Earl Bamber described Frikadelli Racing Team’s landmark 24-hour race victory as evoking the “spirit” of the Nürburgring as it beat the German manufacturers with a Ferrari 296 GT3.
Bamber, David Pittard, Nicky Catsburg and Felipe Fernandez Laser delivered for long-time Nordschleife competitor and entrant Klaus Abbelen, beating larger operations from the likes of BMW, Mercedes-AMG, Audi Sport and Porsche.
When Pittard crossed the line, Frikadelli’s Ferrari became the first non-German car to win the Eifel endurance classic since Chrysler team Zakspeed in 2002.
After that, the victories were largely split between Audi, BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-AMG, with a lone win for Opel in 2003.
Bamber told Sportscar365 that Frikadelli’s victory was in line with the “spirit” of the Nürburgring and viewed it as a positive that a relatively small privateer managed to overcome the factory-backed squads.
“I think it’s pretty special for Klaus to get a victory here after so many years,” Bamber said.
“Bringing a Ferrari here is always a bit controversial; first car [to win] since 2002 [from a] non-German brand. So I think it’s really cool.
“I think it’s great for everyone from a small team and a local team to get a victory against some of the big manufacturer-backed teams.
“I think it’s really good in the spirit of what Nürburgring is, in the essence. I think it’s also really good just for the sport in general.
“You see BMW, Porsche, Mercedes have their huge engineering armies above the pit lanes, everyone knows about it.
“For us we’re just sort of alone and we managed to just do a good basic strategy and a good clean race and it shows that if you do that around here you can fight with the big guys.
“I think it is something cool for the sport and for the other teams. Hopefully more people come.”
Catsburg, meanwhile, said it was “awesome” for Frikadelli to come away with the win.
“I felt like an underdog, really, because how many Mercedes cars there are, how many BMWs there are, they all have history here,” the Dutchman noted.
“We came with this new car here, and it was just a discovery trip. We had to discover where the car would be good, where the car would be weak.
“Even in the race, we were still making some adjustments and finding that we had some issues also in the race.
“To be very honest, I didn’t expect to get away with a win here.
“I thought we would for sure have some small issues, but it seems like Ferrari built an awesome car that can win 24-hour races.”
Team Encountered Two Issues En Route to Win
Frikadelli’s run to victory wasn’t without strife, as the Rinaldi Racing-assisted effort needed to overcome two issues at various stages in the race.
The first came five hours in when Catsburg suffered a slow left-rear puncture on lap six of what should have been an eight-lap stint.
“If it was a tire failure, it would have gone quicker,” said Catsburg, who revealed that the problem first emerged at Brunnchen
“So I started noticing it and I was like, ‘please stay alive.’ It was going lower, 1.5, 1.4, 1.2, 1.1…
“I could see it and I was communicating and I was like, ‘OK, I need to keep some pace, but if it goes I don’t want to crash.’
“So on the Dottinger Hohe it actually went to 0.0 and then that’s where we lost time. That’s where I had to really bring it back, because otherwise you destroy the whole car.”
The timing of the puncture meant that Frikadelli’s victory bid was still more or less intact.
Over the night, its Ferrari built a comfortable margin to the No. 98 ROWE Racing BMW M4 GT3, but then began to suffer from damper issues early on Sunday morning.
“You could feel it’s on its way out,” said Pittard. “The damping was becoming less and less.
“So it was just pogoing around at the rear effectively. It really became apparent in Nicky’s stint with sort of three or four hours to go.
“Even the TV picked up that the rear was just bouncing around effectively. It particularly made it tricky off curbs.
“So we had to avoid that and manage that accordingly. It definitely affected the performance because especially in the high speed, the rear stability was completely gone, which I think is the strength of the Ferrari.
“So we kind of had one hand tied behind our back for the final three hours. It was kind of managing, but the car was lightning-fast through the night.
“That’s where we built the advantage and that’s the cushion we had to bring it home to the end.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report