A long Saturday at the highlight of the season

It is the highlight in the calendar, the pinnacle of the VLN endurance championship Nürburgring. This Saturday, the drivers will compete against each other at the Nürburgring Nordschleife over a duration of six hours instead of four. So the fans will be able to enjoy great VLN racing action in XL format between 12am and 6 pm at the ROWE 6 Hours ADAC Ruhr-Pokal Race.

After four Audi victories, one BMW and one Mercedes-AMG win respectively in the season so far, the big question now is who will be in the front after the six hours race? Black Falcon, Phoenix Racing, Manthey-Racing, Land-Motorsport, Walkenhorst-Motorsport, ROWE-Racing and Haribo will probably enter those cars which are most likely to succeed winning the overall classification.

The clocks this Saturday will however not only tick longer, but seem to be also ticking differently for some of the teams.

The latter will primarily refer to drivers such as Heiko Eichenberg. The 42 years old race driver has so far been competing as solo driver in all of the races of the 2016 season. In the BMW M235i Racing Cup of the Team Securtal Sorg Rennsport, he has scored noticeable results with one third and two fourth places in the Cup5 class and, with his 15th overall position in the VLN, he is currently the best solo driver.

On account of the longer race duration, solo drivers are however not permitted at the ROWE 6 Hours ADAC Ruhr-Pokal Race. So Eichenberg will have to share the cockpit with another driver, which will require quite a significant reorientation both for the team and the driver – well-rehearsed and well-tried strategies will have to be adjusted.

A fact which is however not only applicable for the solo drivers in the field. Many teams complete their crews for the six hour race and may thus be required to apply tactical changes.

The biggest change will hereby probably have to be adopted by Klaus Abbelen, Sabine Schmitz, Patrick Huismann and Norbert Siedler. The Team Frikadelli Racing will start with their regular driver quartet but their race car for the seventh VLN race was not built in Zuffenhausen but in Munich: The cult racing team from Barweiler near the Nürburgring has entered a BMW M6 GT3 instead of a Porsche 911 GT3-R. Since its foundation in the year 2005, this is the first change of the brand for the team.

“After the engine failure at the last race, we are not sure whether the revision will be completed in time. For this reason, we have now decided to try it in a BMW”, Abbelen said, explaining the reasons for the change. “Each of us will have to get familiar with the car during the test session on Friday. I am anyhow sure that we will instantly get on pretty well with the M6 and fight for top positions – even though we will not be able to use its full potential to the same extend as we would with our Porsche.”

Meanwhile, two experienced race drivers will take their first driving lessons to obtain their Nordschleife “driving permit”, the DMSB Permit A, and enter new territory on occasion of the ROWE 6 Hours ADAC Ruhr-Pokal Race. The two DTM drivers Daniel Juncadella and António Félix da Costa will make their VLN debut at the Nordschleife. Juncadella will hereby replace his Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM by a Porsche Cayman which he will drive together with Suad Al Faisal, Ronny Lethmate and Carsten Palluth for Black Falcon in class V5. Félix da Costa, normally competing in a BMW M4 DTM, will share the cockpit of a BMW M235i Racing Cup (SP8T) with Ricky Collard.

In order to obtain their Nordschleife Permit A, they have to participate in at least two VLN races and complete the minimum of 18 laps at the Nordschleife. Only after complying with these requirements, they will have the possibility to race at the Nordschleife in the GT3 race cars of their respective manufacturers.

And there will be another premiere at the pinnacle in the VLN. For the first time in the current season, the two double winners of the years will compete against each other in a direct duel. Frank Stippler and Anders Fjordbach won the first two races in the Phoenix-Audi R8 LMS and they will be supported by Markus Winkelhock over the six hour race duration. The driver trio will this Saturday have to take up the fight against Christopher Mies and Connor De Phillippi who dominated races four and five in the Audi R8 LMS of Land-Motorsport. “Our support is that they will not receive any support in entering an additional driver”, team manager Wolfang Land says. “They both form such a fantastic duo and they harmonise extremely well with each other. We do not want to change this.”

The two Audi will nevertheless also have to take up the challenge against some other overall winners from the previous six races. The winners of the previous race, Uwe Alzen, Lance David Arnold and Jan Seyffarth in the Haribo-Mercedes-AMG GT3, will for example again wish to finish in a top position. Not to forget Jörg Müller and Jesse Krohn who will also be on the starting grid on Saturday. Together with Marco Wittmann, they won the third VLN race in the Schubert-BMW M6 GT3 and will this time fight for the victory together with Victor Bouveng and Felipe Fernández Laser in the M6 GT3 of Walkenhorst Motorsport.