A rainy 24 Hours comes to an End at the Green Hell
It was a really wet edition of the Nürburgring 24 hours, which saw a morning restart after a lengthy stoppage overnight. At the chequered flag, Claudia Hürtgen scored a class win, Laura Kraihamer, Carrie Schreiner, Célia Martin and Charlie Martin completed the endurance classic, while Rahel Frey's team could not resume the race.
It certainly was a very rainy edition of the 24H at the Nürburgring Nordschleife: as reported in the mid-race update, the red flag was shown for the extreme weather conditions approximately eight hours into the race, effectively erasing the night section.
The time was counting down during the night stop and the race was scheduled to end at 3:30 pm as planned. At 8 o´clock in the morning, race officials declared the restart of the race after at least one lap behind the Safety Car. The race resumed with all the cars divided in two groups by different classes, in order to maintain the performance gaps consistent.
When the pace car left the track, the clock marked 7 hours and 10 minutes left to be run. And it was green flag again.
Just like in the first part of the race, it wasn't a long wait until the first incident: the #31 Porsche driven by Maxime Martin made contact with the #19 KCM-Porsche, which spun him around. Also the Walkenhorst-BMW had his second incident of the race as he spun on track.
At front, it was Audi's time to shine, as the Haupt-Mercedes had some troubles. A pit stop because of a slow puncture was needed though, and after just one short lap of the GP-track later, the left front tyre came loose and the crew was called back in in the pits again.
Célia Martin drove at the restart for the Girls Only team and, unfortunately, on the final lap of her stint, she had a misunderstanding with the #5 Phoenix-Audi. The Audi touched the VW Golf on the right-hand side while Célia returned to the racing line for the following left hander at Hatzenbach, in the opening sections of the Nordschleife-lap. The Giti-Golf crashed into the guardrail, damaging the suspension. Célia was not able to move the car under its own power, requiring to be towed away and into the pits. The all-female crew worked hard to get the car back on track - just like they did one year ago when they had to perform an engine replacement after the initial hours.
Up ahead, the fight for the overall classify was on fire with Christopher Haase in his #3 Car-Collection Audi leading the #1 Phoenix-Audi and the #42 Schnitzer-BMW. On a drying track, Sheldon van der Linde in his Schnitzer-BWM caught up while Alexander Sims for the #99 Rowe-BMW and snapped third place.
The second part of the race saw many penalties being handed out to the drivers because of disregard of the minimum service time. Almost all the cars in the leader's group joined the club and served penalties.
A long Code-60 phase followed at 12:30 when an Opel Astra collided with a GT4-Cayman at Brünnchen and, close behind the incident, the #5 Phoenix-Audi also came to a halt on track as well.
The #9 GetSpeed Mercedes had even more bad luck after yesterday's accident: Fabian Schiller, coming in too fast, went across the gravel and crashed into the wall. He was able to continue, but headed back to the pits very slowly.
With two hours to go, the rain came in full force again and the fight for victory was wide open: Haase (Car-Collection-Audi #3) was now 9 seconds ahead of Nick Catsburg (Rowe-BMW #99). Taking a gamble, Catsburg was the first among the front-runners to come in to switch back to wet weather tyres, while Haase drove another lap on Slicks. Ultimately, it turned out to be one lap too much - as he lost valuable time and struggled for grip.
With more rain forecasted, the Audi cars worked best compared to the BMWs and Haase caught up again. As the rain subsided again a little the BMW responded back.
At the end, the #99 Rowe-BMW driven by Nick Catsburg, Alexander Sims and Nick Yelloly won ahead of the #3 Car-Collection-Audi (Bortolotti/Haase/Winkelhock) and the #42 Schnitzer-BMW (Farfus/Klingmann/Tomczyk/S. van der Linde).
The ladies of the Giti Motorsport only-female team Carrie Schreiner, Laura Kraihamer and Célia Martin had some troubles: After Célia's crash, the team had worked hard to bring the car back on track: "The girls did an awesome job to repair the car after Célias crash. Went back out there and had a nightmare stint. Nothing more to add. Glad to be back in one piece" - Laura said.
"Last Stint wasn´t the easiest one", commented Célia after the race as well.
They finished in P82 overall and P3 in class (SP 3T), also signing the fastest lap time in class.
Janine Shoffner (formerly Hill) finished in an overall 18th place, P17 in the strongest class (SP 9) and third in Pro-AM in the SP 9 class.
Rahel Frey, after completing another legendary 24 Hours race just one week before, could not finish the race because the team decided to retire the car after the long break in the night. At the time being, there are not many details about the reasons behind the retirement, but we'll surely have more updates in the coming days. What is currently known, is that: "the team decided to retire because of difficulties on and off the track for reasons within the team."
Claudia Hürtgen, coming from strong results in the ADAC GT4 Germany, claimed a class victory (SP 10) with her team and finished P29 in overall.
Charlie Martin wrote history this weekend, as she became the first transgender driver to compete and finish the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. Alongside her teammates, she was P57 overall and P4 in class (Kl. Cup 5) after a very eventful race.
After some disqualifications and post-race penalties, the final results for the seven women on the starting grid were as follows:
Janine Shoffner: P17 overall, P16 in class (P3 Pro-AM)
Claudia Hürtgen: P26 overall, P1 in class
Charlie Martin: P52 overall, P4 in class
Girls only: P72 overall, P3 in class
Rahel Frey: DNF