43rd ADAC Zürich 24h Nürburgring – preview
There is great anticipation in the world of racing at the moment. Quite understandable, since one of the most eagerly-awaited races – The 24 Hours of Nürburgring is set to take place next weekend at the legendary Nordschleife Circuit.
It its 43rd edition, the race promises to be live up to its reputation not only in terms of delivering enthralling racing action but also because it is a four-day long celebration of speed and courage on one of the most dangerous tracks.
The event will kick start with a practice session and the first qualifying round on Thursday (May 14th). The second and final qualifying rounds are scheduled for Friday while the main 24 hour race will start on Saturday at 4pm.
There are 160 teams in total that are enlisted to race along the 25-km long track. It is expected that the winner of the race will be one of the 30 teams in the top classes (SP9 GT3, SP-Pro, SP-X).
The Number 1 spot at the start is reserved for last year’s winner–The Audi Sport Team Phoenix—which has the brand new Audi R8 LMS in its stable this season. The line-up in the squad remains as it was last year: Christopher Haase, Christian Mamerow, Rene Rast and Markus Winkelhock.
However, Audi knows that it can’t rest on it’s laurels. Each year’s race is different from the one’s of the past, especially with many more new teams and drivers ready to put everything on the line for the top honours.
In the past five editions of 24 Hours of Nürburgring, there have been four different winning teams/manufacturers (BMW 2010, Porsche 2011, Audi 2012 & 2014, Mercedes 2013). Interestingly, German cars seem to be having a winning streak at Nordschleife; the last non-German racing car on a top podium spot was Zakspeed’s Chrysler Viper in 2002.
Is this going to be the year the Germans take a backseat? There seem to be some very competitive candidates in the GT3 class – Aston Martin Vantage or Bentley Continental that might throw up a challenge. In fact, t Aston Martin Racing has two cars with strong line-ups of experienced drivers – Jonny Adam/Richie Stanaway/Mathias Lauda in car No.6 and Stefan Mücke/Darren Turner/ Pedro Lamy in car No.7.
Apart from world-class racers in its line-up, Aston Martin also has three cars under the banner of Aston Martin Test Centre, driven by some non-professional but well-known drivers. Among them are former CEO Ulrich Bez, producer of Gran Turismo gaming series Yamauchi Kazunori and popular automotive journalist Chris Harris.
However, Bentley, the famous British manufacturer is probably facing the biggest challenge of the season. This is the first 24-hour race with Bentley Continental GT3 for Bentley Team HTP. This is despite the fact that its list boasts of two Nordschleife specialists— Christopher Brück and Marco Seefried together with Harold Primat and junior Clemens Schmid.
There will be also two continentals of Bentley Motorsport with crews Guy Smith/Andy Meyrick/ Steven Kane/Lance David Arnold and Jeroen Bleekemolen/Christian Menzel/Lance David Arnold/Christopher Brück.
Talking of domestic brands, on the top of entry list (besides No.1 Audi R8 LMS of Audi Sport Team Phoenix) is one more Audi of the same team. In the No.3 car, the drivers will be Marc Basseng, Marcel Fässler, Mike Rockenfeller and Frank Stippler. There are also strong teams in two R8 LMS cars of Audi Sport Team WRT. These are the drivers of No.28 : Christopher Mies, Edward Sandström, Nico Mueller and Laurens Vanthoor . No. 29 is reserved for Nicki Thiim, Christer Joens, Pierre Kaffer and again Laurens Vanthoor.
Black Falcon has two Mercedes-Benz SLS GT3 machines, with numbers 2 and 5. The Dutch Yelmer Buurman will share driving duties on both cars. The rest of the squad includes Andreas Simonsen/Adam Christodoulou/Bernd Schneider in car No.2 and Abdulaziz Al Faisal/Hubert Haupt/Jaap Van Lagen in car No.5.
The SLS AMG GT3 will also be driven by Haribo Racing Team (Uwe Alzen, Marco Holzer, Norbert Siedler and Maximilian Götz) and Team Zakspeed (Sebastian Asch, Tom Coronel, Luca Ludwig, Christian Vietoris).
On it’s part, Rowe Racing has got two Mercedes cars. The crews include Maro Engel/Jan Seyffarth/Renger van der Zande/Thomas Jäger in No.22 and Klaus Graf/Christian Hohenadel/Nico Bastian/Thomas Jäger in No.23.
BMW Power is represented by numerous teams in SP9 GT3 and smaller classes. Out of them, the two that could be competitive for overall podium positions are most definitely the crews of BMW Sports Trophy and Team Schubert. The seats in Z4 GT3 No.19 will be occupied by Dirk Müller, Alexander Sims, Dirk Werner and Marco Wittmann, while car No.20 will be driven by Dominik Baumann, Claudia Huertgen, Jens Klingmann and Martin Tomczyk.
Another two-car entry is the BMW Sport Trophy Team Marc VDS, also with impressive list of drivers. Car No.25 is for Maxime Martin, Lucas Luhr, Markus Palttala and Richard Westbrook. Car No.26 is reserved for Augusto Farfus, Jörg Müller, Nick Catsburg and Dirk Adorf.
That leaves us wondering what is the status of Porsche? Undoubtedly one of the most popular brands with the highest numbers of teams, it remains to be seen whether any of them have what it takes to be victorious. In fact, Porsche’s Manthey Racing is the most successful team in history of 24 Hours of Nürburgring with five victories. However, its last victory was achieved in 2011, too long ago.
The members of the current Manthey Racing squad in 911 GT3 RS No.12 are Otto Klohs, Frederic Makowiecki, Harald Schlotter and Jens Richter. Are they capable of winning? It seems unlikely. Maybe Frikadelli Racing Team with 911 GT3 R and Queen of the Ring Sabine Schmitz with fellow drivers Patrick Huisman, Patrick Pilet and Jörg Bergmeister might stand a chance. Falken Motorsport, Kremer Racing and Wochenspiegel Team Manthey have top-class Porsches, but none of them have what it takes for the top spot.
Irrespective of who wins, fans from across the globe and of course, the circuit will enjoy the exciting battles, not only for the overall top position but also all minor classes.
A the top of the podium position will be only one team, but the true winners will be all those who survive 24 Hours of gruelling racing on one of the most popular tracks in the world.