While considered one of the most demanding circuits in the world, Audi overcame the challenges of the Nürburgring Nordschleife to claim victory in the 24-hour race debut of the all-new R8 LMS.
Christopher Mies took the No. 28 Audi Sport Team WRT entry across the line 40.729 seconds ahead of Maxime Martin, in a race that saw a hard-fought battle between no fewer than three German manufacturers.
BMW led from the green, with the factory-supported Marc VDS Z4 GT3s having the early advantage, but were unable to match the pace by sunrise, which saw the Belgian-run WRT squad leap forward by more than two minutes.
A flash fire while refueling with four hours to go, however, didn’t even stop the Mies, Edward Sandstrom, Nico Mueller and Laurens Vanthoor-driven entry, which gave Audi its third overall Nürburgring 24 victory in the last four years.
Additionally, it marked the first non-German entered team to have won the race in 20 years.
Martin and co-drivers Lucas Luhr, Richard Westbrook and Markus Palttala settled for second, unable to deliver a win for the Z4 GT3 in its final outing for the car in the twice-around-the-clock enduro.
The No. 44 Falken Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Peter Dumbreck, Wolf Henzler, Martin Ragginger and Alexandre Imperatori completed the overall and SP9 GT3 class podium in third, after also contending during the middle stages.
The top-five was completed by the pole-sitting No. 26 Marc VDS BMW and No. 5 Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, while the No. 17 Walkenhorst BMW, featuring factory driver John Edwards on race debut, finished sixth.
It wasn’t all clear sailing for Audi, which saw the No. 29 WRT entry lose ground due to an early race crash from Pierre Kaffer, but salvage a seventh place finish, befitting from overheating issues that ended in retirement for the No. 23 Rowe Racing Mercedes in the final hour.
Class winners included the No. 61 Black Falcon Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (SP7), No. 53 Toyota Gazoo Racing Lexus LFA Code X (SP-Pro) and No. 87 Team Mathol Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 (SP10 GT4).
The debuting Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003C, meanwhile, took the checkered flag in 37th overall, the only SP-X starter, after battling a number of new car issues.
Of note, the No. 68 Frikadelli Porsche 911 GT America, featuring American Porsche Junior Connor De Phillippi, finished second in the SP7 class.
The German endurance classic saw retirements from more than 30 cars due to accidents, although some influenced by track conditions.
Defending race winner Christian Mamerow crashed his No. 1 Phoenix Audi heavily at Pflanzgarten in the 10th hour after leading the majority of the race up until that point.
The sister Phoenix entry also suffered an accident when Mike Rockenfeller slipped on oil laid down at Klostertal around 4 a.m., which also collected Stefan Muecke’s No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.
While the lead Aston continued following the multi-car pileup to finish 16th overall, the No. 006 car retired just after sunrise with drivetrain issues, after running solidly inside the top-10 overall as well.
Both of the Schubert BMWs also failed to finish, with crash damage from Claudia Hurtgen’s accident ending the No. 20 car’s run. An off by Dirk Mueller in the wet in the No. 19 BMW ended the race for the former overall winner.
The lead Black Falcon Mercedes retired after after its left-rear wheel fell off on-track in the fifth hour, despite a valiant multi-hour effort by front-row starter Adam Christodoulou to reattach it to the car.
The No. 30 Frikadelli Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 R, which led the early stages, crashed out at the Karussell in the hands of Patrick Pilet in the eighth hour during the same downpour which caught out Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 84 Bentley Continental GT3.
It was a challenging N24 debut for Bentley, with its all-British Racing Green-liveried No. 85 car losing nearly five hours after Guy Smith got collected in an early race accident, although it did finish 74th overall.
The No. 11 Bentley Team HTP entry flew the flag for much of the race, finishing eighth overall and the highest of the non-German cars.
Other cars to have been knocked out of contention from accidents included the No. 27 Zakspeed Mercedes, No. 4 Haribo Mercedes and the No. 10 Wochenspiegel Team Manthey Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
A total of 200,000 spectators were on hand for this year’s race, which saw the winning Audi complete 156 laps, or nearly 2,500 miles.