2016 24 Hours of Nürburgring preview
For most the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month is the greatest endurance race of them all. There aren’t many people who would argue with that. However, there is a 24-hour race this weekend that is undoubtedly tougher for this weekend is the 24 Hours of Nürburgring.
Held on a 15.7-mile version of the infamous Nordschleife (the track includes a portion of the modern GP loop), the 24 Hours of Nürburgring is a breath-taking spectacle with no fewer than 38 top class GT3-spec machines entered to battle it out over a day on the Green Hell.
Among that contingent are six new Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, four of which can be considered genuine contenders for victory (the other two entries from Manthey Racing are fielded for gentleman drivers).
In the opening VLN races of 2016, the new 991 GT3 R has struggled for pace around the Nordschleife, shipping about four to eight seconds per lap in ultimate pace to its German rivals from Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.
However, as with any 24-hour race (and especially one at the world’s toughest permanent race track), outright speed isn’t the be-all and end-all and Porsche has shown strong reliability with its new GT3 car so far this season.
The car has also been racking up victories in other races across the Atlantic in both the WeatherTech USCC endurance series and the sprint format Pirelli World Challenge, giving Porsche hope that this will be the car to end it’s four-year 24 Hours of Nürburgring victory drought.
Leading the way for Weissach are the factory-backed no. 911 and no. 912 entries of Manthey Racing, both cars entered exclusively for Porsche’s works GT aces (who aren’t without their own successes around the ‘North Loop’).
In the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, 2015 Le Mans winners, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber rekindle their successful partnership for the first time where they are also joined by Tandy’s US championship-winning teammate, Patrick Pilet and new hotshoe, Kévin Estre.
Across the garage from this electrifying quartet, the no. 912 isn’t lacking in cockpit firepower either thanks to the talents of Jörg Bergmeister, 2015 FIA World Endurance Champion, Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Frédéric Makowiecki.
If the factory Porsche 911 RSRs cannot add to Weissach’s impressive Nürburgring victory tally this weekend, there is still the chance that one of the privateer teams could still triumph, especially the crack Falken Motorsports squad (who finished third in the 24-hour race last year).
For this year’s event, armed with the new 991-generation racer, Falken has retained its electrifying line-up of Peter Dumbreck, Martin Ragginger, Alexandre Imperatori and factory ringer, Wolf Henzler, making them a more than a possible outsider to top the podium come Sunday morning.
Porsche’s dark horse in the GT3-spec ‘SP9’ class is the red-and-white no. 3 Frikadelli Racing Team entry, driven by Patrick Huisman, Sabine Schmitz, Norbert Siedler and Klaus Abbelen, they are one of the most successful squads in the VLN.
However, their chances may have been hit slightly by their decision not to race in the last VLN round due to what they felt was the new Porsche 911 GT3 R’s unfavourable Balance of Performance.
What is sure though is that nothing is certain in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. The race has been stopped multiple times in the past thanks to the ‘Ring’s legendary microclimate so, not only have the competitors got around 200 cars to navigate on track at once, the weather can also be a major factor.
The top 30 grid places will be set in qualifying later this evening with the race getting underway at 3:30pm CET on Saturday, finishing 24 hours later on Sunday afternoon.
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