year the other brands are closer to the front. If you took Mercedes out it would’ve been a more interesting race. Especially after the M6s kept getting smashed up.

    • StueyB83

      May 29, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      Couldn’t help but feel as though Merc got a favorable BOP this year too. Sadly, they likely got it by a bit of sandbagging in earlier events.

    • Jessie

      May 30, 2016 at 2:06 am

      So you are not a racing fan ?

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