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Land Audi Leads With 18 Hours To Go

Lots of casualties at the head of the field

With the sun gradually setting over the Nürburgring, it’s advantage Audi up front, with the #29 Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 leading the way by 15 seconds over the #9 WRT Audi. Third is the #8 Harbio Racing Mercedes AMG GT3.

Behind, the #22 Wochenspiegel Ferrari 488 sits fourth, with the best of the BMW M6 GT3s, the #33 Falken Motorsports crew, fifth.

The race has been up and down, with the key at this stage for most teams being staying out of trouble as the field begins to spread out before nightfall.

It’s been a drama-filled opening six hours of the race, with lots of front-running cars hitting trouble all too early, dropping down the order or retiring and effectively out of the running.

After the first hour, the #704 Traum Glickenhaus lost its lead due to a long pit stop, due to its staying out for longer. Westphal got out and the car rejoined the race down in 18th overall.

It was a very different running order after the first stops, with the #98 ROWE Racing BMW of Alex Sims leading, due to it stoping after the first three laps, gaining it time, ahead of the #8 Haribo Mercedes and #9 WRT Audi of Marcel Fassler.

Later on, the #704 would hit trouble too, with Franck Mallieux slowing down for a slow-zone on his out lap on the GP loop and getting hit by the #3 Black Falcon Mercedes, damaging the rear-right corner of the car with 21 and a half hours to go. After repairs, it rejoined, and is now circulating in 22nd overall.

The sister Traum Glickenhaus is having a better run though, with Thomas Mutsch, Andrea Piccini, Felipe Laser and Franck Mailleux 11th overall, leading SP-X.

For Audi and Porsche, many of their key front-running cars have hit trouble or retired.

Of the 911 GT3 Rs, #911 Manthey Racing Porsche was crashed into while Dumas was driving. The reigning WEC Champion made it back to the pits, where the team would retire it after inspection.

Around the same time the #44 Falken Porsche had an off hard into the barriers. Jorg Bergmiester was unable to bring the car back to the pits without the assistance of a flatbed with broken steering.

The #10 WRT Audi retired on the spot with broken steering too, Nico Muller hit a slower Clio, slamming into the barriers and later veering across the road when the steering failed while he tried to get the car back. It was running fourth overall at the time, with 19 hours to go.

The #5 Phoenix Audi also hit trouble. Just before the quarter mark, while running third, hit the barriers backwards with Nicolas Moller Madsen at the wheel, causing a puncture and a trip to the pits. It is currently 46th, and undergoing lengthy repairs.

And finally #28 Land Audi also lost time due to a the team having to re-fit the front-right corner of the car, it was fourth with Kaffer at the wheel, and is now down to eighth.

Of the other early casualties, the #36 Team ABT Bentley boxed just 80 minutes into the race with a left-hand drive-shaft failure, and is now 70th. The #38 sister car meanwhile, has retired after two trips into the barriers at Turn 1.

The Kissing Manta also hit the armco hard, damaging the rear heavily. Upon returning to the pits, the mechanics had to use a sledge-hammer and wooden block to straighten the back panels and get the boot shut. It’s since been in and out of the garage with further niggles.