Nicky Catsburg, Alexander Sims and Nick Yelloly delivered BMW’s first Nürburgring 24 victory in a decade after a thrilling late-race turnaround to beat the leading Audi crew.
Catsburg took the checkered flag 16 seconds ahead of Christopher Haase in the No. 3 Audi Sport Team Car Collection Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo that was also driven by Mirko Bortolotti and Markus Winkelhock.
During the seven-hour bout of Sunday running after a long overnight red flag, the ROWE BMW M6 GT3 grabbed the lead with just under two hours remaining when Catsburg switched from slick to ‘drying wet’ tires at the return of rainfall over the Nordschleife.
Haase, who had about 10 seconds in hand to Catsburg before the rain hit, stayed out for an extra lap on slicks and hemorrhaged time to the BMW which emerged from the pit sequence with a large advantage.
However, Haase reduced the gap over the penultimate stint on wets, bringing the Car Collection Audi to within 15 seconds of the ROWE machine, while the German driver also had a slightly shorter final fuel stop because of his extra lap spent on slick tires.
But Catsburg remained ahead through the final round of stops as both he and Haase took on new sets of drying wet rubber, and kept it clean through the final quarter of an hour to secure BMW’s 20th overall Nürburgring 24 win.
A BMW also finished third as Augusto Farfus brought Team Schnitzer’s car that also featured Sheldon van der Linde, Jens Klingmann and Martin Tomczyk to the podium, one and a half minutes behind the Car Collection Audi.
The No. 98 ROWE Racing BMW finished fourth with Marco Wittmann, Philipp Eng and Tom Blomqvist driving.
Wittmann crossed the line ahead of Dries Vanthoor in the fifth-placed No. 1 Audi Sport Team Phoenix car, although Vanthoor was on for a podium until his Audi picked up a left-rear puncture in the final hour.
That incident dropped the 2019-winning entry that also included Nico Mueller, Frederic Vervisch and Frank Stippler out of third position and enabled Schnitzer to seize the final podium spot.
Wet weather dictated the 48th running of the Nürburgring 24, which was put on hold for nine and a half hours from 10:30 p.m. and through the night due to treacherous track conditions.
Audi was in charge when the red flag waved but it was Mercedes-AMG which had the upper hand for most of the opening seven hours of competition.
Raffaele Marciello made a brilliant start for GetSpeed Performance and led in the No. 9 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo until Manuel Metzger got ahead in the No. 4 Haupt Racing team entry during the third round of pit stops.
However, Mercedes-AMG’s race fell apart soon after that, as Metzger crashed heavily coming out of the small Karussell in hour five before Marciello, who had re-taken the lead, spun out of contention with heavy damage to his GetSpeed car in hour seven.
These incidents played into the hands of Audi, which moved into first, second and third with its three factory-supported Audi Sport cars from Phoenix, Land-Motorsport and Car Collection.
Vanthoor led into the red flag for the Phoenix squad, which was seeking to defend its 2019 victory, but shortly after the restart at 8 a.m. the Car Collection entry moved to the front of the intra-marque battle with Haase on a charge.
However, Audi’s station at the head of the field was challenged with the development of a dry line that raised the possibility of new tire choices with around six hours to go.
The BMW crews were quicker to adapt to the changing conditions and this helped bring the Schnitzer and ROWE cars firmly into contention.
ROWE’s No. 99 BMW was then in a prime position to launch a bid for victory when the rain came back.
Porsche never really challenged for the win but the manufacturer’s leading car, the No. 31 Frikadelli Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 R, had a reliable run to sixth overall.
That car finished one place ahead of the Audi Sport Team Land R8, which lost its chances of victory when Mies opted for cut slick tires too early into the track’s drying phase, before the car was hit with a 32-second stop/hold penalty for non-respect of flag signals.
The Land car was classified ahead of the Frikadelli machine in the results after Porsche driver Mathieu Jaminet was given a 62-second time penalty for “repeated pushing” of Eng’s ROWE BMW in a battle between the pair.
In eighth and ninth were the two remaining HRT Mercedes-AMGs still running after Metzger’s accident.
The overall top 10 at the line was completed by the No. 44 Falken Motorsports Porsche, which finished one spot ahead of its sister car.
Walkenhorst Motorsport finished 12th with the No. 18 KCMG Porsche down in 13th after a costly puncture for Joerg Bergmeister, whose car had been running in the top five during the post-red flag period.
Next in the order was the new Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus 004C, competing in its first 24-hour race and its second race outright.
The highest-finishing GT4 car in 19th overall was the SP8T class-winning Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 driven by Dan Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen.
RESULTS: Nürburgring 24