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VLN/Nürburgring 24

Engel Charges to N24 Pole in Top-30 Qualifying

The no. 9 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 will start from pole…

Photo: Jarrod Moore

The no. 9 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 will start from pole in this weekend’s Nürburgring 24 after a tremendous lap in mixed conditions from Maro Engel.

The German lapped the Nordschleife in 8:13.515, almost 4 seconds quicker than Augusto Farfus Jr.’s pole time last year and only 2.5 seconds slower than the all-time qualifying record set by Kevin Estre in 2014.

Ironically, this was despite having to slow for double-waved yellow flags following an accident for Estre on his out-lap.

Heavy rainfall in the afternoon meant significant parts of the track were still damp, including the left-hand kink before Bergwerk where Estre had his accident.

After drawing first on the road in a ballot held before the session, Engel decided to complete a slow out-lap and allow several cars, led by René Rast, through to dry the circuit faster.

It was a tactic which paid off handsomely as he beat the No. 18 Schubert Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Farfus by 1.631 seconds.

It also meant Engel became the inaugural recipient of the Glickenhaus Trophy, awarded by Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus owner James Glickenhaus to the fastest driver in the Top-30 Qualifying Session.

“That was as difficult as you can experience the Nordschleife,” Engel said. “I knew I wanted to let René go first because I knew it was going to be a little damp and I didn’t want to be the first car to come across the damp patches on each lap.

“I found that Bergwerk was still quite wet and there I made the decision to let further cars past me and backed up a little bit to give some time for the track to dry further.”

Engel also praised the organizers for leaving Estre’s car where it was and giving everybody the same chance to complete a lap.

“The team informed me really well about the situation, complements to the race officials for what they did,” he said.

“All the drivers knew where it was; I think it was a fair solution for everyone.”

Behind Farfus, the two Haribo Racing Team AMG Mercedes qualified 3rd and 4th, with the No. 88 driven by Maximillian Götz ahead of Uwe Alzen in the No. 8 car.

Frank Stippler was the best-placed of the Audi fleet in 5th for Phoenix Racing, while Christian Krognes made it two BMWs in the top six in the No. 999 Walkenhorst Motorsport M6 GT3.

Estre wasn’t the only man to come into strife in the session.

Nick Catsburg qualified 7th in the No. 22 ROWE Racing BMW, but ended his session in the barriers after a mistake on his second flying lap, while the No. 1 WRT Audi of Pierre Kaffer could only manage 22nd on the grid after suffering a puncture early on.

The race gets underway tomorrow at 3:30 pm, local time.

James Newbold (@James_Newbold) is a UK-based freelance motorsport journalist. A graduate of Politics and International Relations, James is also the editor of Autosport Performance.

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