The 24 Hours of the Nürburgring always springs a surprise, there is no question about that. But this year’s finish with a sprint to the line in the pouring rain was new even for Phoenix Racing.
“Brilliant motorsport, an excellent team performance and an outstanding showing from our junior drivers,” said Team Principal Ernst Moser after the 46th running of the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. “Sure, we wanted to finish higher than seventh overall, but reaching the finishing line after such a difficult race is an achievement in itself.”
The Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by Christopher Haase, Nico Müller, Frank Stippler and Frédéric Vervisch ran perfectly throughout the race. The four pro drivers’ consistent lap times and error-free running pushed the Scherer-liveried R8 through the order as the race progressed. The Audi quartet were knocking on the door of the top 10 after the first hour.
As the race went on the Phoenix Racing drivers cemented their position in the leading pack and set about battling for supremacy at the front of the field. However, in the early hours of the race, heavy rain hit the Nürburgring circuit and some of the R8’s deficits began to show: “We were at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the field on rain tyres,” explained Moser. “The wetter it was, the more difficult it became and this is where we lost time, unfortunately.
The most exciting part of the race…
…was definitely the final few laps. Thick fog resulted in the race being suspended, before the fans at the circuit were treated to an all-out 90-minute sprint for victory. What followed were a series of wheel-to-wheel battles between some of the best GT3 drivers in the world in the pouring Nürburgring rain.
Frédéric Vervisch took the wheel of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 for the final part of the race, mastering the conditions to secure seventh place for Audi Sport Team Phoenix. “The conditions were really tough,” the Belgian said after finishing the race. “The fog became worse and I was happy to bring the car over the finishing line.”
A huge disappointment
For Milan Dontje, Xiaole He, Nicolaj Møller Madsen and Max Hofer, the race was a huge disappointment. An engine issue in the middle of the night forced the Audi quartet to retire their Audi R8 LMS GT4. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the team of Phoenix Racing drivers, who had put in an outstanding performance until that point and were on course for victory in the SP8 class.
The crew in the #41 machine had already showed their significant potential in the free practice and qualifying sessions. In the race itself, the drivers worked their way through the field from 40th position to dominate the SP8 category. “It was extremely disappointing to lose our junior drivers’ team, but these kinds of setbacks are part of endurance racing,” said Ernst Moser. “The guys led the race for eleven hours and didn’t put a foot wrong. It would have been a well-deserved victory.”
The heroes of the weekend…
…were definitely the thousands of fans at the Nürburgring. Despite frosty temperatures and heavy rainfall, many fans remained firmly in position on the campsites. Some of the problems the teams and drivers had to contend with pale in comparison! We would like to thank all of our fans and friends who came through this special race with us! We hope we put on a great show for you and can’t wait to return next year!
By the way, later this week Phoenix Racing will be publishing a special look back at all the action on and off the track this weekend. Make sure you check back to our website to read all about it!