Audi Sport Team Phoenix won the 50th edition of the Nürburgring 24, defeating Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed in a race that was decided by changing conditions in the later stages.
The No. 15 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II driven by Kelvin van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor, Frederic Vervisch and Robin Frijns took the checkered flag and were declared the winners after a tense ending in which their entry’s final pit stop was placed under investigation.
Phoenix spent the early stages trailing both TF Sport and ROWE Racing’s No. 98 BMW M4 GT3 after Vanthoor continued following contact with his brother Laurens at Tiergarten.
The two cars made side-by-side contact which pitched the No. 1 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R into a spin before hitting the barrier hard, ending the race for the defending winners.
The No. 15 Audi, however, carried on and was able to assume the lead as night fell when both TF Sport and ROWE Racing were eliminated in quick succession.
First, Nicki Thiim crashed out of the lead in the No. 90 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 at Galgenkopf around seven hours in. It was suspected that the Dane came across an oil patch on track, which caused the car to slide off the track and into the left-side barrier.
Moments later, Sheldon van der Linde experienced a high-speed crash when his BMW suffered a suspected failure between Bergwerk and Kesselchen, which pitched the car hard into the barriers and eliminated it on the spot.
The No. 15 Audi inherited the lead with the No. 3 Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Adam Christodoulou, Maximilian Goetz and Fabian Schiller moving into second, thus setting up the primary battle for the remainder of the Eifel classic.
Throughout the night and into Sunday morning, the Phoenix Audi would trade the lead of the race back and forth with Schubert Motorsport’s No. 20 BMW, which was running on an off-sequence strategy.
Schubert’s victory tilt would effectively come to an end late in hour sixteen when Alexander Sims was caught out by a first brief rain shower whilst battling with Van der Linde.
The BMW slid off the track between Metzgesfeld and Kallenhard, hitting the barrier and causing a front-right puncture.
With Schubert no longer a factor, GetSpeed’s primary task in the race was to close up the gap to the leading Audi, which was nearly a minute by the end of the seventeenth hour.
Strong stints from Christodolou and later Schiller appeared to accomplish exactly that, with the Mercedes closing the gap to the leading Audi driven by Vanthoor to within half a second with three hours to go.
However, it was at this point that more rain began to fall around the track. In the changing conditions, GetSpeed made the mistake of keeping its car, now driven by Goetz, on slicks for too long.
While the reigning DTM champion struggled, Phoenix opted to fit the No. 15 Audi with cut slicks, which allowed it to pull away again and seal the victory.
In the process, the Meuspath-based squad secured its first N24 win since 2019 and its sixth in total.
The No. 3 Mercedes-AMG finished second, with its sister car driven by Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella completing the podium.
Schubert Motorsport was in podium contention until the final hour, when its car suffered a mechanical failure in the pitlane, with white smoke pouring out of the engine.
Audi Sport Team Car Collection’s No. 22 car of Christopher Haase, Nico Mueller, Patric Niederhauser and Rene Rast finished fourth.
The top five was rounded out by Car Collection’s second Audi of Patrick Kolb, Mattia Drudi, Christopher Mies and Niederhauser.
Race Of Attrition Takes Out Multiple Contenders
The 2022 edition of the race was the first one in two years to run completely interrupted after the previous two events were both halted for significant periods due to adverse weather conditions.
Despite largely dry conditions, the early running saw a significant number of overall victory contenders crash out of the race.
Alongside the Manthey Porsche and TF Sport’s Aston Martin, ROWE Racing saw both of its cars retire as the No. 99 BMW also failed to finish following a collision with the Toksport WRT Porsche that eliminated both cars.
Van der Linde, who was victorious in the No. 15 car, also crashed during the night in the sister No. 5 Phoenix Audi, which eliminated that car.
KCMG crashed out of the race at the Dottinger Höhe in the closing hours, underlining what was a difficult race for Porsche.
In the SP-X class, Glickenhaus’ No. 706 SCG 004C took class honors by finishing 13th overall.
The Cup2 class was won by the Kkraemer Racing Porsche 992 GT3 Cup of Karsten Kraemer, Christopher Brueck, Moritz Kranz and Alexej Veremenko.
The No. 127 Porsche was able to win when its main rival, Black Falcon Team Identica’s No. 121 car, was eliminated in a big crash for Dutch driver Paul Harkema at Tiergarten.
The top classified GT4 car was the No. 78 FK Performance Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 driven by Ben Green, Marcel Lenerz, Thomas Neubauer and Michael Schrey.
The TCR class was won in dominant fashion by the No. 830 Hyundai Motorsport Elantra TCR of Manuel Lauck, Marc Basseng and Mikel Azcona.
RESULT: Nürburgring 24 (official)