When the chequered flag comes out this Saturday at about 4 pm, the VLN endurance championship Nürburgring will celebrate half time of the 2016 season. The 56th ADAC Reinoldus endurance race is the fifth round of the year in this series which is marked by its unique mixture of production based touring cars up to the powerful GT3 race cars, of amateur and professional drivers, of national and international race drivers.
The overall victory is normally decided amongst the drivers of the GT3 race cars. Particularly well performed the Audi R8 LMS so far this season: Three of the four races saw Audi drivers on top of the podium after they had every time been in excitingly close battles with their competitors driving Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars.
In the fifth round of the season now, Christopher Mies and Connor De Phillippi in the Audi R8 LMS of Land Motorsport wish to equalise the record of their make colleagues of the Phoenix Team, Frank Stippler and Anders Fjordbach, who won the first two races of the year. After their victory three weeks ago, Mies and De Philippi now aim at achieving the double.
The two Audi crews signify a very special feature of the VLN, namely its internationality. The endurance racing series at the Nürburgring Nordschleife has an irresistible appeal for race drivers from all over the world. Foreign drivers, for many of them with long journeys to attend the events, are fighting with domestic competitors about victories and positions in the many different classes. Or they join forces, like Anders Fjordbach from Denmark and Frank Stippler or Connor De Philippi from the United States with Christopher Mies.
There is a great number of foreign drivers in the group of GT3 cars. One or another hereby could however already be considered as a local in the Eifel. This applies for example for Dutchman Patrick Huismann and Norbert Siedler from Austria who compete in the same team with Sabine Schmitz and Klaus Abbelen, driving the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Frikadelli Racing. The residents of Switzerland, Manuel Metzger and Jörg Müller, also seem to have their second home since quite a long time at the Nürburgring. Together with their international colleagues, they both are also considered to be candidates for an overall win at the fifth VLN race. Metzger shares the cockpit of the Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 with “Gerwin” from the Netherlands and with Abdulaziz Al Faisal from Saudi Arabia. Müller participates in the BMW M6 GT3 of Walkenhorst Motorsport together with Jesse Krohn from Finland and Swede Victor Bouveng.
As international as the crews in the cockpits of the SP9 cars may be, as national are the makes on the starting grid this Saturday. The only exception in the field of the Audi, BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-AMG here is the Team Zakspeed, the local hero and cult within the VLN. After two participations with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, the cooperation with Nissan will now come into full operation: Luca Ludwig and Sebastian Asch, with Zakspeed the current ADAC GT Master champions, will thus change their working equipment and now compete against their rivals in a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3.
The two crews in class SP3 with the longest journey to the Nürburgring at the fifth VLN round will first of all be the Toyota Team Thailand with two Corolla Altis, driven by the fellow countrymen “Nat“ and “Arto“ as well as “Man“ and “Ton“. Marcos Adolfo Vazquez will have a similarly long travel to the Nürburgring. The man from Argentina will drive the Porsche 911 of Speedworxx Racing in class V6 together with Friedrich Obermeier from Switzerland.
A number of different languages can also be noted in class V5. Carsten Palluth for example competes together with Bandar Alesayi from Saudi Arabia and Milan Dontje from the Netherlands in a Porsche Cayman (Black Falcon). Another Cayman of the Team GetSpeed is driven by Grant Maiman and John Uglum, both from the United States, in class V5 where they will amongst others compete against an Italian driver trio: Graziano Grazzini, Aleardo Bertelli and Stefano Croci in the BMW Z4 E86 of Pixum Team Adrenalin Motorsport.
The British are no longer in the mood for the EU, yet they are still very fond of the VLN. So Tom Narrow, Martin Gibson and Ellis Hadley will compete in class SPAT with a BMW 120 D GTR. Two further regular British drivers in the VLN are Willie Moore and Bill Cameron in class Cup2 with a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. They will there compete against the crew with John Shoffner from the United States and Janine Hill from Great Britain who are completed by Arno Klasen in their fight about a class win.
As far as the championship title is concerned, a German crew, however, has the best chances currently: In the previous four races, Alexander Mies and Michael Schrey have four times won the BMW M235i Racing Cup and wish to consolidate the championship lead.