VLN Round 3 – May 1
In the Chinese calendar, 2004 is the year of the Monkey. In the German Endurance Championship, 2004 may turn into the year of the Cat. Two weeks after the win for the Jaguar-bodied V8STAR car (which for the sake of convenience, we will henceforth simply call "Jaguar"), another one appeared on the entry list for the 4 hour race on 1 May. Now that a season within the EuroGT series is not an option for the V8STAR teams any more, the cars are starting to pop up in various national and regional championships around central and western Europe. Zakspeed Racing has decided to put its car to good use in the German Championship, in the capable hands of Sascha Bert and Dutchman Donny Crevels; this was their first appearance in the series.

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They wasted no time and qualified the car in fourth place, just behind the team's other car, the Viper. Zakspeed was a force to be reckoned with in this race. The "other" V8STAR car of Raeder Motorsport qualified in second place, or so it was determined after some confusion over a glitch in the timing system. On pole position, the normally aspirated Porsche 996 Special developed by Manthey Racing gave an impressive debut. Drivers Timo Bernhard and Nicolas Leutwiler were joined by regular Alzen Motorsport driver Arno Klasen for the race (#80, below).

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Jürgen Alzen Motorsport was forced to sit out this round as the accident damage from the last race proved to be too substantial to be repaired in time (It would be a successful weekend for them anyway).

Present at the track, and doing a few laps in the untimed test session on Friday - but not allowed to take part in the race - was the works-supported JGTC Honda NSX, with a new exhaust system with catalytic converters fitted. It seems the papers the GS Motorsport team presented for the car were in Japanese, and since this is not a language any of the VLN officials can read, it was decided not to let the car race. But it is here, it is running fine, and once the paperwork has been sorted out it will certainly hit the track at some point before the 24 Hours.

Even without the NSX, there was close racing all the way. The Raeder Jaguar and the Manthey Porsche battled it out for the lead from the start, Dirk Adorf clearly relishing this opportunity to take on a Porsche factory driver. The other Jag also saw action, Sascha Bert fighting for fifth place with Johannes Scheid in the BMW M3 V8, and the Porsche of (former Porsche Junior) Marc Basseng, who this time was teamed up with (current Porsche Junior) Mike Rockenfeller (below).

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But while the Raeder car is already perfectly dialled in to the Nordschleife, Zakspeed still has some work to do on its car, which dropped out of the race with a broken gearbox. So 50% of the Zakspeed fleet was grounded, and the other half was finding life difficult as well, fending off the private Opel Astra DTM coupé of father and son Schall.

Soon the Viper headed for its first scheduled stop, which left the black Opel in third spot, and looking all set to challenge the leaders. The direct fight between Adorf and Bernhard ended when the Jaguar made its first stop. Industrialist Ulrich Galladé took over at the helm, and over the course of the following laps managed to stay in touch, if not within direct striking distance, with the Manthey Porsche. Although strictly speaking a 'gentleman driver’, Galladé is a capable racer and has plenty of Nordschleife experience.

dailysportscar.comInterestingly enough, the Galladé company and Manthey Racing (Olaf himself, right) have a strategic partnership, and reside in the same industrial complex just across the road from the 'Ring. Potential conflict between the business partners was avoided when a friendly tap by another car bent the Jag's suspension; and on the long way back to the pits, a tyre blew and sealed the Roush V8-powered machine's fate. With eight of their lives still left, the big cats will be back next time.

In its first race, the Manthey Porsche now held a comfortable lead of some 30 seconds over the Scheid BMW, which had managed to get past the Schall Opel. The pit stops changed nothing at the front, and first Leutwiler, then the experienced Klasen, managed to extend their advantage over the rest of the field. Manthey Racing decided against a turbocharged car for the benefit of reliability and better fuel consumption; while its lap times are not quite on a par with those of the Alzen "Alien", it may well have a better chance of getting to the finish. It certainly got to the finish of this race, some six minutes ahead of the next car. Oliver Kainz in the Scheid BMW could not hold off Basseng and Schall, and the black Opel crossed the line in second place, in front of the Porsche.

After four hours of close racing in perfect weather, the almost 30,000 fans left the Nürburgring happy. They will be back for the next round in two weeks time, a 3.5hr event this time, and the last test before the 24 Hours.

With thanks to our 'informers’ trackside, as well as the superb official website www.vln.de
Johannes Gauglica

1 . #80 Timo Bernhard / Nicolas Leutwiler / Arno Klasen, Porsche GTR-MR, 27 laps
2 .# 678 Andreas Schall / Ralf Schall, Opel Astra V8 Coupé, - 6:04.992mins.
3 .# 95 Marc Basseng / Mike Rockenfeller, Porsche 996 GT 3 RS, -7:43.719
4 . #99 Johannes Scheid / Oliver Kainz / Mario Merten, BMW M3 E46 GTRS, -1 lap
5 . #66 Dr. Hans-Peter Huppert-Nieder / Werner Mohr / Markus Grossmann, Chrysler Viper GTS-R, -1 lap
6 .# 621 J.P. Baker / Dirk Schoysman, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, -1 lap
7 . #636 Jörg Otto / Georg Weiss /Thomas Zinnow, Porsche 996 Cup, -1 lap
8 . #114 Nigel Smith / Jürgen von Gartzen, Porsche GT 3 RS, -1 lap
9 . #618 Heinz-Josef Bermes / Thomas Koll, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, -1 lap
10 . #222 Ullrich Andree, Volvo S60, -1 lap.

 

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