Frikadelli Racing Team ended two decades of German manufacturer dominance at the Nürburgring 24 by claiming a breakthrough victory with its Ferrari 296 GT3.
The No. 30 car driven by David Pittard, Nicky Catsburg, Earl Bamber and Felipe Fernandez Laser finished 26.9 seconds clear of the No. 98 ROWE Racing BMW M4 GT3 of Maxime Martin, Sheldon van der Linde, Marco Wittmann and Dries Vanthoor.
It marked the first win for a non-German car in the Eifel endurance classic since Zakspeed’s 2002 victory with the Chrysler Viper GTS-R.
It was also the first 24-hour race victory for the Ferrari 296 GT3.
The Klaus Abbelen-led squad, which switched from Porsche to Ferrari this year, started the race from fourth position, but Pittard climbed up to second place in the opening hour.
The British driver gained third position at the start before moving past the No. 4 Mercedes-AMG Team Bilstein Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Raffaele Marciello with a run off the Dottinger Höhe to take second.
The No. 30 Ferrari was then among the group of cars to pit first after five laps, which allowed Pittard to leap to the head of the field with a shorter pitstop.
It remained there until the end of the fifth hour, when Catsburg pitted off-sequence due to a left-rear puncture.
The Ferrari’s strong pace allowed Frikadelli to gradually regain the upper hand and move back to the lead, opening up a gap of nearly two minutes at halfway.
Frikadelli then managed the gap through the second half of the race on Sunday and finished comfortably clear of the chasing BMW, even though Martin and Vanthoor brought the margin to under a minute in the final hour.
With 161 laps completed, the winning Ferrari crew also achieved a new distance record in a race that took place in dry conditions throughout.
ROWE Racing delivered the BMW M4 GT3 its first N24 podium, while Mercedes-AMG finished third and fourth.
The No. 4 Mercedes-AMG Team Bilstein crew of Marciello, Luca Stolz, Philip Ellis and Edoardo Mortara completed the podium, beating the No. 2 Team GetSpeed entry of Adam Christodoulou, Fabian Schiller and Maximilian Goetz which finished second last year.
The Mercedes-AMG entries challenged early on but gradually lost ground to the Frikadelli Ferrari through the night.
They also lost one of their frontrunning cars when Maro Engel’s No. 2 GetSpeed machine had contact with a Porsche Cayman at the Stefan-Bellof-S, inflicting damage to the right rear that ultimately led to retirement.
The top five was completed by the No. 96 Rutronik Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Dennis Olsen, Julien Andlauer and Matteo Cairoli, with the No. 39 Audi Sport Team Land trio of Christopher Mies, Christopher Haase and Patric Niederhauser sixth.
Audi and Porsche both saw potentially challenging cars fall away before Sunday morning. The No. 911 Manthey EMA Porsche had a surging start from 20th, but was retired following after dropping out of contention when Kevin Estre hit the tire barrier at Hohenrain in a puncture-induced spin.
The No. 1 and No. 5 Audi were eliminated in simultaneous but individual incidents on the Grand Prix circuit during the night.
Frederic Vervisch and Frank Stippler both lost control of their respective cars due to fluids on the track dropped by another competitor and crashed.
The No. 20 WTM by Rinaldi Racing Ferrari finished seventh, ahead of the No. 6 Mercedes-AMG Team Bilstein car and the No. 44 Falken Motorsports crew of Joel Eriksson, Tim Heinemann, Nico Menzel and Martin Ragginger.
The No. 27 ABT Sportsline Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 driven by Kelvin van der Linde, Marco Mapelli, Jordan Pepper and Nicki Thiim completed the top ten..
The Lamborghini was an early leader with Mapelli at the wheel, but lost ground due to a puncture in the second hour.
In the SP-X class, Mercedes-AMG Team HRT’s No. 46 Mercedes-AMG GT2 laid claim to class honors by finishing 34th overall.
The Cup2 class was won by the Kkraemer Racing Porsche 992 GT3 Cup of Karsten Kraemer, Christopher Brueck, Alexej Veremenko and SELV.
The No. 86 FK Performance Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 driven by Christian Konnerth, Maxime Oosten, Lorenz Stegmann and Miklas Born claimed victory in SP 10.
A dominant run brought the No. 830 Hyundai Motorsport Elantra TCR of Manuel Lauck, Marc Basseng and Mikel Azcona a second consecutive class win in TCR.
RESULTS: Nürburgring 24