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Nürburgring Endurance

Battle for Lead Intensifies with Eight Hours to Go at Nürburgring

Intense three-way battle heats up with eight hours to go…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

The No. 4 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS utra held the lead at the 16-hour mark, but that says little about the pattern of events over the past four hours.

The Audi was only marginally clear of the No. 1 Black Falcon Mercedes with whom there was a long pitched battle. Four different cars spent time in the lead, with another—a Porsche no less, aching to play a spoiler role.

The first sunrise of summer came early to the Eifel. Greeting it was the No. 20 Team Schubert BMW Z4 GT3, which moved back into the lead—the last bullet left in BMW’s arsenal.

A fine battle erupted between the Schubert entry and the No. 22 Rowe Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, with the No. 1 Black Falcon gullwing only about one minute behind.

It in turn was under constant pressure from the No. 4 Phoenix Racing Audi. The gap accordioned back and forth a fair amount, partly a result of the continuing pattern of local slow zones from incidents to downfield runners.

When it got mean, it was really mean—generally between the No. 1 and No. 4 cars. There was often less than 10 seconds between. Actual wheel-to-wheel racing came to be once it became fully light.

Prior to that the No. 22 Rowe Mercedes fell off the pace, having to serve a 3 minute-plus penalty for a yellow zone violation. Similarly the No. 20 BMW had a shorter penalty for abbreviating their previous pit stops.

This left it a clear track for the two remaining combatants. Added to this was the concept of “happy hour”—that window of cool air and good morning light when many teams set their own best times.

Near the close of the hour the two spent the better of a lap truly wheel-to-wheel. The Audi managed to pass, but a slick spot off line caught the R8 off guard and it spun harmlessly. The delay was enough to allow the red Mercedes back into the lead.

However, following the round of stops, it was the No. 4 Audi back out front, with drama in the pit lane for the No. 44 Falken Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 R, which balked intentionally in order to make sure that it met the minimum pit stop time.

The Black Falcon Merc did not but later had to serve a penalty. This allowed the Audi into a slightly more secure lead and indeed left the Mercedes in the clutches of the third place No. 20 BMW.

The Falken entry slipped onto the lead lap and fourth overall.

Once again there were notable retirements a bit further down the order.

The No. 29 GT Corse Ferrari retired after doing off at Breitscheid. The No. 60 McLaren was towed back in, having lost all power. The No. 18 Audi had a small-ish accident and a broken fuel pump, and the No. 9 Abt Racing Audi seems to be suffering terminal gearbox woes.

János Wimpffen is an American motorsport historian and journalist, contributing to Sportscar365's international coverage. He is the author of "Time and Two Seats" and numerous other award-winning books documenting the history of sports car racing.

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