Haupt Racing Team led the Nürburgring 24 on four hours after a Luca Stolz overtake on Kevin Estre and a transition back onto slick tires following early rain at the Nordschleife.
Stolz, who is teamed up with Manuel Metzger, Maro Engel and Adam Christodoulou, got past Estre early in the third hour after lunging down the outside of the Manthey Racing Porsche driver at Turn 1 before switching back inside for the next left-hander.
Estre briefly reclaimed the lead with a better drive out of Turn 2, but Stolz kept up the pressure and was able to set up a braking maneuver into the GP circuit hairpin.
Shortly after that positional change – which came after Estre’s charge from 11th on the grid to lead early on – drying conditions prompted the SP9-class teams to consider moving away from full-wet tire compounds.
ROWE Racing was the first front-running team to deviate, as the defending N24 winner fixed cut slicks onto its third-placed No. 1 BMW M6 GT3 started by Nicky Catsburg, while the rest of the SP9 contenders stayed on wets at their scheduled second pit stops.
Catsburg’s co-driver John Edwards emerged from the pits further down the order but had been promoted to the lead by the end of the three-hour mark after the other SP9 competitors elected to come back in after short two or three-lap third stints.
Slick tires were fixed to cars up and down the pit lane, including the No. 4 HRT Mercedes and Manthey’s Porsche, which continued their positional battle after stopping.
At the head of the field, Edwards continued for only four laps before opting for slicks himself. This call at the start of the fourth hour dropped the American behind several drivers including Metzger, Manthey’s Michael Christensen, net-third BMW driver Jesse Krohn and the battling Porsches of Huber Motorsport and Frikadelli Racing Team’s No. 31 crew.
Huber’s Marco Seefried and Friakdelli’s Maxime Martin – both on alternative strategies – both pitted midway through the fourth hour, followed by Krohn 10 minutes before the hour mark. This handed third place to Connor de Philippi in the No. 98 ROWE BMW.
Nicki Thiim came out best in a long battle with Alexandre Imperatori’s KCMG Porsche to run fourth in the No. 11 Phoenix Racing Audi. Edwards then managed to split the pair.
The Audi Sport Team Land R8 LMS GT3 Evo is the only factory-supported Audi still in the hunt, after an accident for Phoenix and early issues for Car Collection Motorsport.
Dries Vanthoor’s Audi Sport Team Phoenix car lost its rear wing and incurred significant right-front damage after striking the outside wall at the left-hander before Kallenhard.
Another high-profile entry to hit trouble in the first four hours was the No. 30 Frikadelli Racing Team Porsche, which was wheeled back into its garage with steering issues.
While the heavy rain that characterized the first and second hours has receded, foggy skies had started to cover the Nürburgring by the end of the fourth hour.