Mercedes-AMG squad Haupt Racing Team earned its maiden race victory in the first of this weekend’s two Nürburgring Langstrecken Serie four-hour contests.
Maro Engel brought the No. 16 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo past the checkered flag 34.2 seconds clear of David Pittard in the No. 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.
Engel shared the overall and SP9 class win with Luca Stolz, Manuel Metzger and Adam Christodoulou.
HRT announced itself on the GT3 stage last month when it crossed the line first in the NLS season-opener, only for its landmark debut victory to be ruled out by a time penalty.
The team run by racer Hubert Haupt and consisting of former Black Falcon senior staff made amends for that episode by beating the Walkenhorst squad that inherited the victory the last time out.
Stolz launched into the lead at the start of Saturday’s race from row two of the grid, overtaking the Walkenhorst and Team Schnitzer BMWs that occupied the front row.
The German driver then pulled clear of the field in the opening stint, but the top positions changed during the first of three pit sequences as teams tried out different stint lengths.
This resulted in the No. 16 HRT Mercedes temporarily slipping to third behind the Walkenhorst and Schnitzer BMWs which pitted two laps earlier than the race leader.
Mikkel Jensen led for Walkenhorst through the second stint from Schnitzer’s Sheldon van der Linde, but the HRT Mercedes was back ahead around halfway when the front runners all pitted on lap 13.
Having run a longer opening stint than the BMWs, the HRT Mercedes enjoyed a shorter second stint which helped it to get back ahead during the second pit sequence.
Christodoulou came out with a lead of around 25 seconds, while Fabian Schiller had moved up to second in the No. 2 GetSpeed Performance Mercedes ahead of Christian Krognes in the Walkenhorst BMW and Augusto Farfus for Schnitzer.
2016 Nürburgring 24 winner Christodoulou then extended the gap to around 40 seconds during the third stint, while Engel successfully preserved HRT’s cushion until the checkered flag.
Behind the winner emerged a tight battle for the remaining podium positions.
Krognes handed over to Pittard at the final pit stop and the Briton quickly set about catching Schiller, who shared the GetSpeed car with Maximilian Buhk
The Walkenhorst BMW and the Mercedes switched positions twice before Pittard made a deciding move on the penultimate lap to secure second place for himself, Jensen and Krognes.
Schiller crossed the line in third, ensuring that the same three teams that were on the podium in the season-opener formed the top three in round two.
Farfus – who shared the Schnitzer car with van der Linde and Martin Tomczyk – came through in fourth but only just in front of his fellow BMW factory driver Alexander Sims.
Formula E racer Sims, who shared the ROWE Racing BMW with Nick Yelloly, got alongside Farfus at the start of the final lap but couldn’t find a way past.
This battle was around half a minute up the road from Kevin Estre, who charged past three cars in the final stint to set Frikadelli Racing as the best-placed Porsche squad.
Estre made it to sixth position with a final-lap pass on the No. 8 GetSpeed Mercedes of Christer Jöns and Matthieu Vaxiviere.
Right behind Jöns on the sprint to the line was Julien Andlauer in the No. 911 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R that was also driven by Mathieu Jaminet and Lars Kern.
Ferrari squad Octane 126 came away with the fastest lap of 7:59.969 set by Luca Ludwig in the 488 GT3 Evo that finished ninth, while KCMG was 10th in its first race with Porsche.
The best of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos was the No. 29 car of Dries Vanthoor and Mattia Drudi in 11th.
Lamborghini outfit Konrad Motorsport featured highly in the early stages courtesy of Marco Mapelli’s impressive opening stint, but the team had faded to 15th by the end.
Honors in the SP9 category’s Pro-Am bracket went to the No. 25 Huber Motorsport Porsche driven by Marco Holzer, Rocco Di Torrepadula and Patrick Kolb.
SP-Pro entrant Black Falcon was the best-placed non-GT3 squad with its Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR in 23rd overall, while Pixum Team Adrenalin Motorsport won the GT4-based SP10 category by just 0.119 seconds from fellow BMW squad FK Performance.
The next round of the NLS is the ADAC Barbarossapreis, which is set to get underway tomorrow at 12 p.m. German time (6 a.m. EST).