Phoenix Racing rose to the challenge to win an action-packed 42nd ADAC Zurich 24 Hours at the Nurburgring. After an eventful race which featured a total of 32 lead changes, Christopher Haase/Christian Mamerow/Rene Rast/Markus Winkelhock took the win in their Audi R8 LMS ultra #4 (LEFT), followed by Jeroen Bleekemolen/Andreas Simonsen/Christian Menzel/Lance David Arnold in the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #1, entered by last year’s winners Black Falcon.
In addition to winning the race, the victorious squad also established a new distance record by completing 159 laps on the 15.8-mile combination of GP circuit and Nordschleife, representing a total of 2,507 miles.
The podium was completed by Michael Zehe/Christian Hohenadel/Nico Bastian/Maro Engel and their Rowe Racing gull-wing racer #22. With Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, five brands made it to the top six positions.
“A fantastic success in our home race,” beamed Phoenix Racing team principal Ernst Moser, after the squad’s fourth triumph in the Eifel classic. “I’m particularly proud of the fact that we prevailed against the arguably toughest competition in the history of this race.”
In the early morning hours, the battle for the lead reached its climax when, at the end of lap 102, the Black Falcon Mercedes #1 und the Phoenix-Audi #4 crossed the line side by side. After that, however, the supercar from Ingolstadt established a decisive advantage. Following its triumph at Le Mans, this was the second Audi prestigious win within a week.
“We gave our very best to repeat last year’s success,” said Black Falcon driver Lance David Arnold, “But in the end we were pipped. It goes without saying that we are disappointed right now but I think that we may be happy with having finished runner-up, in the end.”
Extremely close racing
The dramatics started in qualifying when Frenchman Kevin Estre stunned the crowd with a magic 8:10.921-minute lap with his McLaren MP4-12C GT3 to establish a new qualifying record. The race then provided enthralling battles for positions on arguably the most beautiful and challenging racetrack in the world.
In the opening stages, the race was dominated by the polesitter but when the McLaren pitted at the end of lap four, the BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 #25 took the lead. Again and again, the cars at the top swapped places and the battle for the positions behind the leaders were just as close, with some of the favorites being forced into early retirement. Among these were the works-supported BMW Z4 GT3 entered by the BMW Sports Trophy Teams Marc VDS and Schubert. In the end, the best-placed BMW was Schubert’s #20, raced by Jens Klingmann/Dominik Baumann/Claudia Hurtgen/Martin Tomczyk, that finished sixth.
Former F1 racer Nick Heidfeld put in some great stints in the No.80 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 but came unstuck during the night when he made contact with another car.
“After Foxhole, which is a very quick part of the circuit, I came out of the compression and saw a yellow light, then straight away I saw double yellows which means you have to be travelling at 60kph,” related Heidfeld. “I didn’t get enough warning so I decelerated as much as I could but then came across two cars blocking the circuit. I had to choose between hitting one of them or going onto the grass. I avoided the grass as I didn’t know if there were marshals there and hit one of the cars.”
The resulting damage put the GT-R out of action for an hour, but once back in the race the car ran well to 14th in class.
“Overall I have enjoyed the race and it is good to get my first Nurburgring 24 Hours finish, despite not taking the position we hoped for,” continued Nick. “Realistically we had the pace for a top-10 finish.”