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Nürburgring Endurance

Frantic Start to Nürburgring 24

BMW Team Schubert leads opening hour of Nurburgring 24…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

The 2014 Nürburgring 24 experienced a most eventful opening hour. Under sunny skies the gigantic field of 165 cars was released, as is the custom, in three groups.

The fastest cars, led by polesitter Kevin Estre in the No. 66 McLaren MP4-12C was already two-thirds around on its first race lap when the third group was given the green lap. This last set contains mostly smaller touring car categories and there was near mayhem at their start.

One BMW cut across the grid and forced another into the wall. Cool heads prevailed and everyone kept going straight, just as Estre came around to grab a 5-second lead over a brace of BMW Z4s.

One of the lead group was already in trouble, Patrick Pilet having pitted the No. 6 Frikadelli Porsche 997 GT3 R on the pace lap with a leaky cooling system. Estre stretched the lead a bit more next time around while behind him there was a bit of an intra-BMW misunderstanding.

Slowing for the Yokohama Chicane Markus Palttala in the No. 26 Marc VDS Z4 bumped Claudia Hürtgen in the No. 20 Schubert entry. At the end of the same lap Maxime Martin spun on his own at end of the Nordschleife portion of the joint circuit and after stalling was able to return to the pits with seemingly little worse than a puncture.

The No. 80 Nissan GT-R of Alex Buncombe also was involved in an incident and made a long slow trip back to the pits.

Fredy Barth (No. 51 Lexus), Ferdinand Stuck (No. 28 BMW Z4), and Mal Rose (No. 70 SP8 class Aston Martin) were among the significant early callers in the pits. Then there was major drama when Sebastian Asch (No. 69 McLaren) executed a quit poor lapping maneuver and cut off the No. 301 BMW M325 of Jörg Weidinger.

The orange MP4-12C got away with little damage but the BMW was punted off to the left. Thomas Jäger happened to be coming up from behind in the No .23 Rowe Racing Mercedes. The SLS AMG braked heavily and was caught in the rear by Peep Pihotalo in the No. 190 Sorg Rennsport BMW M325. Jäger’s car was spun into the guardrail. He was able to later bring the quite damaged Mercedes back to the pits.

Moments later the brakes on Peter Schmidt’s No. 31 Car Collection Mercedes failed at the NSK Chicane and he went straight through, T-boning the No. 12 Manthey Porsche 997 GT3 R of Otto Klohs. The front the Mercedes and the left rear corner of the Porsche were destroyed.

There was also mechanical carnage going on with the works BMW M325i stopping with an apparent blown motor. Lesser problems hit the #33 Kevin Estre Porsche (broken oil cooler) and the No. 75 Porsche of Edgar Althoff had a puncture.

The fast opening stint of the lead McLaren ended—the team having to swap out a fairly soft qualifying style compound on which they started. This passed the lead to fastest of the BMWs—a very busy 60 minutes indeed.

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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