Success at the Green Hell: Women shine in NLS3
NLS3 was a success for the female drivers, with class victories for Laura Kraihamer in CUPX and Chantal Prinz in H4, as well as podium finishes in class for Reema Juffali in V5 and Célia Martin/Fabienne Wohlwend in SP8T. Solid race and second top-five for Caitlin Wood at her second start at the Nordschleife, as she works towards her A permit.
The third race of the NLS season saw again a huge starting grid - with 160 cars, new teams, returnees and a growing number of female entries as well.
The Girls Only was able to rebuild their BMW M4 GT4 in time for the third round of the season, as the NLS2 was cancelled due to snow at the famous Nordschleife. Célia Martin and Fabienne Wohlwend were back behind the wheel of the Giti Tire-sponsored car, which was severely damaged in a high-speed crash in practice ahead of NLS1, when debris caused a puncture at the fastest section of the track. Luckily, Christina Nielsen was unhurt.
Reema Juffali was set to make her NLS debut at NLS2, while former W Series racer Caitlin Wood - who had a strong debut at the opening race of the year - was also back on the grid. Nürburgring regular Chantal Prinz also took the start, while finally Laura Kraihamer could return to the Nordschleife: the Austrian was announced for a part-time campaign with Teichmann Racing and was supposed to get behind the wheel for the race ultimately postponed to November. Anna Lena Binkowska initially appeared on the entry list, but her team couldn't make the start.
The story of the race
Setting a 7:57.095 lap, the #99 of De Phillippi / Farfus (BMW M4 GT3) secured pole position for the third race of the season and was able to defend the top position at the race start, preceding the #44 BMW M4 GT3 of Harper / Hesse / Verhagen, but the #44 soon dropped down the order.
Just behind, the second group saw the #927 KTM X-BOW GTX driven by Brodmerkel / Schöll / Kraihamer defending the lead against their teammates, the #920 of Griesemann / Rönnefarth / Volte / Von Der Laden. Once in the driving seat, Laura Kraihamer put the #927 in a very good position for the race - but it wasn't all plain sailing, and the team had to overcome a drive through penalty due to a jump start.
But there was more trouble on track, with plenty of action, passes and accidents. Light contacts and technical issues caused a few retirements and a drive through for the second-placed #44 BMW challenged their winning chances after a pit stop infringement.
With not much time left, the #44 led the #99 for the win. Augusto Farfus attacked Hesse at the first corner, but had to back off. Not long after, he made the pass stick and took over the race lead. Hesse got stuck behind a lapped car and Farfus could open a 1 second gap to Hesse just at the start of the final lap - and it was enough to take a remarkable win: the #99 preceded the second BMW by only 0,582 seconds, after a dramatic moment when Farfus had to lift and Hesse tried to fight back while in the slipstream. But the experienced Brazilian held off the attempt.
Here's what happened in the other classes
A streak of bad luck was finally over for Laura Kraihamer, who took a hard-fought victory in class this weekend! Together with Stephan Brodmerkel and Constantin Schöll (Teichmann Racing, KTM X-BOW GTX) they overcame a drive through penalty due to a jump start and got to spray some champagne on the highest step of the podium. They finished P29 overall.
"I was quite excited to take part in this race because it was the first for me, as NLS2 was cancelled - and I was very keen to get back on the Nordschleife." - told us Kraihamer after the race weekend.
"At the end of the day we showed the pace, we had some small issues to deal with - it was truly crazy out there on Saturday", she summed up.
"There was a lot going on, lots to go through and we just did a flawless job and finally had a little bit of luck we needed to end up first, which felt really good. I simply love this track!"
In a not-too crowded H4 class, Chantal Prinz was the only finisher in class and took the victory together with Alexander Prinz, Martin and Michael Kranz in the H4 category. They were P75 overal.
Reema Juffali was back to GT racing after her podium finish at the 24H of Dubai last January. She tackled the Green Hell together with Emily Heyerdahl in a Porsche Cayman operated by PROsport-Racing, in her first appearance in the series as she works to get her permit.
They finished second in the V5 category, P76 overall: a great podium finish for the team that also entered the ADAC GT4 series.
After Christina Nielsen's horrific crash at the eve of NLS1, the Girls Only team was back on track with Célia Martin and Fabienne Wohlwend behind the wheel of the #150 BMW M4. And what a comeback it was, with a second place in class. “I was so happy to finally be back racing on the Nordschleife, it was amazing to see all the fans back as well, it’s such a special place" - told us Célia Martin. “The car ran really well after such an extensive rebuild following the big accident in NLS1, a truly amazing job and effort by the team. The car was actually ready just two weeks after the accident - for NLS2, but it got cancelled due to weather", she explained. "To do such an extensive rebuild and then have no issues and run a 4-hour race is a mega job by them.” “NLS3 was the chance for me to work with Carrie and Fabienne to shake the car down and do the set up", Martin continued, "for us it was an important test of the car and the team at the track, we spent the weekend working on the setup and with the new team members who all did a great job.“ “Working with Carrie and Fabienne is pretty easy - we all provide similar feedback so finding a direction for the cars set up is quite easy and really pleasing to see the car improve over the weekend, I love doing the set up work and finding improvements. It was more like an extended test for us, but we’ll take P2 in class as well! Can’t wait for the 24hr qualification race and the actual race now.” "Feels so great to be back racing" - echoed Fabienne Wohlwend. "The team did a fabulous job putting the car back together. We didn’t have any issue after the rebuild so we could fully focus on preparing for the 24H Race and work on the set-up." "The atmosphere was simply amazing. It was so great to have all the fans back at the Ring. Now full focus on the first W Series race in Miami”, she concluded as she prepares the start of her single-seater campaign in the all-female championship.
A former W Series racer herself, Caitlin Wood was also competing at the Nordschleife - for her second ever race at the Green Hell. She shared the Adrenalin Motorsport Team Alzner BMW with co-drivers Moritz Oehme and Steinberg. Wood had a great stint as the second driver and was able to move up several positions. The team finished P5 in class and P88 overall, confirming the top-five from NLS1.
“Was a fun weekend!", she said.
"NLS 3 was a really great step forward for me, P5 again in the VT2 class with the pace to be on the podium."
"I'm feeling way more comfortable at the Ring, reading the traffic much better and managing all the code 60’s", she explained, as she gets used to the challenges of this specific form of racing.
"It was a really busy race so there was always something going on, it was good to just stay out of trouble, get some more laps towards my A permit and climb back some spots in class."
While Wood is not confirmed yet for the whole season, she is working to contest the popular 24-hour race at the Ring.
"I am not confirmed for the 24hr race, I would obviously love to do it but as most cases, it's all about finding the budget. I'm hoping to be back in 2 weeks for the qualifying race, where I should finish my laps towards my A permit, we will see what happens anyways!”
The 11 hours qualifying race will take place from 6th to 8th May, which is going to be a big test for the teams and the cars ahead of the big event of 26th to 29th May for 2022 running of the ADAC 24 Hours of the Nürburgring.