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VLN: ROWE DMV 250-Meilen-Rennen, Race Report

Just like at the last VLN race the participants of the ninth race of the season were greeted with thick fog around the Nürburgring-Nordschleife when qualifying was supposed to start. It took about an hour for the fog to lift and qualifying was finally started with an hour and five minutes of delay. With the track quickly drying the end of qualifying saw the times plummet down towards the magical 8 minutes barrier, although Jens Klingmann had a sub 8 minutes lap earlier this year everyone was still waiting for this magic mark to fall during qualifying. First it was Christian Hohenadel in the Rowe-Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 to go under 8 minutes, but his 7:59.797 didn’t stay atop of the timing screens for a long time as the Jürgen Alzen Ford GT driven by Jürgen Alzen laid down a 7:59.284 minutes. But then it was Frank Stippler stunning everyone, securing pole position with a 7:57.474 minutes a new lap record for the VLN used track variant of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife plus the GP loop and its short cut. On it’s VLN debut the Bentley Continental GT3 qualified seventh with a very respectable time of 8:08.126 minutes.

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The start of the race saw Frank Stippler use his pole position to take the lead, but not without drama. At the first corner he had a slight touch with Maro Engel, starting the Rowe-SLS. With smoke coming from body work rubbing on the tire Stippler weaved a round on the GP loops straight to get a cure for the smoke, which worked out while he still held the lead when the pack hit the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. Following Stippler onto the Nordschleife it was Maro Engel in second place ahead of Dominik Schwager (Jürgen Alzen Ford GT), Markus Winkelhock (Audi race experience Audi R8), Hubert Haupt (Black Falcon SLS) and Wolf Henzler (Falken Motorsports Porsche 911). Andy Meyrick starting the Bentley lost one position, when Patrick Huisman was able to slip past him.

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During the first lap it was Schwager finding a way past Engel to take second, but Stippler was able to put a little bit of breathing room between him and his chasers. In P4 it was still Winkelhock, but Henzler was able to get past Haupt and now had to defend the Nissan GT-R with Katsumasa Chiyo behind the wheel. Following them it was still Huisman ahead of Meyrick. During the opening lap an Opel Astra OPC had a crash at the Flugplatz/ Schwedenkreuz section and with a localized yellow/ code 60 zone there the often criticised accordion effect took out three GT3 cars and left one battered and bruised with a long repair stop looming. Wolf Henzler, Katsumasa Chiyo and Patrick Huisman had to retire on the spot with extensive damage to their cars, while Andy Meyrick was able to limp the Bentley back to the pits and after an almost two hour repair stop, interrupted by short test runs on the GP loop, the Continental GT got back out, completing 17 laps in total.

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Taking advantage of the trouble up front it was Oliver Kainz in the Wochenspiegel Porsche moving from tenth to fifth, while Frank Stippler still lead from Dominik Schwager and Maro Engel. Engel was able to take second on lap three, when Schwager retired due to engine trouble. And he was on a charge getting past Frank Stippler on lap four, taking the lead. On lap six Stippler was in even more trouble, when a puncture had him falling out of the leading group, handing second to Markus Winkelhock. The bad luck didn’t stop for Stippler, as he was slammed with a Stop-and-Go penalty for jumping the start of the race, after all he and his teammate Marc Basseng found themselves outside of the Top 50.

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After a superb double stint Maro Engel handed the leading Mercedes-Benz over to Christian Hohenadel, and the former FIA GT3 champion controlled the lead until the end of the race, handing Rowe-Racing its second victory of the season. In second place the Audi race experience scored their first overall podium finish, with Marco Werner, Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Haase finishing second. It was also Werner’s first VLN podium, 30 years after he first competed in the championship.

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After a great fightback Marc Basseng and Frank Stippler were able to salvage a third place finish, getting by the TwinBusch Audi in the final hour of the race. Dennis and Marc Busch finished in fourth, one place ahead of the Wochenspiegel Team Manthey Porsche. Stuart Leonard and Paul Wilson scored a fine sixth place finish. The lone Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW crossed the line in seventh, during Felipe Laser’s opening stint the car was competing for a top three finish but eventually his teammates Peter Posavac and Stefan Aust fell back. Wolfgang Kohler and Christian Menzel were eight, while the GetSpeed Performance team won the SP7 class by finishing in ninth. Steve Jans and Adam Osieka switched from the Porsche Carrera Cup class to the SP7 in order to gain more points for the overall championship due to the higher number of SP7 participants. The final top ten place went to Markus Palttala, Marc Hennerici and Dennis Trebing in the raceunion Teichmann Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, which also won the Porsche Carrera Cup class.

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The final VLN race takes place on October 25th, the championship is already pretty much decided with Michael Flehmer and Rolf Derscheid scoring a seventh class victory of the season. Only an exclusion from the race would rob the BMW 325i duo of its championship crown.