Sports-Car World Champion plays an unfamiliar part

Porsche also are among the top favourites in the battle for this year’s ADAC Zurich 24h-Race crown. One of the spearheads of the Zuffenhausen based manufacturer is the team of 24-Race record winners, Manthey Racing, The team from the Eifel won the race five times an each of these wins was secured with Timo Bernhard being one of the drivers. This year, however, Bernhard returns to the Eifel as Team Principal. After 12 appearances as driver he is back in the Eifel with his KÜS Team 75 – but this time he will stay at the other side of the pit wall.

Timo Bernhard is back after a multi-year break and while coming back must feel like coming home, for the record winner, it will be a premiere for his team, KÜS Team 75. “I think it’s important that I’m at the helm,” says the German. “We have got a great driver line-up and so, I can provide the team maximum support. I also played this part in the Spa 24h Race.”

Motor-racing superstar: Two World-Championship titles and two Le Mans wins
When the moment arrived for Bernhard to ask himself: “Should I get behind the wheel or not?” it was not difficult for him to do without getting back behind the wheel. After all, the 2013 24h Race was the last had contested as driver and so, the temporal distance seemed to be big enough. In the years after 2013, the German was involved into the extremely successful Porsche Le Mans and World Sports Car Championship programme to an extent that he had to set his other activities aside. 2015 and 2017 World Champion, Le-Mans winner 2017 – and another one in 2010 with Audi: Bernhard is one of the motor-racing super stars. And although he raced the most sophisticated racing cars all over the world his heart still beats for the Nordschleife. “I was at the Nordschleife a few days ago and drove myself,” he reveals laughing. “Now I’m happy to have made the decision not to drive. Otherwise, making this decision definitely would have been more difficult.”

“Perfect timing also is crucial when it comes to the preparations“
Bernhard’s vast Nordschleife experience also was extremely important during the preparation weeks. “I attach major importance to the preparations,” explains the German. “Furthermore, we try to simulate different scenarios, I know, you can’t prepare for everything that can happen in the 24h Race but I had to cope with quite a lot of incidents. Furthermore, a good preparation makes you feel better.” The Nordschleife remains something special for him. “The circuit is unique and the regulations differ from the ones of other events, such as Spa or GT Masters. Here, many details and the timing are crucial and this also applies to the preparations. Therefore, the experience of my 13 appearances on the 24h grid can be important.” Nonetheless, Manthey’s goals are modest:”We haven’t set ourselves the goal to achieve a certain result. We want to have a clean, trouble-free race and achieving this will be difficult enough.”

24h Race: Everybody ready to go

Everything is prepared for the race of the year: This weekend’s ADAC Zurich 24h Race also is a highlight of the entire motor-racing season. 150 vehicles have been entered to compete in the battle for one of the most coveted trophy in international motor sport. Works squads and works supported teams such as the one of last year’s winners Audi or Aston Martin, BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-AMG will have to face highly competitive independent teams that rely on cars of exotic manufacturers, such as Ferrari and Lamborghini, or the beautiful single copy SCG003C. Some 200.000 spectators are expected to attend the race weekend and the first of them arrived as early as this Monday. And at the latest on Thursday when the 24h-Race vehicles go out for the first time, the huge crowd will turn the woods around the Nürburgring into a massive barbecue mile.

Top-class starting grid
In the past years the 24h race altered. “The former endurance race turned into a long-distance sprint,” said BMW’s Brazilian Augusto Farfus who made the trip to the Nürburgring, like quite a number of other DTM drivers, right from Hockenheim, venue of the DTM season opener. In a BMW M6 GT3 he will be chasing last year’s winners, thus also trying to beat a DTM rival. The reigning DTM Champion, René Rast (Bregenz) joined Audi Sport Team Land who will contest the race with the car #1. Rast was teamed up with Christopher Mies (Düsseldorf) and the two South Africans Kelvin and Sheldon van der Linde. Altogether, more than 30 GT3 vehicles will battle it out for the win and even the number top favourite amounts to about 12 vehicles. Porsche, for instance, sends the incredibly strong Manthey Porsche squad as spearhead into the race. The two Manthey Porsches 911 GT3 R secured the pole positions and a race win in the first two VLN rounds. Meanwhile, Mercedes-AMG won the 24h Race qualifying race courtesy of Yelmer Buurmann (NLD) who defeated his compatriot Nicky Catsburg (Rowe-BMW) in a battle to the finish line.

Time schedule with numerous highlights
It goes without saying the rest of the programme features quite a lot of other motor-racing highlights and fan entertainment. On Thursday, the motor-sport programme traditionally is kicked-off with an RCN performance test. Highlights are the qualifying session and the first of the three FIA WTCR rounds as well as the 24h-Race night qualifying from 20.30 to 23.30hrs CEST that will provide a first dose of pure endurance-race feeling. The Friday action begins with the ADAC 24h-Classic with old and younger classics on the grid and in the afternoon, the programme is continued with 24h-Race and WTCR qualifying sessions before the spectacular 24h-Race Top-30 Qualifying (from 19:00hrs CEST) makes for the highlight of the day. The action will be concluded from 19:50hrs by the Falken Drift Show. The Saturday schedule is particularly tight: before the 24 Race will be started at 15:30hrs CEST, the crowds will be entertained by the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup at the GP circuit (08:25hrs) and the second and third FIA WTCR rounds (starts at 11:00 and 12:20hrs).

Top-class grid for the race of the year

Now it’s official: the grid for the 2017 ADAC Zurich 24h Race will feature more top-class competitors than virtually ever. The entry list comprises more than 150 teams and more than 30 of them registered for the top categories of the potential winners.  Therefore, the entry list of these categories is tantamount to the who-is-who of the endurance, GT and touring-car racing aces. Audi, Bentley, BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche all send their works drivers to the race of the year, among them numerous DTM aces, 24h-Race winners and sports-car specialists. Meanwhile, the race also will be contested by costumer teams of these brands as well as by prototype squads representing Ferrari and Renault. They all will be welcomed by more than 200,000 spectators who travelled to the Eifel to witness them racing on the Ascension weekend (25th to 28th May) on the combination of the Nürburgring’s GP circuit and the Nordschleife. They all will be fighting for one of the most coveted trophy available in international endurance racing. And this year, the event features an additional highlight: two rounds of the World Touring Car Championship, WTCC, that will be contested on Saturday, right before the start of the 24h race.  Furthermore, the ‘Rockfestival of Car Racing’ also will entertain the visitors from Wednesday by numerous support-programme highlights aloof from the track.

Predicting a real favourite for this year’s edition of the 24h race is virtually impossible. The grid features just too many squads with top-class drivers, perfectly-practiced racing crews and cars that have got what it takes to win. The defending champions of course will contest the race with the #1 on their car: with Maro Engel, Manuel Metzger and Adam Christodoulou, three of last year’s overall winners are going to once again contest the race for Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon. And they will be joined by a new team-mate, Dutchman Yelmer Buurman. Meanwhile, the other Mercedes-AMG GT3 vehicles that will be entered – apart from Black Falcon – by HTP Motorsport und Team Haribo also will be raced by DTM and sports-car aces as well as Nordschleife specialists. “As I see it, the Nürburgring 24h Race is the toughest and most gruelling car race in the world,” says Maro Engel.” More than 30 potential race winners on the grid combined with the most demanding and coolest racetrack on our planet. The reception by spectators, drivers, teams and manufacturers demonstrates the outstanding significance of this race. I think that winning the Nürburgring 24h Race is tougher than winning the Le Mans 24h Race. There they have got just a handful of race-win contenders.”

Competitive teams on the grid
The challengers also are well prepared for their campaign to steal the win from the Mercedes-AMG squads. Audi, for instance, will represented by works drivers racing for Team WRT and Land Motorsport, with further R8 LMS vehicles being entered by very competitive customer teams. And by their win in the 24h qualifying race, local heroes Phoenix Racing also must be regarded as one of the top favourites. Meanwhile, BMW also do their very best to cement their position as most successful brand in the 24h-Race history. Since the maiden edition of the race, back in 1970, the Munich based brand celebrated 19 overall wins and this year, Schubert Motorsport and Rowe Racing are supposed to make it 20. And don’t forget the most successful 24h-Race team that is back after a five-year break: Schnitzer. In the fight for the lead in the all-time record list the Bavarian team also will have to battle it out with their direct rivals in the fight for this title: like Schnitzer, Manthey Racing also secured fiver overall wins to date and with its Porsches 911 GT3 R that are raced by works drivers they definitely represent a force that has got what it takes to become a factor. A fact that has been demonstrated by their two wins in the two 2017 VLN (Endurance Championship Nürburgring) rounds contested to date. Also representing the Porsche colours will be Falken Motorsport and Frikadelli Racing, two teams that demonstrated more than once that they are among the fastest when it comes to racing at the Nordschleife.

Top favourites under pressure
And even beyond the ‘Big Four’ the 2017 Nürburgring 24h-Race entry list is peppered with top-class teams that are determined to give the apparently superior works squads the hardest possible time. The squad around James Glickenhaus, for instance, that will contest the race with two SCG009c prototypes under the team name ‘Traum Motorsport’ did particularly well in the qualifying race. Only a technical failure stopped the team on the way to its first triumph. At the same time, Bentley also is very competitive. Yes, it has to be admitted that the Bentley is the concept-wise oldest GT3 on the grid but entered by Abt and raced by outstanding drivers, the brawny Briton was among the front runners, in the qualifying race. There it also had to compete with independently entered GT3 Ferrari from Switzerland that also will be back for the 24h Race. A glance at the ‘smaller’ categories demonstrates that these classes also feature a lot of top-class team, drivers and cars. Numerous independent cars will fight with one another in the cup classes and entertain the fans with thrilling battles. But there also will be works teams racing in these categories. For instance in the booming GT4 class that is contested by Aston Martin with a works squad while Audi’s R8 is making its debut. Meanwhile, several brands are contesting the event in the production-car category: Hyundai and Subaru are racing in the SP3T and Toyota Gazoo in the SP3 to possibly secure the class win.

WTCC promises top-class entertainment
The fans will be provided a first true highlight even before the ADAC Zurich 24h Race will be started on Saturday afternoon: the World Touring Car Championship, WTCC, once again will contest two championship rounds on the combination of Grand Prix circuit and Nordschleife, with the World Championship even making an exception, for the event at the planet’s most legendary circuit: for once, both races will feature the same distance.  The race distance of both races amounts to three laps and they only will be interrupted by a short repair break. Once again, the WTCC drivers will be joined by their European Touring Car Cup (ETCC) colleagues who will contest the race in an extra starting group. Particularly thrilling: who will follow in the footsteps of Citroën who dominated the Nordschleife action in 2016? Following the retirement of the French manufacturer as works squad, Honda and Volvo Polestar currently have been dominating the World Championship season so far.

Fantastic programme for the fans
Not only the teams, drivers and organisers already have got tingling sensations in the run-up to the 24h Race for quite a while. The visitors also have completed their preparations to once again let the event develop its legendary independent aloof-from-the-track life. On the race weekend the circuit is surrounded by barbecues galore and the countless small and bigger fan groups try to outperform one another with the fanciful presentation of their independent motor-racing festivals. And exactly these enthusiasts are the ones the organisers once again have got numerous highlights for: at the racetrack they will not only witness the two WTCC rounds and the 24h Race but also the classic cars and the younger classic cars of the ‘ADAC Tourenwagen Classic’ as well as the Audi Sport TT Cup makes-cup racers. And the event traditionally will be kicked off on Thursday morning by the RCN (Rundstrecken Challenge Nürburgring) performance exams. Aloof from the track, the action even begins a day earlier: during the ‘Adenauer Racing Day’, fans and drivers traditionally meet on Wednesday afternoon in the heart of the motor-racing city located next to ‘The Ring’. On Thursday, the ring°boulevard hosts the official autographing session. Here, many exhibitors make for an attractive programme and provide information, merchandise products and far more throughout the weekend. In the evening, the 24h-Race night qualifying will fascinate the visitors. The Friday programme features – apart from the first race of the weekend – the crucial qualifying sessions for the WTCC and 24-Race grid positions. The positions on the first 15 rows of the latter will be determined in the evening, in the spectacular Top 30 time trial. A perfect start into the party evening that later will be continued with the pit walk of the fans and the ‘Falken Drift Show’ in the Müllenbachschleife. So, there definitely will be a reason to get bored – and even less so as there is quite a number of further attractions, such as the fan area in the historic paddock. Here, Red Bull entertains the visitors with a motorbike stunt-rider show and Stihl Timbersports with sports wood-chopping. In addition, Falken lets the visitors feel the speed in their drifting taxis and Red Bull are once again active for the fans: this year, the energy-drink takes the Drift Brothers – on Friday and Saturday – to the Nordschleife where they will make the tires smoke on the spectator hot spots of the circuit several times.

Advance-booking tickets available
Those who don’t want to buy their ADAC Zurich 24h-Race tickets only after having arrived at ‘The Ring’ also can purchase them in advance. To do so, just call the ticket hotline +49 (0)180 6 570070. Or you book your tickets online at www.eventim.de or www.nuerburgring.de.