Raffaele Marciello shot into the lead of the Nürburgring 24 and kept his Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo ahead through an opening stint full of challenging wet-weather running.
Marciello, who shares the bright yellow No. 9 GetSpeed Performance car with Maximilian Goetz, Maximilian Buhk and Fabian Schiller, dived to the inside of Jonathan Hirschi’s Ferrari at the end of the left-hander heading onto the Nordschleife to seize the lead.
Ludwig, who started from second on the grid, jumped past pole-sitter Maro Engel on the run down to Turn 1 but his advantage only lasted a handful of corners on the GP section.
After Marciello got past both of the front-row starters, Engel moved back into second past Hirschi on the first tour of the Nordschleife.
Hirschi’s Octane 126 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 faded dramatically over that lap, falling to the rear of the main SP9 pack, while Marciello established a four-second lead over Engel.
The gap between the GetSpeed and HRT Mercedes-AMGs grew slightly over the next three-quarters of an hour to just over six seconds, while the next-closest car in third was just over 50 seconds behind as Marciello and Engel sped away.
Marco Mapelli made a terrific charge into the top three during the opening stint with the Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini driver, who started from 23rd on the grid, overtaking BMW Team Schnitzer’s Martin Tomczyk shortly before the end of hour one.
Frank Stippler was fifth in the No. 5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, ahead of Audi Sport Team drivers Markus Winkelhock and Frederic Vervisch.
Earl Bamber got past Nick Yelloly, who ran as high as fourth in the early stages for ROWE Racing, to put the best-placed Porsche 911 GT3 R up to eighth overall.