Reigning FIA World Endurance GT champion Nicki Thiim will drive a Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo in this weekend’s NLS round which has attracted a 147-car entry.
Thiim, who along with Marco Sorensen clinched a second WEC GTE title last year with Aston Martin Racing, will partner reigning European Le Mans Series GTE champion Michele Beretta in the DMV four-hour race.
It is set to mark Thiim’s first appearance in an Audi since 2015 when he drove an Abt-prepared R8 LMS Ultra in ADAC GT Masters.
The Dane has remained an Aston Martin driver beyond the end of the marque’s factory race team program after the 2019-20 WEC season. His NLS run with Phoenix comes off the back of two races with the team’s new LMP2 program in the Asian Le Mans Series.
Thiim’s most recent Nordschleife race was the 2018 edition of the N24 when he contributed to a fourth-place finish for a factory-prepared Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
His fellow Aston Martin GTE-Pro driver and reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Maxime Martin, who was also a part of that fourth-place run, is sharing a Frikadelli Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 R with Corvette Racing IMSA driver Nick Tandy.
Aston Martin is allowing its continuing factory drivers to pursue other race programs in addition to their commitments with the company’s customer racing support network.
The entry list for this weekend’s NLS event includes 20 cars in the top SP9 category, down eight from last month’s season-opening round which was ultimately canceled on the morning of the race due to snowy conditions at the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Notable absentees include Lamborghini outfit FFF Racing Team and Mercedes-AMG squad Haupt Racing Team, both of which are prioritizing the clashing Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup curtain-raiser at Monza.
Defending Nürburgring 24 winner ROWE Racing is also absent for reasons that are currently unclear.
The Monza overlap has reduced Mercedes-AMG to a two-car program with no vehicles in the Pro sub-division of SP9. HRT and GetSpeed Performance are the two factory-supported AMG squads in the NLS, while both are also competing in GTWC Europe.
GetSpeed is still running a private car in the Am class, while 24H Series regular CP Racing joins the NLS grid with a Pro-Am entry for Americans Charles Putman and Joe Foster alongside 2016 Nürburgring 24 winner Adam Christodoulou.
Phoenix is operating a total of three cars, including the Audi for Thiim and Beretta.
The 2019 Nürburgring 24 winner also has an R8 LMS GT3 Evo for Vincent Kolb and Frank Stippler, and is running a Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 for the Wochenspiegel Team Monschau organization which is set for its first NLS showing since 2019.
Two more Audis are listed, including a Car Collection Motorsport entry featuring works driver Patric Niederhauser, but none of the entries have ‘Audi Sport’ factory branding.
Porsche is the best-represented SP9 manufacturer with eight cars including two apiece from Falken Motorsports and Frikadelli.
Manthey Racing has Porsche’s 2018-19 FIA World Endurance GT champions Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen together for the first time this year, alongside Lars Kern.
Three BMW M6 GT3s are registered, courtesy of Walkenhorst Motorsport and the BMW Junior Team. Walkenhorst, which is running two Pro cars at Monza, is not fielding its lead No. 34 entry.
FFF Racing Team’s Monza prioritization means Konrad Motorsport is back to being the sole Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo operator for this race.
De Silvestro to Make NLS Debut in Porsche
Elsewhere on the grid, Porsche factory driver Simona de Silvestro is set to make her Nordschleife racing debut in a GT4-spec Porsche Cayman running on biofuels.
The Four Motors team which runs the ‘Bioconcept-Car’ program announced de Silvestro alongside Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup front-runners Ayhancan Guven and Jaxon Evans back in February, but this weekend marks the organization’s first race of the year.
After being placed in different cars for the snowed-off opening round, Christina Nielsen and Pippa Mann will share a BMW 330i in the VT2 category which contains 18 entries.
BMW M brand CEO Markus Flasch is set to contest the 12-car BMW M2 CS Racing Cup alongside TV presenter Matthias Malmedie and hill climb specialist Joerg Weidinger.
Former Bentley works driver Seb Morris will also feature in that single-make class, driving for Walkenhorst Motorsport. Ben Tuck, who is a full-time driver in Walkenhorst’s absent No. 34 SP9 entry, is involved in the German squad’s other M2 CS Racing crew.
Touring car stalwart Peter Terting is set to race the new KTM X-Bow GTX for the first time as part of a one-make category, and is also piloting an Opel Astra in the TCR bracket.
Saturday’s four-hour race is set to get underway at 12 p.m. local time (6 a.m. EST).