Enzo Ide hung on to the lead in a frantic final sequence to win the Qualifying Race at the Nürburgring in the #33 WRT Audi, fending off Rob Bell’s #58 Garage 59 McLaren. With their second win of the season, Ide and his teammate Chris Mies have extended their Sprint Cup Drivers Championship lead.
“Enzo is the man of the race, to hold off a McLaren factory driver for so long,” said Mies after the race. “He had such good pace, which was fantastic. Can’t believe we’ve managed our second win in a row.”
At the start Alvaro Parente in the pole-sitting #58 Garage 59 650S GT3 held on to the top spot, with Mies moving up to second from third on the grid and keeping the pressure on. The Portuguese McLaren factory driver couldn’t edge away up front in the opening laps and create a healthy margin, instead acting as the leading car in a four-way lead battle until the pit window.
As the pit cycle approached, Rene Rast’s #28 WRT Audi sat third behind Parente and Mies, with Frank Perera’s ISR Audi fourth. Just behind was the #11 Kessel Ferrari 488 of Giacomo Piccini, which was leading the Pro-Am class.
While the top four all sat within half a second of each other, running nose-to-tail lap after lap, nobody could make any decisive moves, meaning there were no changes before the halfway mark was reached.
After the pit stops though, the running order was shuffled, with Enzo Ide taking over from Chris Mies and rejoining the race with a lead of almost 10 seconds over Marlon Stockinger’s ISR Audi and the trailing Rob Bell McLaren. The Garage 59 crew fumbled the lead car’s stop, costing it a huge chunk of time and first place. Will Stevens in the #28 WRT car sat fourth.
It wasn’t long though until Bell moved back up to second place and charged to the lead. Bell exited the pits right behind the ISR car, and immediately forced Stockinger into a mistake at the Mercedes Arena, the Audi running wide and letting Bell through.
Stockinger then came under immediate pressure from Stevens, who eventually found a way past at Turn 1 in the closing moments to take the final podium spot.
Up front though, all eyes were on the lead battle. After Bell made the move on the ISR Audi, there was 20 minutes remaining and an eight-second gap to Ide ahead.
Bell was able to chip away at the Belgian’s lead, but his big push was interrupted twice; first by a full-course yellow caused by the sister #59 Garage 59 McLaren (which qualified second but had its time taken away after a post-session technical infrigment) stopping out on track at the Mercedes Arena with Martin Plowman Aboard. Second by a back-marker.
After the caution period concluded there was a quarter of an hour to go, and only one car between Bell and Ide. Crucially though, it was Stuart Leonard’s WRT Audi, which made the McLaren factory driver work to get past and into a one-on-one with Ide. After getting by Leonard, Bell had under 10 minutes to go, and just a handful of laps to make the move.
It wasn’t meant to be though, as when Bell was within a couple of tenths of the leading R8 he ran wide going into the hairpin and off the circuit, costing him dearly. He had to try and force his way back into the fight in the final few laps, but couldn’t quite get close enough to make a move.
“We were catching the leader but he put the car in the right places and did a good job,” said Bell after the race. “One more lap? Who knows? We just need to sharpen up in the pits.”
Finishing up the race fifth was the #4 WRT Audi of Nico Muller and Dries Vanthoor after a hard-fought battle in a nine-car train during the opening 30 minutes; the first of the Bentley’s – the #8 of Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet – managed sixth. Both the R8 and Continental finished ahead of the #99 ROWE BMW which came home seventh, after struggling to get by before the pit window opened.
The #19 Grasser Racing Lamborghini emerged victorious in the Silver Cup class, finishing 17th, while the #11 Kessel Racing and #55 AF Corse Ferraris won the Pro-Am and Am classes respectively.
Tomorrow’s Main Race is set to begin at 14:15 local time in Germany.