This weekend’s Nürburgring 24, is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable races in recent history at the Nordschleife, with notable car debuts and sweeping new rules for the German endurance classic.
No fewer than 156 cars are entered for the ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen. While the number is down from recent years, the grid doesn’t lack quality, with factory or works-supported entries from more than a half-dozen GT3 manufacturers.
ENTRY LIST: Nürburgring 24
After dominating the most recent VLN round, Audi heads in as favorites with its all-new R8 LMS, which makes its 24-hour race debut.
Four of the new GT3 contenders are entered across the factory-supported Phoenix and WRT squads, as the German manufacturer seeks back-to-back overall victories on the “Green Hell.”
Reigning N24 winners Rene Rast, Markus Winkelhock, Christopher Haase and Christian Mamerow lead the charge in the No. 1 Phoenix Audi, with notables such as Mike Rockenfeller, Marcel Fassler, Nicki Thiim and Pierre Kaffer in the sister entries.
Bentley makes its Nordschleife debut with a pair factory M-Sport-run Continental GT3s, featuring a stacked lineup including the likes of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Andy Meyrick, the latter three drivers in a special all-British Racing Green livery.
A third Continental GT3, meanwhile, is entered for the works-supported Bentley Team HTP outfit.
There’s also factory involvement from Aston Martin with a pair of V12 Vantage GT3s featuring Darren Turner, Stefan Muecke, Pedro Lamy and Richie Stanaway, Jonny Adam and Mathias Lauda.
Four works-supported BMW Z4 GT3s will be seeking to bring the Bavarian manufacturer back to victory lane for the first time since 2010, with a strong arsenal of drivers between the Schubert and Marc VDS squads.
BMW’s lineup includes factory drivers Dirk Mueller, Dirk Werner, Martin Tomczyk, Lucas Luhr, Joerg Mueller, Maxime Martin, Augusto Farfus, as well as GM factory driver on-loan Richard Westbrook.
Porsche factory pilots Richard Lietz, Fred Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet, Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler, meanwhile, are spread across various 911 GT3-Rs and Mercedes also represented with the leading Rowe Racing and Black Falcon squads.
There are other eye-catching cars entered as well, including the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003c, which will be competing int he SP-X category with drivers such as Marino Franchitti, Franck Mailleux and Americans Jeff Westphal and Ken Dobson.
The SP9 and SP-X classes are just two of nearly a dozen categories of cars ranging from top-level GT3s to touring cars.
Following the tragic accident in the opening VLN round in March, which claimed the life of a spectator, Nissan is running a reduced single-car factory effort for Alex Buncombe, Michael Krumm, Kazuki Hoshino and Lucas Ordonez.
The accident, which saw Jann Mardenborough’s Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 backflip and launch into a spectator area at Flugplatz, has resulted in a number of safety related measures being put into place this weekend.
It includes a 5 percent reduction in engine power for the SP9 GT3 class, as well as 200 km/h (124 mph) speed limits for all cars at Flugplatz, a 250 km/h limit between Flugplatz and Schwedenkreuz as well as a maximum speed of 250 km/h (155 mph) on the Döttinger Höhe straight.
The restrictions were put into place prior to the last month’s Qualifying Race, as well as the most recent VLN round, which ran without major incident.
But how the changes will fare and be properly policed over a 24-hour race remains unclear, and is arguably one of the major question marks heading into the weekend.
On-track activity gets underway on Thursday, with Free Practice and the first round of Qualifying, followed by the Top-30 Shootout on Friday.
The ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen gets underway Saturday at 4 p.m. local (10 a.m. ET).