The 24h prologue lures teams, drivers and fans to the Nordschleife

In the run-up to the ADAC Zurich 24h Race held on the Corpus Christi weekend, the teams now are entering the hot phase of the preparations for the prestigious event: for the teams, the season opener of the Endurance Championship Nürburgring, VLN, represented the first clash and just two weeks later, they now are about to contest the next test in race conditions. The ADAC Qualifying Race 24h Race (16th to 17th April, 2016) provides teams and drivers more than nine hours of track time – including the six-hour race – on the legendary Nordschleife. In the season opener Audi proved to be in great form: the one-two of the Phoenix Audis R8 LMS represented a clear sign for the competition: the brand that won last year’s 24-h Race once again represents the benchmark. But the brand-new Mercedes-AMG GT3 also is a race-win contender: Black Falcon secured the third position on the podium, in the season kick-off. In addition, competitive squads racing for BMW, Bentley and as well as exotic vehicles, such as the Scuderia Glickenhaus prototypes, will add to the excitement. Advance booking tickets for the 24h Qualifying Race can be purchased at www.nuerburgring.de, with the info and ticket hotline being available at +49 (0) 800 2083200 (free of charge from the German landline).

In the 24h Qualifying Race it’s not about points and therefore, teams and drivers can fully focus on preparing for the 24h Race. And with two qualifying sessions, a six-hour race as well as additional test and adjustment runs they are offered a lot of possibilities for doing so. An opportunity the top teams just can’t forego. So it comes as no surprise that the two Phoenix Audis R8 LMS that came first and second in the VLN season opener also will be involved. Audi Sport Team WRT also will enter two vehicles – they won last year’s 24h Race with a similar line-up. “I couldn’t have been happier with the car, in the season opener”, beamed Phoenix driver Frank Stippler after having won the first race in the season. “And I hope we will be able to tie in with this performance, in the 24h Race.” At the same time, ‘Stippi’ is well aware that many competitors also are keen on winning the prestigious endurance classic at the Nordschleife. “The competition will be extremely tough – just as it was the case in the recent past,” he underlines. „Mercedes and BMW are making huge efforts to shine in this event. Therefore, the battle will be fantastic.”

Maro Engel: “The competition will be tougher than ever”
And indeed, other top manufacturers also will enter new GT3 racers together with customer teams: the new Mercedes AMG GT3 made it to the podium by finishing third behind the two Phoenix Audis right away. It was the car’s only third outing at the Nordschleife but Team Black Falcon was able to prove the vehicle’s potential, nevertheless. “This year we will have to cope with a competition that’s tougher than ever,” confirms Maro Engel who finished third together with Bernd Schneider, Manuel Metzger and Adam Christodoulou. ”All the major manufacturers will be there and we will race the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. Driving the car on the Nordschleife is huge fun. We use the VLN for preparing for the 24h Race. That’s our main goal: to be a factor in the battle for the win and possibly secure the trophy for AMG.”

Competitive teams promise thrilling race action
At the 2015 IAA, BMW launched the new M6 GT3 that will be raced at the Nordschleife from 2016. The debut in the VLN season opener, however, was mediocre: Walkenhorst Motorsport finished seventh, thus securing the only top-10 result for the Bavarian manufacturer. With ROWE Racing and Walkenhorst Motorsport, two competitive squads will contest the quali race with BMW’s new GT racer. And Schubert driver Lucas Luhr is convinced: “The new BMW M6 GT3 is fast and competitive. That’s just normal when you race a new car: we haven’t covered a lot of kilometres and the Nordschleife is something very special. There are some things that still have to be sorted.” And this also applied to the VLN season kick-off: “There, a power steering failure forced us into the pits for 20 minutes. Fortunately we still have got some time – and those knowing BMW are sure: we will get a grip on it.” At the same time, the Porsche teams also didn’t quite meet the expectations, with Manthey racing, running two new 911 GT3 R, just making it to the top 10. No doubt: they also have got more potential. After all, both Porsches dropped back due to punctures. Meanwhile, Bentley Team Abt proved to be well prepared and finished sixth, in the first VLN round of the year. The Germans run the Bentley Continental GT3 for the first time, this season, and therefore, the squad needs every single kilometre of testing it can cover. Right after the first VLN race, Nissan announced to compete in both the 24h Qualifying Race and the 24h Race. The Nissans will be run – inter alia – by Team Zakspeed. And Toyota also will use the 24h Qualifying Race as preparation and will take several cars along.

A lot of excitement for the fans
But the 24h Qualifying race does not only promise excitement as the fans can witness many of the 24h Race protagonists at closest range. The action also makes straight impact on the 24h Race, as the five best placed cars of the Qualifying Race secure a position for the Top-30 Qualifying. And there’s even more for the fans, on the weekend of the Qualifying Race: simultaneously to the test and adjustment runs at the GP circuit, a regularity rally will be held at the Nordschleife. Afterwards, from noon, the RCN will start into a performance examination. The first qualifying session for the 24h Qualifying Race will take place on Saturday afternoon, the second on Sunday morning. The six-hour feature race will be started at 12:00hrs. Particularly attractive: the ticket price includes paddock access. There, the Falken power-slide artists will entertain the visitors. And from 10:50hrs, all the spectators with valid ticket may promenade along the starting grid. Tickets for the 24h Qualifying Race are available from €15 (day ticket Saturday or Sunday), with the price for the weekend ticket amounting to €25.

06th April, 2016

24h and WTCC: A twin pack of Nordschleife fun

Quite a number of the WTCC drivers use the first appearance of the Word Touring Car Championship programme in the ADA Zurich 24h-Race support programme for making a double appearance. As two sprint races aren’t enough for them, Rob Huff, Tom Chilton and Tom Coronel also will contest the endurance classic. And the World Championship debut at the Nordschleife also seems to be highly interesting for the 24h-race drivers: the acknowledged Nordschleife experts Sabine Schmitz and Jaap van Lagen will make guest appearances on the WTCC grid. That’s what the aforementioned drivers say about the double burden, the differences and the similarities:

Rob Huff:  “For me, this is a great opportunity to race the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 for Team Premio. A really great car that doesn’t surprise you with any bad habits. Driving this car on the Nordschleife is just great.  When getting back behind the wheel of my touring car I always have to re-adapt as it has got front-wheel drive. And you always realise that it has its problems when it comes to coping with the Nordschleife. In certain sections, the driving the car rather resembles a rodeo ride on a wild bull.”

Tom Chilton
: “Yokohama were the initiators of my double appearance. The adapting effort isn’t too big as both my WTCC-Chervolet and the Audi TT RS are front-wheel fe is clearly easier – thanks to the bigger engine and the bigger tyres. But it has to be like that if you want to be able to complete two-hour stints, in the 24h race. I achieved nearly identical lap times, with the two vehicles but I have to admit that I will have to take the car to its very limit, in the WTCC races. But that’s okay for a three lap race. With the respective set-up changes, the Audi certainly could be faster but then, it wouldn’t be fit for an endurance race.”

Tom Coronel: “It’s just huge fun. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 virtually is tailor-made for the Nordschleife. To have the chance of competing in both races represents a unique opportunity and there aren’t many drivers who contest both the races in a support series and the 24h race itself. Adapting and readapting doesn’t represent a major effort and the brake points are virtually the same: on the one hand, the SLS produces more grip but on the other, it’s faster and heavier than my WTCC Lada.  You just mustn’t forget to press the button in your head and realise what car your just are racing in.”

Sabine Schmitz
: “For me, as regular driver of rear wheel driven cars, adapting to the front wheel drive represent a huge challenge. Apart from that, it isn’t to exhausting – aside from the long walks from garage eight to the helicopter landing field and the WTCC paddock and vice versa. But adapting is my biggest problem as you always have to go easy on the front wheels, in WTCC – not matter if you are braking or accelerating. In the beginning, I drove the WTCC car like my Frikadelli Porsche and think that the Chevrolet engineers never saw this kind of brake values, to date. But despite my adapting problems and the difficulties to find a good set-up, competing in WTCC big fun. I wouldn’t mind if the series would come back, next year.”

Jaap van Lagen
: “Contesting both the 24h race and the WTCC is somewhat exhausting but I created a good schedule for myself. Therefore, I can cope with it. My cars, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 and the WTCC-Lada, are two completely different vehicles but I’m accustomed to driving different cars. So far, everything went fine. In the free practice session I even was faster than Rob Huff.”