Just like that there are six hours remaining in the 2019 Nürburgring 24 Hours and Manthey Racing’s #911 Porsche 911 GT3 R continues to edge to victory.
Currently, the lead car is being driven by Laurens Vanthoor after the latest stint from Michael Christensen, the Belgian leading the way by a comfortable margin of a minute and a half.
The gap during the past three hours has shrunk somewhat though, by a minute. Christensen and Vanthoor, understandably have been taking it easy through traffic, that level of caution and the various Code 60 Zones in recent hours are setting up what could be a thrilling final six hours though.
Second, behind Vanthoor is now Rafaelle Marciello in the #48 HTP Mercedes AMG GT3. Marciello was third when he climbed in, taking over from Christian Hohenadel, but moved up to second after the 14th round of stops for the front-runners was complete.
Previously, Mathieu Jaminet had steered the #31 Frikadelli Racing Porsche to second past the #48, the Frenchman darting past Hohenadel at Turn 2 with just under nine hours remaining. He then managed to pull away during the rest of his stint, before the team was handed a 33-second time penalty, to be served at his next stop.
This stop-and-hold meant that when Sven Muller climbed in, he emerged down to third, 15 minutes into the 18th hour.
The chase is very much on though, as the gap between Marciello and Muller is just 25 seconds behind, though the 911 has been falling back, despite Marciello clouting the #141 Porsche Cayman at the Dunlop Hairpin just before the start of the 19th hour. The Porsche came off worse from the hit, and as a result, has had to relinquish second place in the V5 class.
Currently fourth is the #29 Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3, with Christopher Haase at the wheel, the German taking the place from the #4 Team Phoenix Audi of Frank Stippler after a monumental scrap.
Stippler initially took fourth from Haase after running side-by-side on the run to Tiergarten, taking the place just before the pair met a course vehicle and a flat-bed. It was a very close call…
A lap later, after a slaloming through further traffic, it was then Haase’s turn to get into the tow of the car ahead and replicate the same move to retake the place just before the 14th stops.
The pit stops have split the pair up, though there’s still just a handful of seconds between them as the final push begins at the Nürburgring, with Stippler now just 12 seconds ahead of the hard-charging Nico Bastian in the #6 Black Falcon Mercedes. Bastian has been pushing his car to the limits and at times beyond in an attempt to climb into the top five, as at one point he had an off at Aremburg through traffic.
As it stands, the top 10 are on the lead lap. There is still plenty to play for!
Elsewhere, there were a couple of other dramas to note during the past three hours. The #50 Speedline Racing BMW Z4 had a huge off on the Dottinger Hohe, leaving the car stranded with major damage to its left-front corner. That marked the end for the team with the previous-generation BMW GT3, which has had a trying time, its crew changing the car’s engine earlier in the race.
The TCR class leading #171 Hyundai of Nico Verdonck was also in the wars, spotted with no right-front wheel early in the lap. As a result the #172 Team Castrol Honda Racing Civic now heads the class.