24 Hours of Nürburgring Hit by Deluge
After race-leading Manthey Racing Porsche 911 RSR crashes out, sheets of rain toss strategy out the window.
When the monsoon hit at around 4 am, the gauzy dusk of the first day was a distant memory. The bonfires in the campsites on the hillsides were raging, the ragged, drunken spectators were—for the moment, at least—unfazed by the deluge, which swept through the Nordschleife trees in thick sheets. But the rain was enough to put out the fires, and all by the most primitive or intoxicated racefans retreated to shelter and turned on Radio Nürburgring or passed out in the mud.
But the cars couldn't retreat. They could only hurtle through the downpour. The elite GT3 field was shaken up just before the rain when Porsche driver Romain Dumas crashed out of the lead. According to the Manthey Racing lead, Dumas had a brush with oil on the track as he passed through the complicated Pflanzgarten section. The multiple winner of Le Mans and Nürburgring and lost control of the #911 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R and wrecked after leading most of the race.
So how do things shake out? With around four hours left in the race, the rain persists, and the strategy between the top teams are reduced to the most primitive (and arguably exciting) style of racing: drive the damn car as fast as you can, and fill your fuel tank when you run low. GT3 teams are stretching to nine laps per tank.
The Mercedes AMG GT3 cars are taking advantage. They lack the overall pace of the 911 RSRs, but, as Black Falcon driver Maro Engel told me, "When it does rain, there are sectors on the track that will be like ice, and I really think our Michelin wets will have better grip."
And so it goes. With less than five hours left to race finish, soggy spectators emerged from their tents and caravans eating pastries and sipping Irish coffee, Engel's #4 Mercedes AMG GT4, with Dirk Muller driving, is clinging to a lead over the single surviving (though lightning-quick) #912 Manthey Porsche is gaining 10 seconds a lap.
- After the rain came, the track came to the sole Subaru on the Nordschleife, a factory Subaru WRX STI driven by Carlo van Dam, Marcel Lasée, Tim Schrick and Hideki Yamauchi. In the wet and foggy conditions, the Subie is walking away with the SP 3T class.
- Flat-crank V-8 muscle car fans, rejoice (I suppose). There are two Ford Mustangs remaining on the track, a Wolflick Racing Mustang GT WR that holds second position in the SP8 class, behind a Porsche 991 GT3 Cup MR, and a Mustang GT in the AT class driven by Oliver Sprungmann.
- The defending champion #1 Land Audi R8 tapped a backmarker and wrecked at about 9:30 am, as the deluge had dwindled into a chilly, spitting wind. After about 30 minutes in the garage the Audi returned to the track, but its chances of advancing are slim.