SUMMARY: Another heavy rain shower led to several serious accidents, leaving three Audis filling the top three positions as the BMW challenge faltered.
As the eighth hour of the race unfolded, heavy rain changed the complexion of the front of the field. The #30 Frikadelli Porsche (above), which had been fixture of the top three or four positions since early in the race, stopped out on track after what team member Sabine Schmitz described as a ‘big accident’ for driver Patrick Pilet, but that he was also unharmed. It later transpired the crash came after contact with the #31 Car Collection Motorsport Mercedes SLS.
There was also drama for early leader the #26 Marc VDS BMW, which had a quickly-extinguished pit fire that resulted in small time loss while it was changing to wet tyres. Team principal Bas Leinders confirmed the squad’s effort was being hampered by the Z4’s smaller fuel capacity and poorer fuel efficiency compared to the leading Audis.
Those leading Audis all pitted in quick succession to change onto wets when the rain came. The #19 Schubert BMW also came into the pits – but to repair accident damage rather than simply change tyres. Bad news for BMW, whose chance of repeating its 2010 victory at this race looks to be slipping away again. Driver Dirk Muller reported: “I turned onto the Döttinger Hohe on a wet track and smashed into the barriers. This will cost us at least 20 to 30 minutes in repairs.”
Behind the #1 (Phoenix), #28 (WRT) and #4 (Phoenix) Audis, the #25 Marc VDS BMW was fourth, the #44 Falken Porsche was enjoying a solid and effective climb up through the order to fifth, ahead of the delayed #26 Marc VDS sister car. Seventh was the recovering #23 ROWE Mercedes, which had suffered damage early in the race, while the #5 Black Falcon Mercedes was also putting in a sold run in eighth.
Around 10 minutes before midnight, some cars began coming in to change for slicks as the rain eased off once more and the track began to dry out including the Schulze Nissan and the top 10-running Walkenhorst BMW. The #4 Phoenix entry was the first of the leading trio of Audis to follow suit.
The ninth hour from midnight to 1am brought news of another confirmed retirement in the shape of the #84 Bentley. The erstwhile SP7 class leader, the #92 Manthey Porsche, also withdrew due to accident damage and the retirement of the wheel-losing #2 Black Falcon Mercedes was also confirmed.
At the front, the Audi stranglehold on the top three was broken when the #4 Phoenix car had to make an unscheduled stop with a technical problem, but the #1 Phoenix and #28 WRT machines continued to look comfortable in first and second. The #4’s woes played into the hands of the #44 Porsche, which now moved into an overall podium position.
A superb recovery drive for the #23 ROWE Mercedes continued and it now lay fourth despite having to pit for damage earlier. The #5 Black Falcon Mercedes in sixth was sandwiched by the #26 and #25 Marc VDS BMWs in fifth and seventh. Another BMW – the #17 Walkenhorst car – held eighth, while the top 10 was rounded out by two British cars: the #7 Aston Martin and the #11 HTP Bentley.
STOP PRESS: At around 1:36am, the leading #1 Audi was reported to have crashed out at Pflanzgarten, driver Christian Mamerow said to be okay.