Finally for Audi their R8 LMS program has reached the summit of endurance car racing by claiming victory at the 40th running of the Nürburgring 24 hour race. The #3 Team Phoenix R8 with an all-German driving crew of Marc Basseng, Christopher Haase, Frank Stippler and Markus Winkelhock crossed the line with what was a relatively comfortable one lap lead in the end. Indeed they controlled the race from around hour 20.
It’s the first win for Audi in a 24 hour race at the Green Hell and they ended up doing it in style too, with the #26 Mamerow Racing R8 coming home in second place. And perhaps, on another day, they could have filled all three steps on the podium with the #2 Team Phoenix car leading for several hours in the early morning, only to come unstuck when rain caught out Christopher Mies while on slick tyres.
The winning car completed 155 laps at the conclusion of the 24 hours, one off the record set by Manthey Racing in 2011.
There was extraordinary drama at the end of the race in the battle for third place between the #11 Wochenspiegel Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 and the #66 Hankook Team Heico Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3.
The Porsche was leading the Mercedes as the pair scrapped for position in the closing stages. They regained a lap on the lead car during their fight which meant they would have to complete another full lap to finish the race. As the two cars headed for the start/finish line to begin their final lap the Porsche, still ahead, slowed and eventually stopped on the side of the track moments after crossing the line. The Mercedes sped past safely and ultimately claimed the final podium placing.
It’s not immediately clear why the Porsche stopped at this stage; was he out of fuel, was there a mechanical failure? A Renault Clio was some way behind the Porsche but did not realise it had stopped and the Clio collected the rear corner of the Porsche at full pace. Thankfully, it seems neither driver was injured, but it made for a dramatic and chaotic sight as the #3 Audi accepted the chequered flag (you can see the two cars to the right of frame in the above image).
The incident was costly for the Porsche, too, they have been officially registered as “not classified”.
We expect there may be some fall out from that dramatic finish and if there is we’ll bring it to you with our post-race coverage in the coming days.