Phoenix Racing gave Audi its fifth Nürburgring 24 win in eight years on Sunday after a race that initially looked set to go the way of Porsche.
Fred Vervisch moved the factory-backed No. 4 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo into the lead with around two hours on the clock as the leading Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R served a penalty.
Dries Vanthoor later took over the Phoenix car, which was also driven by Pierre Kaffer and Frank Stippler, and took it to the line ahead of Kevin Estre in the Manthey Porsche.
Estre, Michael Christensen, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor had looked set for victory after dominating most of the race but they were dealt a 5 minute, 32 second stop-and-hold penalty for speeding under yellow flags.
Their car led entirely uninterrupted from 11:10 p.m. local time for almost 14 hours, and had run in first and second for most of Saturday evening, exchanging the lead with Black Falcon.
The Black Falcon car in question was the No. 2 Mercedes-AMG GT3 that had qualified on pole courtesy of Maro Engel.
It and the No. 911 Porsche were the two main contenders in the first eight hours until Adam Christodoulou collided with a Toyota GR Supra, ending his team’s race.
Frikadelli Racing Team’s No. 31 Porsche and the No. 48 Mann-Filter Mercedes later ended up battling for second from the midway point for most of the morning, while the Manthey car remained untouchable.
This duel ended when Maxi Goetz hit the barrier in the HTP Motorsport-run Mann-Filter car, allowing the Frikadelli car to run fairly comfortably in second until it stopped on track at Hatzenbach following repairs made for a puncture, forcing it into retirement.
The other battle to take place for most of the morning was between the Land Motorsport Audi and the eventual winners in the similar Phoenix car.
A particularly engaging battle for fourth played out between Stippler and Christopher Haase, while their teammates ended up benefitting from the Mann-Filter and Frikadelli cars’ retirements.
Land’s No. 29 Audi also had its race cut short when Kelvin van der Linde picked up a puncture, the debris from which ended up destroying the right-rear corner of his car on the way back to the pits.
When problems began hitting the Land, Frikadelli and Mann-Filter cars, Black Falcon soon found itself back in podium contention, this time with its No. 6 Mercedes.
This promising run, however, ended when Nico Bastian hit the barrier at Eschbach while trying to make up time lost when co-driver Gabriele Piana made an unscheduled stop for puncture repairs.
Local team Black Falcon did get another car on the podium, with its No. 3 entry having a clean race to finish third despite running outside of the top five until the final couple of hours.
Manthey’s other lead Porsche, the No. 1 car, had been a contender early on but a series of problems, including a puncture and a stop for a new door, dropped it down the order. It later retired in the middle of the night after Richard Lietz spun.
One of the biggest stories of the race early on was the run of misfortune for BMW teams, coming after Walkenhorst Motorsport and ROWE Racing gave the Munich-based manufacturer a 1-2-3 sweep in the N24 Qualifying Race.
Both of ROWE’s cars retired from damage within the first four hours, while Walkenhorst’s Pro entry retired with broken suspension and Schnitzer’s entry was hit by a TCR car.
Behind the podium finishers, Haase took the No. 14 Car Collection Motorsport car, which started 29th after failing to make it into Top-Qualifying, to fourth.
The highest-placed non-German car was the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003C in eight, two places of Kondo Racing’s Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
Black Falcon Team Identica claimed SP 10 class honors in the category reserved for full GT4 spec cars, while an Aston Martin Vantage GT4, fielded by AMR Performance Centre, finished in the SP 8T class lead.
Both cars led their respective classes for most of the race.
RESULTS: Nürburgring 24