John Edwards made a last-lap pass for the lead on Porsche driver Patrick Pilet to earn the ROWE Racing BMW squad victory in the opening VLN race of the season.
Edwards, who shared driving duties in the No. 99 BMW M6 GT3 with Nicky Catsburg and Marco Wittmann, got past Pilet in the No. 912 Porsche 911 GT3 R and pulled out a five-second gap at the finish.
Pilet was only just ahead of Edwards heading onto the final lap after drafting his way around the ROWE driver on the Döttinger Höhe straight to take the lead with 18 minutes to go.
The pair went on to battle through the Nordschleife forest with the BMW coming off best to deny the Manthey Racing squad a third consecutive victory in the Westfalenfahrt four-hour race.
However, this year’s season-opener actually ran to a condensed 2-hour, 45-minute duration after heavy fog in the morning forced the race organizers to push back the start time by three hours.
When racing got underway, Connor de Phillippi led the field in the pole-sitting No. 98 ROWE BMW which controlled the opening stanza before fading as the pit stops played out.
The ROWE squad’s No. 98 car, on the other hand, moved up through the field with each of its stints lasting a lap longer than its sister machine.
Both of the Total 24 Hours of Spa-winning team’s BMWs ended up on the podium after Mikkel Jensen overtook Markus Winkelhock in the No. 32 Car Collection Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo in the final stint.
Winkelhock was then forced to make a late splash for fuel at the end of the penultimate lap to promote the Falken Motorsports Porsche of Klaus Bachler and Joerg Bergmeister into fourth.
Jensen, who shared the No. 98 BMW with with De Phillippi and Tom Blomqvist, finished 16 seconds off the winning No. 99 entry with Bachler right on his tail at the checkered flag.
Frikadelli Racing’s Porsche came through in fifth, ahead of the No. 5 Phoenix Audi, while the No. 48 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 finished seventh.
The No. 911 Manthey Porsche of defending race winners Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor retired after contact on the opening lap.
SP9 Pro-Am class honors went to Walkenhorst Motorsport and its BMW M6 GT3 driven by Jody Fannin, Immanuel Vinke and Rudi Adams which led home a 1-2 for the German team.