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