For the first time since 2019, fans were allowed to camp around the racetrack for the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. And they weren’t disappointed. Because the Eiffel classic once again wrote crazy stories. We review the defining moments and explain the background.
Who is responsible for the Vanthoor vs. Vanthoor?
Maybe it was the racing scene. Defending champion Manthey’s first-placed Laurens Vanthoor at the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3 R met his brother Dries Vanthoor in the #15 Phoenix-Audi R8 LMS on the track. The two fought for positions in the top five all-time, but fell out shortly after the pit stop on lap 21.
On lap 23, three and a half hours after the start, they had a side-by-side high-speed duel on the Döttingerhöhe. Shortly before Hohenryn’s flight, there was a confrontation in which neither of them wanted to give up.
Then what should not happen. Laurens touched the side of the Audi in the Porsche “Grello” and headed dizzyingly into the guardrails, then bounced back and kept spinning. Even the guards had to get to safety.
While Dries Vanthoor was able to continue driving the #15 without getting damaged, the Manthey Porsche was junk. Then Laurens Vanthoor came to the medical center for a check-up. He later reappeared in the ring and put the blame entirely on himself.
“It’s hard to describe in words,” the Porsche driver said afterwards. “I’ll be honest: It’s the dumbest moment I remember, we love each other so much, we’ve been racing since we were kids. I knew he was my brother. Otherwise I’d have retired long ago. I just got the upper hand and he was stupid on my part. Something of that It shouldn’t happen.”
With that, Vanthoor destroyed not only his own winning ambitions, but also those of the entire Manthey team. Because Kévin Estre started an exciting race to catch up after having to start from the penultimate position in the starting set of 35 due to a penalty kick and even in the lead by one point.
Was the performance balance balanced?
Before the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring it is always one of the most discussed topics: the balance of performance, which aims to ensure a balance between different vehicle concepts. Most of them expected BMW to be the favourite because the Bavarians dominated the preparatory phase with the BMW M4 GT3 and scored many victories.
In the 24 hour weekend of the race itself, there were two more adjustments to balance all the manufacturers, the last one after the best qualifying before the race started on Saturday morning. In the end, the race showed a fairly balanced picture between BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Audi, who were able to set a similar pace in the race and had every chance of winning the race. Where Porsche and BMW got stuck in accidents and the like.
Only Aston Martin has stood out a bit. For the British marched across the square in the early evening and made their mark. Despite the spin, I was sometimes over 30 seconds ahead of the runner-up. A slip on an oil slick ended the race on car number 90 with Nikki Thiem at the wheel around 11pm.
What decided victory?
It was a neck and neck race from the morning hours to the end of the race between the #15 Phoenix Audi and the #3 GetSpeed Mercedes. Adam Christodoulou, Fabian Schiller and Maxi Gotze have met the Audi quartet Robin Frijns, Dries Fanthor, Kelvin van der Linde and Frederic Vervesch in seven leagues. From 54 seconds behind 9 a.m., the gap narrowed to a few tenths of a second at noon.
The defining moment in this race was the stop on lap 141 when there were still 2 hours and 37 minutes to go. While Mercedes continued to use spots on some sections of the track when it started raining on a lap earlier, Team Eifler Phoenix switched to cutting spots.
It paid off. Because Kelvin van der Linde consistently increased his lead over Maxi Goetz to a total of 1.12 minutes in his stint. At times, Götz had a hard time keeping the AMG on track, and Van der Linde’s slicks didn’t go far either.
Only in the next service did GetSpeed trust the trim variant. “Sometimes we had the right tires, sometimes the wrong tires — depending on the track section,” Goetz said. “You have to deal with it and get over it. It was one of the hardest laps in Nordschleife I’ve ever had. I just focused on finding my rhythm and not making any mistakes.”
In the end, they lost and crossed the finish line 23.276 seconds behind #15 Phoenix-Audi. This actually takes into account the 32-second penalty Phoenix later received for starting the engine while refueling at the last stop.
What happened to BMW and Porsche?
None of the BMW M4 GT3 ever finished – marking the 50th anniversary of BMW M GmbH. It was a complete failure. Porsche experienced a similar drama. Weissach’s best 911 ended up only ninth, with Mercedes and Audi nearly all of the cars in the top ten.
For both manufacturers, this race was all about absolute survival. Manthey’s defending No. 1 champion made an unfortunate start with the penultimate starting position in the first set. The cherry on the cake was the brother duel in which Laurens Vanthoor said goodbye to a penalty kick.
Toksport-WRT-Porsche #27, which also had good odds, retired after colliding with the #99 Rowe-BMW at NGK chicane. Dynamic cars No. 28 and 29 were accident victims. The same goes for the #44 Falken-Porsche, which was captured by Nico Müller in the #22 Car Collection-Audi. The series of failures was completed one hour before the end by Dennis Olsen at KCMG-Porsche, who lost the car to ninth at the gallows.
At BMW it was a mixture of technical flaws and accidents. Team Rowe Racing #99, who initially struggled in the top three, retired after being hit by a Toksport Porsche #27. The #98 sister car was caught in the mine at 11:17pm on lap 48 with the right front suspension failing.
Walkenhorst’s #100 had a power steering problem, and #101 had an accident with Andy Soucek while driving. The same fate befell the young BMWs during the night after returning to the rally after an accident in the early stages. All that remains is the spearhead from Schubert Motorsport in a 50-year design.
But on her way to the podium, she entered the pit smoking with Jesse Crone behind the wheel 30 minutes before the end. “We suspect there is something wrong with the cooling,” said Torsten Schubert. This also partially confirmed the reliability issues surrounding the new BMW M4 GT3, which had caused headaches up front.