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VLN: 40. DMV 4-Stunden-Rennen, Race Report, Pole For Bentley, Win For New Audi R8

It was 185 cars turning up for the second VLN race of the 2015 season, the 40. DMV 4-Stunden-Rennen also marked the final chance for the teams to fine tune their cars for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. During Friday’s testday the weather couldn’t have been nicer, with the sun warming up the Eifel region, Saturday then saw a turn for the worse, with heavy rainfalls making parts of the race very difficult to negotiate. But it still gave the teams a chance of running in dry and wet conditions, making it a good preparations for the 24 Hour race in less than three weeks time.

Lance-David Arnold was able to give the Bentley Continental GT3 it’s first VLN pole-position, by hammering out a 8:18.892 minutes lap time early in the session. At this point the track was damp in certain sections, but with rain beginning to get stronger no time improvements were possible towards the end of the session. Second place went to Marcel Fässler, Christopher Haase and Frank Stippler in the Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi R8 LMS ahead of the Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3 of Stefan Mücke, Pedro Lamy and Darren Turner. A surprise fourth was Connor de Philippi in the Frikadelli Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 Cup America, he shared with Frank Kräling and Marc Gindorf. Fifth went to the sister Frikadelli Porsche 911 GT3 R, ahead of the Wochenspiegel Team Manthey Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

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With rain threatening a lot of teams prepped their cars to start on rain tires into the four hour race, when the lights went green Lance-David Arnold was able to use his pole-position to take the lead ahead of Frank Stippler in the Phoenix R8 LMS and Darren Turner (Aston Martin Vantage) and Oliver Kainz (Wochenspiegel RSR). Jörg Bergmeister in the Frikadelli Racing Porsche ran into trouble even before the field hit the Nordschleife, after he limped back to the pits he was pushed into the box with an apparent rear axle problem.

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The rain tires proved to be the wrong choice for the opening laps of the race and after laps one, two and three many teams decided to change to slicks as they proved to be faster on the drying circuit. After everyone made the change to slicks it was the Rowe Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Thomas Jäger, Christian Hohenadel, Nico Bastian and Klaus Graf in the lead ahead of Pierre Kaffer and Laurens Vanthoor in the Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS and the Lance-David Arnold/ Christian Menzel/ Guy Smith Bentley Continental GT3. The opening hour of the race also saw a lot of cars taken out of the race, either due to a technical problem or crashing out of the race. Jaap van Lagen in the Black Falcon SLS got together with Maro Engel in the second Rowe SLS taking both of the gullwinged sportscars out of the race, while the Falken Motorsport Porsche stranded with a technical problem.

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After the first hour it was the remaining Rowe-SLS, the Kaffer/Vanthoor R8 and the Bentley of Arnol, Menzel and Smith still in a battle for the lead, fourth was the Haribo Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 and both of the Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi R8 LMS’ holding down fifth and sixth. But both of the Phoenix R8’s hit trouble during hour two and had lengthy pit stops, in the end the team decided to use the race as a preparation for the Nürburgring 24 Hours and then practiced the exchange of vital parts under race conditions. At mid race Graf, Hohenadel, Bastian and Jäger were still in the lead, ahead of the Bentley Continental GT3 and Christopher Mies and Nico Müller in the second Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS. Fourth was still the Haribo SLS. While both of the BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 found themselves back in the Top 10 after qualifying way back during the difficult session. After Pierre Kaffer handed the Audi R8 LMS over to Laurens Vanthoor, the quick Belgian picked up a puncture and had to limp back to the pits, losing valuable ground.

With about an hour and half left in the race the floodgates opened up, with heavy rain fall all of the teams dove back into the pit lane to change to rain tires. The rain also took cars out of the race, both of the Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3 were taken out around the time the rain returned.

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After everyone changed to rain tires it was still the Rowe-SLS in the lead, with Nico Müller moving up to second and closing in quickly on the leading SLS. After 18 laps Müller found himself in the lead and was quickly building up a considerable gap to the second placed Rowe SLS. The fight for third was also on, between the Arnold/Menzel/ Smith Bentley and the Kaffer/ Vanthoor Audi.

The final race hour saw Nico Müller still building up his race lead, while Laurens Vanthoor took third from the Bentley and began to hunt down the Rowe-SLS. Kaffer/ Vanthoor were able to take second from the SLS, when Rowe had to do a splash and dash pit stop, while Nico Müller cruised to the first overall victory for the new Audi R8 LMS. Making it a Audi Sport Team WRT double victory were Pierre Kaffer and Laurens Vanthoor, ahead of the Rowe-Racing SLS AMG GT3 of Christian Hohenadel, Thomas Jäger, Nico Bastian and Klaus Graf.

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Narrowly missing out on a podium finish were Lance-David Arnold, Christian Menzel and Guy Smith in the Bentley Continental GT3. Maxime Martin, Markus Palttala, Richard Westbrook and Lucas Luhr finished fifth for the BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS, ahead of the Wochenspiegel Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and the Black Falcon SLS of Bernd Schneider, Adam Christodoulou and Tim Scheerbarth. The second Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 finished eight, with the best placed Cup Porsche finishing ninth and one of the Audi race experience Audi R8 LMS ultras rounding out the Top 10. Alex Buncombe, Lucas Ordonez, Michael Krumm and Kazuki Hoshino brought the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 home in eleventh.

The next VLN round takes place on June 20th, while the Nürburgring 24 Hours will run from May 14th to 17th.

Soren Herweg