VLN – Round 7 - Ruhr-Pokal Rennen - September 11
On Sunday (September 12), Herr Alzen and Herr Bartels set the GTS class alight at Spa until their Saleen S7-R let them down; not many observers in Belgium were aware that it was already their second endurance race of the weekend. A day before, they took to the Nordschleife in the Jürgen Alzen Motorsport Porsche 996 turbo for another six hour race.

dailysportscar.comFollowing its extended summer break, the German Endurance Championship is going into its final stage, with four races in as many weeks to round out the 2004 season - starting with the "Ruhr-Pokal" on 11 September. At a 'distance’ of 6 hours, this is the longest race in the series. Competitor interest was high: 196 entries were received, and 182 cars eventually made up an impressive grid. The crowded track was matched by the a sizeable crowd of fans, the estimated spectator attendance being nearly 30,000.

The contest was for the "Trophy of the Opel Works, Bochum", and Opel had a works car entered to make sure that trophy stayed within the company. The yellow Astra OPC, for Marcel Fässler / Volker Strycek / Marcel Tiemann, was backed up by the privately owned all-black 2003 model (initially a 2002 DTM car) of Andreas and Ralf Schall. The two coupés occupied positions 2 and 7 on the grid. The Porsche contingent was led by the normally aspirated Manthey Racing Special (Timo Bernhard / Bert Lambrecht / Lucas Luhr) in fifth; the Vitaphone turbo (Jürgen and Uwe Alzen / Michael Bartels) took up the spot alongside, with the Land GT3-RS directly behind it in eighth, Marc Basseng and Patrick Simon supported by equally capable Porsche pedaller Frank Stippler this time out. Row 2 was made up of the Scheid Motorsport BMW M3 GTRS and the solitary Viper, so who was on pole?

The V8STAR silhouette cars are finding a new home in the German endurance scene; a new one has now joined the series. Formerly Johnny Cecotto's car in the 2002 V8STAR season, and campaigned by the Irmscher team, the "Opel Omega" is now in the hands of 'Ring veterans Georg Berlandy and Reinhold Mölig. They have support from Irmscher and are looking at a full season next year, plus the 24 Hours. In their first race with the new car, they would not see the finish; the V8STAR concept is nevertheless a good basis for endurance racing, as was proven by the only other V8STAR car in action this time out, the Raeder Motorsport "Jaguar S-Type". As the rain eased off a little toward the end of the Saturday morning qualifying session, racer/instructor Dirk Adorf seized the opportunity and put the big cat firmly on pole with an 8:32.818, some 4.2 seconds faster than the works Opel. Partnered, as usual, by industrialist Ulrich Galladé and (in)famous racetrack designer Hermann Tilke, Adorf is the specialist for heroics within the team; the fact that the "Jag" with its 5.7l engine is a mandated 100kgs heavier than the Opel seemed to have completely escaped him. He also started the race, and wanted to continue where he had left off in practice - but Swiss DTM driver Marcel Fässler had other ideas and in typical tintop manner elbowed his way into the lead.

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The pace was quite high at the beginning of six hours of racing; too high for some, as the attrition rate of over 40% would later show. Indeed, there were "local yellows" flying somewhere on the track almost throughout the race.

The "Jag" hung back after a while, and let the Opel Astra disappear into the distance. The V8Star car seemed down on power compared to some of the other frontrunners, and the driver was battling with some gremlins in the electronic power shift system. Soon, the Manthey Porsche was withing striking distance, and eventually moved into second place.

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On lap 4, the right rear tyre let go on the leading Astra (above), and while it crawled back to the pits, and shreds of rubber made a right mess of the sensitive rear-end aerodynamics, the Porsche went into the lead. The "Jag" fell into the clutches of the Alzens’ Vitaphone Porsche and the private Opel, with the Viper and the Land Porsche never far behind.

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Meanwhile, the works Opel was charging through the field, making up for lost time. But 15 laps into the race, the charge was over for the Opel. Tiemann had fought his way back up to fourth place when again, the right rear tyre blew; this a situation more commonly associated with the heavier Alzen Porsche. With the cause of these tyre failures unclear, the team withdrew the car from the race for safety reasons. The relatively high weight of these cars, ranging from 1250 to 1350kgs for the fastest machines, is a constant cause for concern and controversy within the 'Ring racing community, as well as the tyre manufacturers involved in the series; but it is also an important performance equalising measure within the regulations.

With the "Langheck" gone, the marque's pride was now upheld by the Schall "Kurzheck", still in the top 5. The Manthey stable was the next to be hit when within a few laps, three of its cars ended their race, one of them the leader. Timo Bernhard parked the 996 Special when a severe loss of power made it pointless to soldier on. The Land Porsche now took control of the race. Basseng, Simon, and Stippler are quick drivers who over the years have also become very reliable, and the team knows how to build (almost) bulletproof Porsches. The second-placed Alzen car, on the other hand, is still not bulletproof. On lap 26, the day was done for the Vitaphone team. Add this up with the misfortune at Spa, and the net result of a weekend's hard work is a big fat zero.

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At this point in the race, Dirk Adorf (above) had, by his own admission, given up any hope of a podium finish. Having taken over the car for the last stint, he disposed of the Schall Opel within a few laps. And then the race turned around in his favour as first the Alzen car dropped out, and then the Land Porsche also cried "enough". This was obviously not a Porsche day. The V8STAR car was thus promoted to the top of the leaderboard, and with a comfortable advantage of some three minutes over the second-placed car, first the Opel and then the V8-powered BMW M3 of Michael Bäder and Tobias Hagemeyer, Adorf nursed his car home to take win #2 for the Raeder team in 2004.

Britain was also well-represented, with Daniel Cooke in eighth, Jonathan Price in ninth, and J.P. Baker in tenth place.

Three more race wins are up for grabs this year, and the overall championship is still undecided. The German Endurance Championship continues with two 3.5hr races on 25 September and 9 October, and a 4hr race on 23 October.

Many thanks, as always, to our 'ringside informers and www.vln.de
Johannes Gauglica

Result
1 . #682 – Hermann Tilke / Ullrich Galladé / Dirk Adorf, V8 STAR Jaguar, 39 laps (6:01:35.771)
2 . #100 - Michael Bäder /Tobias Hagenmeyer, BMW M3, -2:03.277
3 . #678 - Andreas Schall / Ralf Schall, Opel Astra V8 Coupé, -2:06.930
4 . #66 - Dr. Hans-Peter Huppert-Nieder / Werner Mohr / Markus Großmann / Andreas Gülden, Viper GTS-R, -4:08.271
5 . #99 – Johannes Scheid / Mario Merten / Oliver Kainz, BMW M3 GTRS, -9:17.056
6 . #8 – Wolfgang Destreé / Kersten Jodexnis / Klaus Abbelen, Porsche 996 GT3 RS, - 1lap
7 . #618 - Heinz-Josef Bermes / Thomas Koll / Jürgen Gockel, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
8 . #622 – Daniel Cooke / Bert Lambrecht / Dieter Schornstein, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
9 . #160 – Elmar Deegener / Jonathan Price, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8
10 . #621 - Jonathan Paul Baker / Dirk Schoysman, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup

 

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