GetSpeed Performance team boss Adam Osieka suggested that a decision to keep the Mercedes-AMG squad’s contending car on slick tires during a key stint at the Nürburgring 24 was the main factor that prevented it from winning against Audi Sport Team Phoenix.
Strong stints from Adam Christodoulou and Fabian Schiller brought the No. 3 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo right onto the tail of the leading No. 15 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II with three hours to go, and with rain falling over the western part of the 25.3 km Nürburgring.
After getting to within a second of Dries Vanthoor, Schiller pitted and handed over to Maximilian Goetz, who stayed on slick Michelin tires in changeable conditions.
Vanthoor pitted one lap later, but his Phoenix Audi team gave the inbound Kelvin van der Linde a set of the ‘drying wet’ cut slick option that is suited to damp track surfaces.
Van der Linde then extended the lead to a minute, shortly after which Goetz pitted and handed over to Christodoulou who was moved onto the intermediary compound, joining GetSpeed’s sister No. 4 machine which had gone to cut slicks when the Audi did.
The margin came down slightly over the remaining hour and a half, but it was too great for Christodoulou to make any meaningful inroads.
“We fought a 24-hour race, but this was one of the keys to gain some time,” Osieka told Sportscar365.
“They made the right decision, and we made the wrong decision.
“At the end we lost 50 seconds and we finished the race 50 seconds [behind], so it was only tire related.
“Sometimes that is like it is here. Some clouds, some rain, some sun: it is very difficult to find the right solution for the track conditions.”
One crucial aspect of the strategic battle was the fact that the No. 3 Mercedes-AMG was always pitting one lap before the No. 15 Audi.
This enabled Phoenix to react while GetSpeed was forced to play its hand first, while it also gave the Audi a quicker final pit stop.
The one-lap disparity traced its roots back to the early hours of the race, when Schiller carried out a seven-lap stint while the rest of the stints between the No. 3 Mercedes-AMG and the No. 15 Audi were all eight-lappers.
“We were always one lap earlier with our pit stops so the Phoenix team always had one more lap,” Osieka explained.
“This was our wrong decision, at the beginning. We pitted one lap earlier and we took it with us for the whole race.
“It’s OK, but when you have conditions like we had, it’s for sure not an advantage.”
Phoenix team principal Ernst Moser confirmed that the No. 15 Audi crew enjoyed the advantage of being able to watch GetSpeed’s tire choices before making its own.
“We were together for a long time and then when they came in to again take risk with the slick tyre, we decided to go safe,” he told Sportscar365.
“We reacted, we went the safer way and we had a good weather forecast. They gave us the information that we had to go like this. We could react to what they were doing.”
Christodoulou agreed that Phoenix pitting one lap later than GetSpeed placed the No. 3 Mercedes-AMG on the back foot strategically.
However, Goetz did not fully believe that the decision to keep him on slick tires was the defining call that cost GetSpeed the win, citing other factors could have been at play.
“I put the slicks on first and they came in one lap later,” the reigning DTM champion told Sportscar365.
“They looked at what I was doing and how quick I was. But in the end, I was quicker than Maro [Engel in the No. 4] on cut slicks.
“For us the slick tire was the right decision, but compared to Audi, they had a stronger package in this stage of the race than us.”
Goetz continued: “We have to analyze how the one minute came out because in the pits we were close, tail to tail, but then suddenly there was a one-minute gap.
“Maybe we hit a Code 60 or something, because we stopped one lap earlier so maybe there was something going on. I am not sure.
“In the end there were more than two hours to go, and I think we had every chance but in the end these guys were a bit better than us today.”
Despite missing out on victory with two of his cars on the podium, Osieka said that GetSpeed could be “very proud” of its performance.
“We didn’t win, but we can be very, very proud because we have two cars, six drivers, no contacts, excellent pitstops, no issues and no mistakes,” he declared.
“The only thing we had is the wrong tire decision and maybe the BoP was not on the level we needed to win the race because Audi was very strong.
“But we can be very proud because we did an excellent job.”