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Nürburgring 24 Hours: Morning Qualifying Report, Top 30 Set

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Ahead of Thursday night and Friday morning’s sessions, the #4 Phoenix Audi, the #7 Aston Martin, the #8 Haribo Mercedes, the #9 and #40 SCG 003s, the #19 and #20 Schubert BMWs, the #22 and #23 Rowe Mercedes, the #27 Zakspeed Mercedes, the #30 Frikadelli Porsche, the #44 Falken Porsche, the #53 Lexus LF-A, the #61 Black Falcon Porsche, the #84 and #85 HTP Bentleys and the #92 Manthey Porsche had all secured their place in the Top 30 based on VLN and Qualifying Race results earlier in the year.

That left 12 positions in the shoot-out (and the all-important blue lights for the race) up for grabs across Thursday night and Friday morning, with 18 GT3 cars that could reasonably be expected to fight for them. Unfortunately, Friday morning saw the confirmed withdrawal of the #40 Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 003 was withdrawn following a shunt at post 131 for driver Ken Dobson, causing heavy front-end damage but leaving him unharmed. That increased the number of available spots to 13.

Cars without a confirmed Top 30 spot heading into the event included the #1 Audi of last year’s race-winning crew, the two Black Falcon Mercedes, the #6 Aston Martin, the #10 and #12 Manthey Porsches, the #11 HTP Bentley, the two Race Experience Audis, the Schulze and GT Academy Nissans, the two Marc VDS BMWs and the two WRT Audis, plus the Car Collection and Team Premio Mercedes.

Markus Palttala, driver of the #25 Marc VDS BMW said: “Getting the blue light isn’t absolutely crucial but it’s definitely good to have, we want it. Qualifying here is definitely more important than at the Spa 24, for example, where it’s easy to overtake. If you end up starting say 35th here, you’ll lose about a minute on the leader straight off at the start and you’ll have to take more risks to make your way up the field without a blue light than if you were in the top 10.”

This contrasts with the approach of team whose position was already secured. Among the drivers of the #8 Haribo SLS is Max Goetz – AMG factory driver and DTM debutant this year, checking back in with GT racing at the Norschleife. “Haribo has changed from Porsche so I’m here from AMG to help them get used to the new car,” he told us. “We have our Top 30 spot so this session as just about each driver getting their mandatory two laps in and not taking any risks.”

With quick times being set in dry albeit dark conditions on Thursday night, the frontrunners went into Friday morning’s damp and drizzly session with sub-8:30 laps in their pocket. After half an hour of running, the morning benchmark was still a 9:24, set by the #1 Audi.

The first indication of things improving came just over the hour mark in the two-hour session, when the #35 Nissan with Alex Buncombe at the wheel setting a 9:06.568 – however this car’s fastest qualifying time would be deleted at the end of the session due to its Thursday night speed limit zone infringement – as would that of the aforementioned #25 BMW.

With 35 minutes to go, the #19 Schubert BMW moved the benchmark, Dirk Muller setting an 8:51.799 – although this car was one of those with its Top 30 spot confirmed. The sister #20 car (also confirmed) did an 8:47 a few minutes later.

At 15 minutes to go, the #25 BMW confirmed that conditions had returned approximately to where they were the previous night by setting an 8:33 in the hands of Markus Palttala. The times came in a flurry from then on, with the #28 Audi, #2 Mercedes, #26 BMW and #30 Frikadelli Porsche heading to the top in quick succession, taking the target down to 8:27.

The fastest time came right at the end, when the #2 Mercedes with Schneider at the wheel did an 8:20 to both top the session and secure the car’s spot in the Top 30 shootout.

Qualifying 1 & 2 Times >>

Once any penalties had been worked out, the cars to tackle Friday evening’s shootout were declared as follows:

#22 Rowe Mercedes
#30 Frikadelli Porsche
#23 Rowe Mercedes
#8 Haribo Mercedes
#27 Zakspeed Mercedes
#53 Gazoo Lexus
#84 HTP Bentley
#9 SCG 003
#20 Schubert BMW
#85 M-Sport Bentley
#17 Walkenhorst BMW
#26 Schubert BMW
#92 Manthey Porsche
#61 Black Falcon Porsche
#44 Falken Porsche
#4 Phoenix Audi
#7 Aston Martin
#2 Black Falcon Mercedes
#26 Marc VDS BMW
#29 WRT Audi
#1 Phoenix Audi
#28 WRT Audi
#5 Black Falcon Mercedes
#11 HTP Bentley
#25 Marc VDS BMW
#33 Premio Mercedes
#6 Aston Martin
#12 Manthey Porsche
#10 Manthey Porsche
#21 Schulze Nissan

Stephen Errity