BMW has finally returned to the winners’ circle at the Nürburgring 24 with a thrilling victory to edge out the leading Audi crew.
The No.99 M6 GT3 driven by Nicky Catsburg, Alexander Sims and Nick Yelloly grabbed the lead from the No.3 Audi two hours from the chequered flag as biblical rains saw the race suspended for almost ten hours.
Catsburg took the lead courtesy of a switch to intermediate tyres while Christopher Haase in the Audi risked another lap on slicks as the rain returned to punctuate the final two hours of racing.
The eventual margin between the two was 16 seconds, and it marks BMW’s first win since the 2010 rendition, and only it’s fourth since the turn of the century.
BMW would get two of its cars on the rostrum with Augusto Farfus, Sheldon van der Linde, Jens Klingmann and Martin Tomczyk a further thirty seconds back in third.
The first Kiwi across the finish stripe was Tom Blomqvist who eased home in fourth to make it three BMWs in the top five. Blomqvist pounced a puncture for Dries Vanthoor in the defending champions Audi car. The incident dropped the No.1 R8 out of podium contention and eventually came home in fifth.
Talk of the weekend, however, was the heavy rain which interrupted the race for nine and a half hours across the night. Race control waited until 8 am the next morning before declaring it safe enough to restart the race behind the safety car.
Once back to green flag conditions, however, the No.3 Audi looked set to secure another win for the German giants.
But the weather had other intentions, and the team’s costly pit error cost valuable time as the leading BMW lapped 20 seconds quicker on its out lap to steal away first. By the time Haase had taken control of the Audi, the deficit to Catsburg was a mammoth 50 seconds.
A spirited drive had the margin slashed to under 20 seconds, but time was the enemy for Audi, and they fell short of a record sixth win in nine years at the Eifel classic.
Mercedes had dominated most of the race before the red flag. But crashes for the No.4 and the No.9 put the manufacturer out of contention for the win.
The best Mercedes-AMG GT3 was the No.6 AutoArenA/Haupt Racing Team entry who finished 8th. Though they also ran into dramas when an errant wheel in the latter stages of the race threatened to derail what otherwise was a strong performance.
Despite their impressive qualifying pace, Porsche struggled to match the speed of the leaders after the restart. The manufacturer’s leading car was the No.31 Frikadelli Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 R who finished a commendable seventh overall.
Late call-up, Earl Bamber was running as high as fifth in the first phase of the race. But mechanical woes hindered the KC Motor Group 911, and the Kiwi fell back to finish 13th.