“If I’m ever sitting here completely relaxed, I think it’s time for me to quit motorsport,” said Ernst Moser before the restart of the Nürburgring 24 Hours. It seems like Moser will have a few years yet until his retirement, as the restart of the endurance classic at the Nordschleife was anything but relaxing.
What made our team principal so nervous? The weather for one thing, which changed on an almost hourly basis in typical Nordschleife fashion – even resulting in long interruption to the race overnight.
The question of what tyres to be on dominated discussions on the pit wall for hours on end. “It wasn’t an easy task for our engineers,” Ernst Moser said. “Showers kept blowing over the area, so some parts of the track were dry and others were wet. It was practically impossible to make the right choice.”
That made the strategy calls from the pit lane all the more impressive. As the fight for the podium began to reach its climax, all of the leading teams decided to pit for wet tyres as the surface was still damp, except for one that is. Audi Sport Team Phoenix opted to change to the semi-slick rubber and were promptly ten seconds per lap quicker than the rest of the field.
“We had to roll the dice to save our chances of winning. We wanted that victory,” said Nico Müller, who was behind the wheel at the time. “We were the quickest car in the field and made up some real ground. We also switched back to rain tyres at the perfect time, which put us in a great position going into the closing stages.”
But closing stages of the race dealt a major slice of bad luck to the Phoenix Racing crew. With just 30 minutes of the race remaining, a puncture put an end to any hopes Müller had of securing a famous win. The Audi Sport Team Phoenix car would eventually finish fifth, a positive result for Nico Müller, Dries Vanthoor, Frédéric Vervisch and Frank Stippler considering all the highs and lows in the 2020 edition of the race.
It was a similar story for the sister car. Despite leaving the weekend empty-handed, Kim-Luis Schramm, Michele Beretta, Jules Gounon and Stippler (on double duty) still left their mark on the race. The foursome were battling for a top 5 position until a technical issue forced them to retire three hours before the end.
“We had two super quick cars this weekend, and a crew that did a fantastic job,” said Ernst Moser in summary. “It was exciting right to the final lap and a podium would have capped it all off. Nevertheless, I think we can be proud of the result today.”