It’s the 43rd running of the Nürburgring 24 Hours taking place this coming weekend, and this year looks to be another classic in the making. 159 cars are entered for the race, with 31 of those coming from the class SP9 for GT3 cars. The race will also see the debut of Bentley in the Nürburgring classic, while Audi will give its new Audi R8 LMS a 24 hour race debut.
Reigning champion Audi Sport Team Phoenix is one of the teams getting the nod of Audi to enter the new Audi R8 LMS and the team of Ernst Moser has kept last year’s race winning line up of Christopher Haase, Christian Mamerow, Rene Rast and Markus Winkelhock. This quartet will mann the car No. 1 and surely will be one of the favourites for a repeat victory. The second Phoenix R8 will be manned by Frank Stippler, Mike Rockenfeller, Marc Basseng and Marcel Fässler, on paper they should be the second of Audi spearhead. Audi Sport Team WRT has also been entrusted two of the second generation R8 LMS’, and they were the team that gave the car its first overall victory at the second VLN round. In comparison with Phoenix the team WRT’s driver line up is maybe a notch behind them with Christopher Mies/ Nico Müller/ Edward Sandström/ Laurens Vanthoor and Nicki Thiim/ Christer Jöns/ Pierre Kaffer/ Laurens Vanthoor slated to drive the two Belgian R8s. On the driver side the new R8 has got what it takes to take home the overall victory, but the big question mark will be behind the endurance quality of Audi’s new weapon.
There are also three first generation Audi R8 LMS ultras entered for the race, two by the Audi race experience and one by TwinBusch Motorsport. The Audi race experience sees Niki Meyr-Meinhof, Rod Salmon, Micke Ohlsson and Ronnie Saurenmann plus Alex Yoong, Franky Cheng, Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong behind the steering wheel. At TwinBusch the twins Marc and Dennis Busch will have Christiaan Frankenhout as their teammate in their Kumho shod Audi R8. Both teams don’t figure to be in contention for the leading positions.
Eight Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 are entered for the final Nürburgring 24 Hours hurrah of the SLS before it will be replaced by the AMG GT GT3. Rowe Racing will be all out to fight for the overall victory after finishing in third the past two years. Maro Engel, Jan Seyffarth, Renger van der Zande and Thomas Jäger will share driving duties in one of the SLS’ and their sister car has Nico Bastian, Christian Hohenadel, Klaus Graf and Thomas Jäger behind the wheel. Both cars are well sorted, thanks to the team now running the cars for a fifth straight season. A clean race could give the SLS another overall victory in the race twice around the clock. MCG, which runs the Rowe Racing cars, will also field an additional SLS under the Team Premio banner. Kenneth Heyer, Phillip Frommenwiler, Rob Huff and Christian Krognes will pilot the Dunlop shod SLS, they should be in contention for a Top 10 finish.
The past two years have been very successful for Black Falcon, winning the race in 2013 and finishing second last year. Out of last years lead car driver line up just Andreas Simonsen is back with the team. His new teammates are Yelmer Buurman, Bernd Schneider and Adam Christodoulou. The quartet figures to be maybe just a small notch of the pace of the Rowe SLS’ but could very well find themselves in contention for another podium finish. Their second car has Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt, Yelmer Buurman and Jaap van Lagen slated to drive. Finishing in the top 10 would be a huge success.
Single SLS’ are entered by CarCollection Motorsport, Haribo Racing and Team Zakspeed. CarCollection will field their Blancpain Endurance Series drivers Peter Schmidt, Alexander Mattschull and Pierre Ehret and should be hoping for a troublefree race. In contrast Haribo Racing and Team Zakspeed will be gunning for the overall victory, both teams will be supported by a Mercedes-Benz DTM driver. The Haribo SLS has Marco Holzer, Uwe Alzen, Norbert Siedler and Maximilian Götz entered and after dominating the Nürburgring 24 Hours Qualifying Race before retiring with a technical problem, they will be hoping their bad luck is behind them. Zakspeed’s SLS is slated to be shared by Luca Ludwig, Sebastian Asch, Tom Coronel and Christian Vietoris. Vietoris is new to racing on the Nordschleife, he hasn’t done a race lap yet so it will be interesting to see how he will adapt to it. In case of a trouble run Zakspeed should be found within the top 10.
BMW hasn’t won the race since 2010 and will be hoping for a first overall victory for the Z4 GT3 at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Just like in the past years both Schubert Motorsport and Marc VDS Racing will each field two works supported Z4 GT3s. BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert scored a victory in the Qualifying Race with their Martin Tomczyk, Claudia Hürtgen, Jens Klingmann and Dominik Baumann line up and they figure to be in contention just like their teammates Marco Wittmann, Dirk Müller, Dirk Werner and Alexander Sims. Both of the BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS Z4 are no step behind the Schubert cars with their driver line ups of Richard Westbrook/ Lucas Luhr/ Markus Palttala/ Maxime Martin and Dirk Adorf/ Dirk Müller/ Nicky Catsburg/ Augusto Farfus. The final run of the Z4 GT3 in the Nürburgring 24 Hours before getting replaced by the M6 GT3 sees the car definitely in contention for the overall victory. If luck is on the side of Schubert and Marc VDS BMWs the manufacture should be able to add to their record tally of 19 overall victories.
Additionally to the Schubert and Marc VDS cars Walkenhorst Motorsport is fielding two privateer Z4 GT3s. The Dunlop shod cars will be driven by Felipe Fernandes Laser/ Michaela Cerruti/ John Edwards/ Daniel Keilwitz and Henry Walkenhorst/ Ralf Oeverhaus/ Christian Bollrath/ Stefan Aust. The cars don’t figure to be in contention for the overall victory but should be able to finish inside the top 20.
As always Porsche will be well represented in the race, but there are just three Porsche 911 GT3 R slated to take part in the race. After finishing fourth in last years race Falken Motorsport is surely hoping to make it onto the podium with their Porsche 911 GT3 R and their unchanged driver line up of Peter Dumbreck, Wolf Henzler, Martin Ragginger plus Alexandre Imperatori. If Falken has brought the right tires they should definitely be in contention for the overall victory. Another very strong driver line up of Sabine Schmitz/ Patrick Huisman/ Jörg Bergmeister/ Patrick Pilet will pilot the Frikadelli Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 R through the Green Hell. A trouble free race and some luck could propel the Frikadelli 911 to a finish towards the front of the pack. The third Porsche 911 GT3 R, fielded by Manthey Racing, has Porsche works driver Fred Makowiecki sharing driving duties with Otto Klohs, Jens Richter and Harald Schlotter.
Outside of the SP9 class there are numerous 911 in different variants entered. The Wochenspiegel Team Manthey Porsche 911 GT3 RSR will have Georg Weiss, Oliver Kainz and Jochen Krumbach to be joined by works driver Michael Christensen. Manthey Racing will also field three of their new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR, a self developed car based on the 991 Cup car. Porsche Juniors Sven Müller and Matteo Cairoli will share one of the Cup MR with Christoph Breuer and Michael Christensen. The third Porsche Junior, Connor de Phillippi, will be racing with Frikadelli Racing in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup America, that he’ll share with Frank Kräling, Marc Gindorf and Klaus Abbelen. Kremer Racing will field their Porsche 911 GT3 KR, based on a 911 GT3 R, in the class SP-PRO for Eberhard Braunach, Wolfgang Kaufmann and Maik Rönnefarth.
Aston Martin is doubling up on their GT3 works effort, fielding two Vantage V12 GT3 this year. Both cars will be driven by a trio of drivers with Stefan Mücke, Darren Turner and Pedro Lamy due to share the Bilstein coloured Vantage. After finishing fifth last year they figure to be once again in contention for the overall victory. Their sister cars, coloured in tribute to the new road Vantage GT12, will have Jonny Adam, Richie Stanaway and Matthias Lauda behind the wheel. This drivers line up doesn’t have a lot of Nordschleife experience so seeing the chequered flag without any major drama would be a huge success for Adam, Stanaway and Lauda.
Out of all the manufactures Aston Martin is the only one to employ a three driver per car line up instead of the usual fourth one and this might well prove be a weakness. The race is very tough on the stamina of the drivers and if one of them starts to fall off, the lead for the remaining two increases dramatically, which veryl well can take a car out of contention.
In addition to their GT3 cars Aston Martin will also be well represented with cars that are much closer to road legal spec. Customer teams will enter the Aston Martin Vantage V8 in the class SP10 for GT4 cars and the Aston Martin Test Centre will be gunning for the class victory in the SP8 class. Two of the new Aston Martin GT12 are slated to be shared by Liam Talbot/ Dr. Florian Kamelger/ Peter Cate/ Wolfgang Schuhbauer and Chris Harris/ Shinichi Katsura/ Kazunori Yamauchi/ Andreas Gülden. An additional Aston Martin Vantage V8 will have Dr. Ulrich Bez, Dr. Andreas Bänziger, Mal Rose and Peter Leemhuis behind the wheel.
After announcing their intentions on entering the Nürburgring 24 Hours at last years race, Bentley will be represented by three Continental GT3s. Fielding two of the cars will be the works outfit, Bentley Motors. Blancpain Endurance Series drivers Andy Meyrick, Guy Smith and Steven Kane will be partnered with Lance-David Arnold in the #all green liveried #85.
The second car sees Lance-David Arnold, Christian Menzel, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Christopher Brück share driving duties. The car seems to be fast for a single lap, hence their pole position at the second VLN round, but they’ve been marred by technical problem during their race outings. In addition you could question the Nürburgring 24 Hours prep for Meyrick, Kane and Smith. The three did two VLN outings in 2014, but apart from Smith, both Meyrick and Kane haven’t run in the Green Hell during a 2015 race. They will have to get used to the new speed limit rules during free practice and also will have to refresh their track knowledge. That’s the main reason, why the Arnold/ Menzel/ Bleekemolen/ Brück car figures to be the one to be in contention for the overall victory. HTP Motorsport is fielding a single Continental GT3 for Christopher Brück, Harold Primat, Clemens Schmid and Marco Seefried. The HTP car will run on Pirelli tires, instead of the Michelin on the works cars, so it will be interesting to see how the faster drivers will compare to the works cars.
After the tragedy at the VLN opening round, when Jann Mardenborough got airborne at the Flugplatz section and flew into the spectator area, killing one spectator, Nissan has understandably decided to scale back their works effort with the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN. RJN will only field one Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 and at the moment Alex Buncombe and Kazuki Hoshino are entered for the race. At the second VLN round Michael Krumm and Lucas Ordonez supported Buncombe and Hoshino so they are likely to join them for the 24 hours. Schulze Motorsport will make it two Nissan GT-Rs on the starting grid, with their car to be manned by Michael and Tobias Schulze plus Jordan Tresson and Marc Gassner.
The unique Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCCG003C will be a nice addition to the GT3 mix, running in the SP-X class. The cars created under the watch of Jim Glickenhaus and powered by a Honda HPD LMP2 engine, have showed strong performance during their race outings but were hampered by technical problems every once in a while. If the team has gotten their hands on top of those problems, the cars could be good for a surprise finish inside the top 10. Marino Franchitti is back racing on the Nordschleife, he will share the lead car with Manuel Lauck, David Jahn and Franck Mailleux. This quartet figures to be the stronger one in comparision to their team mates Thomas Mutsch, Ken Dobson, Jeff Westphal and Franck Mailleux. The team will be supported by Dunlop, having development tires at their choice.
After numerous runs the Lexus LFA Code X has turned another corner for 2015, with the lap times having dramatically improved this year. Masahiko Kageyama, Hiroaki Ishiura, Kazuya Oshima, Takuto Iguchi will be in charge of the driving duties in their Team Toyota Gazoo Racing car. In addition the team will also field a Lexus RC in the class SP3T.
The Nürburgring 24 Hour weekend kicks off on Wednesday with the Adenauer Racing Day and track action gets underway on Thursday. DSC will be on site and Radio Le Mans will provide flag to flag English language commentary on www.radiolemans.com