Nurburgring 24h: Porsche beats Mercedes in thrilling finish
The Manthey Porsche team scored its sixth Nurburgring 24 Hours victory in a nail-biting climax to a weather-affected race that had to be halted in the latter stages.
A bold outside pass at Turns 1 and 2 of the Grand Prix loop by Frederic Makowiecki on the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes AMG-GT3 of Adam Christodoulou set up victory for the #912 Manthey crew of Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet, Richard Lietz and Nick Tandy.
It marks Porsche's 12th Nurburgring win as a manufacturer, and its first since 2011, while the four drivers all became first-time winners of the German endurance classic.
Manthey's #911 car of Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber and Romain Dumas had dominated the early part of the race, while the #912 lost ground in the opening stint with a slow puncture.
But a crash for Dumas at Pflanzgarten with just over 14 hours remaining eliminated the #911 crew and turned the race into a two-way battle between the #912 Porsche and the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes.
The lead changed hands regularly after the arrival of rain in the early hours of the morning, but the pendulum swung in favour of the #4 car, shared by Christodoulou, Dirk Muller, Manuel Metzger and Maro Engel when the #912 served a three-minute penalty for speeding in a slow zone.
However, a lead of five minutes was negated when the race was suspended with three hours to go due to worsening fog, setting up a 90-minute showdown between Makowiecki and Christodoulou.
After spinning has he was passed by Makowiecki, Christodoulou fought back and closed up to the back of the Porsche, but suffered a second off at Galgenkopf and ended up 26 seconds down at the flag.
An equally exciting battle for third was resolved in favour of the #5 Black Falcon Mercedes of Yelmer Buurman, Thomas Jager, Jan Seyffarth and Luca Stolz.
Buurman looked to have lost his chance of a podium finish when he was tapped into a spin on the Grand Prix loop at the restart, but he was able to close to pass both teammate Hubert Haupt in the #6 Black Falcon Mercedes and the #7 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Maxime Martin.
Martin also passed Haupt to seal fourth place in the car he shared with fellow Aston WEC racers Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Darren Turner, albeit finishing 14 seconds behind Buurman.
Audi's top finisher was the #1 Land Motorsport R8 LMS of Kelvin van der Linde, Sheldon van der Linde, Christopher Mies and Rene Rast, which had been running in third place when Kelvin van der Linde crashed at Hohe Acht with just under six hours to go.
The South African driver claimed sixth after a bold outside pass of Frederic Vervisch in the #3 Phoenix Audi after the restart, but was classified two laps down on the leaders.
Dries Vanthoor was less fortunate when he picked up a puncture passing a backmarker and had a major shunt at Tiergarten on Saturday evening, which eliminated the #8 WRT Audi.
BMW endured a wretched race, with both ROWE Racing M6 GT3s retiring before sunrise – one with a cooling problem and the other with a drive-by-wire issue – while one of the Walkenhorst cars failed to start after a heavy crash for Jordan Tresson in qualifying.
The surviving #102 Walkenhorst car was the marque’s best finisher in 13th, four laps down.
Both HTP Mercedes cars hit trouble. Dani Juncadella crashed the #47 car in the middle of the night while it was in contention for a podium finish, while the #48 machine was delayed early on by a crash for Renger van der Zande and then lost further ground when it lost a wheel exiting the pits.
Also losing major ground was the Team Bernhard Porsche, which had Andre Lotterer among its drivers, after stopping for a little under an hour to repair its suspension. The car finished 21st.
Race results (top 10):
Click here to see full results
Nurburgring 24h: Race suspended due to rain and fog
Christodoulou felt "a bit robbed" after Nurburgring defeat