Drivers at the Nürburgring 24 were in general agreement that the decision to bring out a long overnight red flag due to worsening weather conditions was “the right decision”.
The race was stopped at 10:30 p.m. after seven hours of running that took place entirely in wet conditions, while track action didn’t resume until just after 8 a.m. the next morning following a pause of almost 10 hours on safety grounds.
The skies had become lighter by the time of the restart despite the track still being wet, opening the chance for an uninterrupted seven-hour contest to the checkered flag.
By the end the winner had completed 85 laps, marking the lowest lap count in the Nürburgring 24’s GT3 era and undercutting the rain-affected 2013 edition by three laps.
Some of the drivers who were competing during the worst of the bad weather suggested after the race that the situation was handled in the correct way by the organizers.
“Honestly it’s not nice to drive in these conditions,” said Audi Sport Team Car Collection driver Christopher Haase.
“The problems were visibility and aquaplaning. This both [together] makes it just not safe to drive. That’s why it was the right call to stop the race.
“We had a good pace during the rain, we were [in an Audi] 1-2-3. But the red flag was just right to do, so I really appreciate the decision of race control to do that.”
Alexander Sims, who took the winning ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 into the red flag period, described the worst of the conditions as “really sketchy” with the combination of rain and low visibility.
“I was driving when it was red-flagged and we were flying at that point, but it was absolutely the right decision,” said the British driver.
“There were too many corners where you just couldn’t see a thing. The fog was so dense, and then especially if you had spray behind another car there was just zero visibility.
“It wasn’t like you could even just make things out: you would turn in, get through the fog, and then not realize if you had turned in at the right place or not.
“Through Pflanzgarten, that was really bad with the fog. I’m just really pleased that the organizers pre-empted the situation and didn’t wait for there to be a huge shunt, because I think it was just a matter of time.”
Maxime Martin of the No. 31 Frikadelli Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 R suggested the red flag could have been retrieved later but agreed at the principle of the decision.
“It was tough and there was a lot of rain, but I was a bit surprised they stopped the race,” said the Belgian.
“The conditions were hard, but I’ve been in harder conditions here and they never stopped [then]. But it’s the safer way.
“I think we could have, driving wise, gone longer. But for safety reasons, for the helicopter and a lot of things, that’s the reason why they stopped it. But it was still driveable for us.”
However, Martin’s co-driver Lars Kern described the approach to the peak of the Saturday night rainfall as “like driving on ice with summer tires”.
Kern praised the work of the drivers in the slower classes whose cars didn’t have the same stabilizing features as the GT3-based SP9 field, describing them as “heroes”.
“The big issue that everyone was having was the low temperatures,” explained Porsche driver and Nordschleife production car specialist Kern.
“Because of this, you could never get the tire into the working window. It was just sliding around, and we in the SP9 cars have downforce and heated tires, so everything is pretty well-managed.
“But if you look at the smaller classes, they put nothing on and drive around. For me, these guys have been heroes not to crash all over the place, because it was really scary and dangerous being out there.
“The fog wasn’t too bad. I have experienced worse conditions around here with fog. But the combination of the low temperatures and the rain meant it was tough.”
Dan Harper, who drove the SP8T-winning Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT4, added that the heavy rain impacted his dealing with the faster GT3 vehicles in traffic.
“Whenever it’s conditions like that you’re focusing on yourself more than looking in the mirror,” said the reigning Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion.
“If it’s dry you have more time and can be a bit more relaxed to look at what’s coming from behind. But in those conditions, you’re just so focused on what you’re doing that it’s a shock when a GT3 comes past.
“I just expected a red flag with how the conditions were at one point. I was happy enough to continue because our pace was good, but it was the safest option.
“It was a shame the race was red-flagged for such a long period. It would have been nice to do some more driving.
“But the conditions during that stint were probably the worst I’ve ever experienced.”