Audi Sport crews finished first and second in Saturday’s six-hour NLS enduro to set the manufacturer on the front foot heading into next month’s Nürburgring 24.
Christopher Mies brought the Land-run No. 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo across the line four seconds ahead of Mirko Bortolotti in the No. 32 Car Collection machine after a dramatic chase through the final stint.
Mies shared the win with Kelvin van der Linde and Mattia Drudi, while Bortolotti was teamed with Christopher Haase, Markus Winkelhock and Robin Frijns.
In a pulsating conclusion, the two Audis were tasked with hunting down and passing Luca Ludwig who was stretching the fuel mileage of his leading Octane 126 Ferrari 488 GT3.
A shorter than expected six-lap penultimate stint from Ludwig meant the Ferrari needed to produce nine laps, or last 70 minutes, to reach the end without a costly splash for fuel.
With SP9-class stints typically lasting an hour, the German driver – who was partnered with Bjorn Grossmann – was forced to carefully manage his pace in the run to the flag.
The Audis, which were safe to go to the end, took out around 20 seconds on the penultimate lap while Mies overtook Ludwig for the lead heading into Turn 1.
Bortolotti then blasted past at Schwedenkreuz before sizing up Mies along the Dottinger Hohe, but the Italian chose to back off and safeguard the one-two result for Audi.
The Audis were clear contenders at the start as pole-sitter Mies led the opening stint from HRT Mercedes driver Maro Engel and Winkelhock in the Car Collection R8.
But the order soon jumbled as some cars elected to run shorter first stints to gain track position, including the Octane 126 Ferrari which became a fixture at the front in hour two.
The gap between the Land Audi, which was always ahead of its Car Collection counterpart, grew over the mid-portion of the race before coming back down into the final hour. As the final pit stops shook out, the pair emerged in the best net position.
Manthey Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 R of Mathieu Jaminet, Lars Kern and Matt Campbell crossed the line in fourth but was classified 13th after receiving a 235-second penalty – equating to almost four minutes – for speeding in a 120 km/h restricted zone.
This promoted the GetSpeed Performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Raffaele Marciello, Fabian Schiller, Maximilian Goetz and Maximilian Buhk to fourth position.
The bright green and yellow Manthey and GetSpeed cars enjoyed a race-long battle against each other.
After swapping back and forth in the first two hours, Schiller lost ground when he braked into the rear of the No. 17 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes at the chicane in hour four.
The GetSpeed car then recovered and regained the place on Manthey at the next round of stops, before Jaminet emerged in front after the final set of driver changes.
Haupt Racing’s team’s No. 17 car of Nico Bastian, Gabriele Piana, Hubert Haupt and Philip Ellis finished sixth, behind the ROWE Racing BMW GT3 of Alexander Sims, Nicky Catsburg, Philipp Eng and Nick Yelloly.
ROWE was left with a single car for Saturday’s race after its No. 98 machine crashed in qualifying.
The Haupt squad also had a turbulent weekend that involved both of its other SP9 Pro cars retiring.
In the early stages, its No. 6 Mercedes was sent hurtling into the right-side barriers on the fast Dottinger Hohe straight after contact with GetSpeed’s Am category car. HRT driver Patrick Assenheimer walked away from the high-speed accident.
Engel, who ran second in the opening stint, was then forced to pit for lengthy repairs to his No. 16 car’s left-rear corner after contact with a BMW from another class.
This benefited the Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW, which arrived into round five leading the points from the HRT entry.
The car driven by Jordan Pepper and David Pittard was classified eighth behind BMW Team Schnitzer after receiving a 35-second time penalty for speeding in a Code 60 zone.
Of the front-runners, incidents affected the races of the Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, the No. 19 KCMG Porsche 911 GT3 R and the No. 20 factory-supported Phoenix Racing Audi.
Konrad’s Lamborghini crashed at Aremberg with Michele di Martino at the wheel, while the KCMG Porsche and the Phoenix Audi both incurred tire damage in the fourth hour.
Pro-Am honors went to the Frikadelli Racing Porsche of Lance David Arnold, Klaus Abbelen and Alex Müller which finished 16th overall, and one place in front of the Lamborghini of FFF Racing Team which was making its NLS debut.
The highest-placed GT4 car was the No. 155 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT4 in 28th position outright and first in SP8T.
Pixum Team Adrenalin Motorsport triumphed in SP10 with its BMW M4 GT4 while Schmickler Performance won the CUP3 division for Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsports.
RESULTS: 6H ADAC-Ruhr Pokal Race