Nürburgring 24h – a tale of Mercedes and some extreme weather

This weekend we saw the toughest event in terms of car racing, the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. 24 hours of racing itself is hard to deal with, but add to it a 25 km course with more than 100 turns where weather isn’t something predictable, and you have the recipe to immediate disaster or hard fought glory. And glory was what Team Black Falcon after this grueling day with the No. 4 Mercedes AMG GT3 driven by Maro Engel, Adam Christodoulou, Manuel Metzger and Bernd Schneider.

The new Mercedes GT3 machine is having a pretty good year where it is competing, but what the German monster achieved at Nürburgring was almost F1-esque, as Black Falcon, HTP Motorsport and HARIBO Racing made a Mercedes 1-2-3-4, and counting the Zakspeed entry in sixth place, it were five cars in the top-10 overall finish, easily outpacing safe bets like the Team WRT Audi R8s, the BMW M6 fleet from ROWE Racing, Schubert and Walkenhorst Motorsport and the Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3R. The winner swapped positions with the No. 29 HTP Motorsport car and the No. 88 HARIBO Racing car during most of the time, and capitalized into the problems of the 88, which kept the lead during the night time.

But between off-track trips, mashed bodywork, mechanical problems and traffic issues, no one was exactly safe, so it was the survival of the fittest in its pure meaning. Proof of the lottery that is racing at the Eifel region was the torrential rain followed by hail in the early stages of the race, transforming part of the track into an asphalt ski slope, sending cars straight to the gravel or grass during the deceleration process or any further advances to at least move out of the disaster. This natural mess made the race be red flagged for around three hours until things settled for good. Luckilly there was only some moderate rain and no more than that for the rest of the event.

One of the heartbreaking moments were from the Schubert Motorsport side, as the BMW team saw the No. 18 car stop for a long time as the engine blew up in the middle of a good run, although it eventually returned to the track, and the No. 100 got caught in a mess that saw them crash in... Another BMW, smashing the M6 GT3 into the barrier.

In the final moments the lead battle was down to the No. 29 and the No. 4, with Christian Hohenadel leading Maro Engel when the clock hit the 24 hours, but Hohenadel wouldn’t know that passing in the finish line with 40 seconds to go and another lap to do woul mean his downfall. Engel saw the opportunity still in the GP circuit, and after the Schumacher S, he made a late brake move on the inside, hit the curb and the impact sent his car into Hohenadel’s, making the current leader go off the track. After that, it was frantic catch up game during the whole lap, but Hohenadel was unable to get closer to Engel, finishing 5.6 seconds behind him.

It was the maiden win for the AMG GT3 at the Ring and the second in the history for Mercedes and Black Falcon. Bernd Schneider, now a 51 years old star driver, wins again after 3 years of the debut win, where he was alongside Jeroen Bleekemolen, Sean Edwards and Nicki Thiim. This win also broke the winning streak of Audi, that won with Phoenix Racing and Team WRT in 2014 and 2015.

PHOTOS: ADAC-Zurich Nürburgring 24h Rennen