32nd ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours – Friday
Night Fever

Images by Jan Hettler and Johannes Gauglica.

The sun was shining as the first of two qualifying sessions for the Nürburgring 24 Hours got under way, and the paddock was busier than ever. With five to seven teams sharing a pit garage, these are difficult conditions for the crews to work in. “I don’t know why we are putting up with this”, says a team manager who does not want to be named, “back in the late ‘90s, when the number of entries was down to less than 150, at least you had room to move.”

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Right away, there were problems for some of the works cars: the #43 Schnitzer BMW found itself crawling back to the pits with a bent front suspension following a brush with the armco at Bergwerk; Pedro Lamy put the incident down to trying too hard: “I was simply too fast, my motivation on this track is very high”; while both works Audis ran out of road, #8 tagging the armco early in the session, then crashing out of the session altogether at Hatzenbach with an hour to go, with Karl Wendlinger behind the wheel. It was an early lunch break for Messrs. Wendlinger, Duncan Huisman, and Frank Stippler; and probably no lunch at all for the mechanics of Team Abt Sportsline, who had to watch their car being towed back to the pits. The Audis are visibly nervous and not as stable over the bumps as the Opels, which had a trouble free session, and found themselves in second and sixth place at the flag.

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In all, less than 50 seconds covered the top 20; in terms of outright top speed, there was almost no difference at all between such different cars as the Audi TT-R, the V8STAR "Audi", and the Manthey Porsche 996 as they were slipstreaming down the long Döttinger Höhe straight. Also matching this pace was the venerable Falken Nissan Skyline, one of only a select few all-wheel driven cars in the race.

Meanwhile at the top of the timetable: give Uwe Alzen one clear lap, and he will do the damage. He did it again in this first qualifying session. One lap early on in the session was enough to comfortably put the Vitaphone Porsche 996 turbo on pole position, some 11 seconds ahead of the #5 works Opel. As more cars took to the track, and the frontrunners had to thread their way through the increasingly dense traffic, Alzen once again improved his time by half a second. "That's our Uwe!", said his team mate Klaus Ludwig, "this time will stand - tell me who could match it." Alzen modestly added, "I was held up a little by recovery work out on the track; an 8:15 should be possible."

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Over a flying lap, the Alzen 996 is the fastest thing on the Ring; but how many laps will it fly? Some 70 minutes into the session, the left front tyre went down on the Alzen Porsche; following a series of tyre blowouts in recent German Championship races, the Alzen team has switched to another tyre manufacturer: are they are now in for more of the same? This car is not easy on its tyres. The Alzen team spent quite some time analysing the incident. Are you worried about the tyres, Klaus Ludwig? "No, it was just a slow puncture. The tyre technicians are looking into it, but I am not worried."

dailysportscar.comThe closest margin among the fastest cars in session 1 was between the #42 Schnitzer M3 and the #46 Manthey Porsche, the M3 upholding Bavarian honour and beating the Manthey “star car” to third place by less than a second.

#3 lives: the ex-JGTC Honda NSX is out there, and running fine, Armin Hahne comfortably taking the car into the top 10, and seemingly not taking the car to its limit.

“Yes I have driven the NSX now, we all have done our two laps, the car is good”, said Robin Liddell (right) after the session.

The mood in the Honda camp was relaxed, so perhaps this effort is now coming together, in the nick of time.

Still not qualified after session 1 were Vic Rice and Shane Lewis, who watched their Porsche return to the paddock on the wrong end of a tow rope.

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Their team mate and co-owner of Steam Racing, Michael Schratz decided not to take a chance when the temperature warning lights came on on his out-lap, and shut the engine down. “It was just a water pipe”, said Vic Rice; there was no sense of urgency as the team set about sorting out the problem, and getting the car ready for session 2. Vic Rice has done the 24 Hours last year, and a German Championship race before that, while Shane Lewis has no first hand knowledge of the Nordschleife in competition. “So far, I have done five laps in a rental car”, beamed Lewis, “I have been here for a week, and having seen the place, I don’t understand why there aren’t more Americans over here, and doing this race.” Shane and Vic were in conversation with another of the seven U.S. drivers here, SCCA veteran Jim Briody who drives a Volkswagen Golf with turbo-diesel power. Jim estimates he can stay out for about 20 laps on one tank; the Steam Racing Porsche will manage 11 or 12.

Session 1 was run in dry weather, but the conditions then deteriorated to present the competitors in the 500k race for Historic and pre-1988 GTs and touring cars with pouring rain. This event was literally washed away by a thunderstorm in 2003; it was nowhere near as bad this year, but bad enough for a race packed with incidents and accidents. One of the cars to miraculously avoid all trouble, and all solid obstacles, was the Jaguar E-Type of German aristocrat racers, Marcus Graf zu Oeynhausen and Christian Graf von Wedel. The Jaguar’s throttle cable broke on the warm-up lap, and the blue-blooded team was dead last across the line, and chased after the field. Their progress was helped by the weather, and the fact that the pre-1966 cars must run on narrow, grooved tyres instead of the slicks on the younger cars – a blessing in disguise as the cars tiptoed through standing water all around the Nürburgring. As the rain eased up, and the track gradually dried up, and other strong teams made costly mistakes, the Lordships found themselves in the lead, and drove home to a spectacular win. Noblesse oblige.

When this particular 6 cyl. Jaguar rolled off the assembly line in 1962, Dieter Quester was already a BMW factory driver. 42 years on, and at the tender age of 65, he is still racing, and returning to the Nürburgring 24 Hours after an absence of more years than he himself can recall (about a decade, we guess). One of his designated team mates in the Duller Motorsport BMW M3, Toto Wolff, is not taking part in the race due to the same injury that already kept him out of the last FIA GT race; a suitable replacement for him has been found in multiple German Championship race winner, Artur Deutgen, one of the fastest men on the Nordschleife in recent years. They made a precautionary engine change but were ready in time for session 2 which commenced at 8 o’clock on Friday evening.

And again, it rained. Due to the treacherous track conditions, the session was extended by 30 minutes, to run until 11.30 p.m. A surprisingly high number of drivers went out to get themselves accustomed to work on wet weather setups, among them the turbocharged Vitaphone 996, and the high rooster tails of spray the cars kicked up made it clear that there was standing water all around the track. The first car to pull off the track was unfortunately the Honda NSX which did not even get to the end of the pitlane – disaster? No, it was disaster averted for the GT500 car, as the crew noticed just in time that a wheel had not been secured properly. With this problem remedied, the car would then head back out and continue to circulate steadily. Just a few corners further down the track, the Ryll V8STAR “Lexus” lunched its engine in the biggest possible way, and disposed of its engine oil. Add to this another factor quite unique in modern racing: graffiti. Robin Liddell remarked how much paint there is on the track surface in some places.

With spray, haze, and smoke (all those trackside barbecues, remember) in the air, the lights were on all cars as they went from the near-darkness of the forest into the glaring light of the setting sun on the Grand Prix track. One of the cars on the move was the #43 BMW. Dead last following Lamy’s unfortunate mistake, the repaired car went steadily up through the field as other teams chose not to push too hard; the ten minute barrier proved insurmountable in these conditions, so #43 was stuck in 66th place. Then as darkness finally set in, and the racing line had just about dried up, frenzied activity broke loose on pitlane, and the times began to tumble. Along with #43, the #8 Audi was on a mission, the drivers eager to make up for lost time, and hoist the car up the leaderboard. Their collective effort got them onto the second row, less than two tenths away from the second-placed #5 Opel; #43 made it to tenth place. But the Alzen Vitaphone Porsche remained firmly on pole position as no other car was able to break into the 8:29s, not to mention the 8:19s.

Vic Rice and Shane Lewis are in the race, albeit in 46th place, still within the first group of starters to take to the track tomorrow at 15.00 hours.

The remaining three V8STARs are comfortably among the fastest cars, in 9th (#86 Raeder “Jag”), 11th (#99 Zakspeed “Jag”), and 13th (#9 MIS “Audi”, with an impressive last minute push) respectively. And in 14th place, a car we have not mentioned so far, the Land Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Marino Franchitti / Marc Basseng / Franz Konrad / Patrick Simon slipped back on the grid by two rows as its time did not improve during this second session; Marino Franchitti was nevertheless impressed with the track, and the event, and announced his intent to talk his brother into a Franchitti family effort one of these days… - we will hopefully hear more of Marino, and the Land team, as the race gets underway on Saturday. Getting underway right now is a night of partying all around the Nordschleife, and a night of hard work in the garages.
Johannes Gauglica

Top 20 Times
1 2 Vitaphone Racing PORSCHE 996 Turbo Jürgen ALZEN / Uwe ALZEN / Michael BARTELS / Klaus LUDWIG 8:19.288
2 5 OPC Team Phoenix OPEL Astra V8 Coupé Peter DUMBRECK / Marcel FÄSSLER / Christian MENZEL / Volker STRYCEK 8:30.350
3 8 Infineon Team Abt Sportsline AUDI Abt-Audi TT R Patrick HUISMAN / Frank STIPPLER / Karl WENDLINGER / Christian ABT 8:30.576
4 42 BMW Motorsport BMW M3 GTR Dirk MÜLLER / Jörg MÜLLER / Hans-Joachim STUCK / Pedro LAMY 8:32.062
5 7 Infineon Team Abt Sportsline AUDI Abt-Audi TT R Christian ABT / Mattias EKSTRÖM / Fredrik EKBLOM / Patrick HUISMAN 8:32.907
6 46 Manthey-Racing PORSCHE 911 GT3 MR Lucas LUHR / Arno KLASEN / Timo BERNHARD / Olaf MANTHEY 8:34.754
7 1 OPC Team Phoenix OPEL Astra V8 Coupé Manuel REUTER / Timo SCHEIDER / Volker STRYCEK / Marcel TIEMANN 8:37.034
8 66 Zakspeed Racing CHRYSLER Viper GTS Dr. Hans-Peter HUPPERT-NIEDER / Werner MOHR / Markus GROSSMANN / Andreas GÜLDEN 8:41.528
9 86 Recaro-Raeder-Motorsport V8-STAR Jaguar Hermann TILKE / Ulrich GALLADÉ / Dirk ADORF 8:41.684
10 43 BMW Motorsport BMW M3 GTR Pedro LAMY / Boris SAID / Duncan HUISMAN / Hans-Joachim STUCK 8:43.559
11 99 Galeria Kaufhof Team Zakspeed V8-STAR Jaguar Donny CREVELS / Sascha BERT / Altfrid HEGER 8:45.291
12 44 Falken Motorsports NISSAN Skyline GT R Roland ASCH / Dirk SCHOYSMAN / Takayuki KINOSHITA / Tetsuya TANAKA 8:45.313
13 9 MIS Sport Promotion V8-STAR Audi Thomas MUTSCH / Harald BECKER / Christian HOHENADEL / Klaus PANCHYRZ 8:47.627
14 38 Land Motorsport PORSCHE GT3 RS Marc BASSENG / Franz KONRAD / Patrick SIMON / Marino FRANCHITTI 8:47.796
15 10 ScuderiaAugustusburg Brühl BMW M3 GTRS Johannes SCHEID / Mario MERTEN / Oliver KAINZ / Claudia HÜRTGEN 8:51.120
16 3 Sport Auto HONDA NSX Armin HAHNE / Robert LECHNER / Markus OESTREICH / Robin LIDDELL 8:54.549
17 85 Recaro-Raeder-Motorsport PORSCHE 996 GT3 Thomas JÄGER / Frank SCHMICKLER / Jonathan PRICE 8:57.152
18 31 PMC Sports PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR Marc GINDORF / Peter SCHARMACH / Dennis ROSTEK / Oliver MATHAI 8:58.905
19 16 Duller Motorsport BMW M3 Dieter QUESTER / Philipp PETER / Artur DEUTGEN / Vincent VOSSE 9:03.382
20 45 König Sitze – Manthey Motorsport PORSCHE GT3 MR Wilhelm D KERN / Bert LAMBRECHT / Andreas BOVENSIEPEN / Georg BERLANDY 9:03.660.

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