Big cheers in the team of the VLN traditional racing team of Manthey Racing: Romain Dumas, Fred Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet take the victory at the opening race of the VLN season 2017. For the first time in the history of the endurance championship, three Frenchmen are on top of the podium at the prizegiving ceremony. In the exciting four hour race, the Porsche works drivers dominated their rivals Christer Jöns, Chris Brück and Jordan Pepper in a Bentley Continental GT3. The Bentley boys themselves celebrated the first top three result for the traditional British brand in the VLN. Into third position finished the Audi Sport Team Land with drivers Christopher Mies, Connor De Phillippi and Markus Winkelhock in an Audi R8 LMS.
In bright sunshine, huge crowds of spectators travelled to the Nürburgring. In the timed practice already, they were able to see how close the fight for top positions in this worldwide biggest grassroots series will be. With the later winners in first place – Pilet set fastest practice lap of 8:01.661 minutes, the first 28 cars in the practice results were only separated by ten seconds on the 24.358 kilometres Eifel race track.
The greatest part of the race was again dominated by the GT3 Porsche teams. The Porsche 911 GT3 R of Falken Motorsport was in the lead in the penultimate lap when Laurens Vanthoor made a mistake with serious consequences. When lapping a slower car, the Belgian came onto the grass, lost control of his car when braking for the Hohenrain chicane and crashed sideways into the track limitations. He managed to bring the Porsche back to the pits but the team discovered that the steering link was broken. “I wanted to score the first victory for Falken”, said the disappointed Vanthoor on twitter whilst the winners celebrated their success on the podium. “I lost time in some Code 60 section and had to take full risk to make up time. That was a mistake.”
Patrick Pilet, who was at that time about two seconds behind Vanthoor, thus carried off the victory by default. Their advance at the finish ahead of the second placed Bentley was 1:08.751 minutes. “I am not sure whether I would still have been able to pass Laurens on the track”, Pilet admitted. “We had a fantastic fight about the lead and performed at equal levels. Depending on the traffic, in some laps he was faster and I was in others. It would definitely have been very tight in the end.”
Chris Brück was really delighted about the first top three result for the Bentley: “I am right now as excited as if we had won a championship”, said the man from Cologne. “That should have happened earlier but now, finally, we made it. We benefited of course from the retirement of the Falken-Porsche but we would have made it on the podium anyhow today.”
The Audi Sport Team Land in third position did not fully meet their own expectations. “That could have gone better”, Christopher Mies admitted. “We could probably have made it in second position today but there was nothing we could do today to beat the Porsche.” The team also received a drive-through penalty in the race because they did not comply with the minimum stopping time at a pit stop.
Behind the top three, the two Audi R8 LMS of Audi Sport Team WRT finished in positions four and five. The sister car of Phoenix Racing became sixth ahead of the fastest Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Black Falcon with drivers Hubert Haupt, Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Daniel Juncadella and Luca Stolz.
Close decisions in the small classes
Only a few centimetres decided about victory and defeat in the fiercely contested BMW M235i Racing Cup. With the razor-thin gap of seven thousands of a second, Thomas Jäger and Rudi Adams of the Team Scheid-Honert Motorsport won ahead of solo driver Yannik Mettler in the Cup car entered by the ADAC Team Weser-Ems.
The photo finish in class V4 (VLN production cars up to 2,500 cc capacity) was similarly close. The local heroes of the MSC Adenau, Marcel Mannheller and Hajo Müller, finished first here, 0.818 seconds ahead of Oskar Sandberg and Thorsten Kratz of the Team Securtal Sorg Rennsport. The considerable number of 18 cars had entered this class for series production based race cars, both top two cars were BMW 325i.
The first victory in the TCR class goes to mathilda racing
The first winners in the new TCR class in the VLN are Andreas Gülden and Benjamin Leuchter. The driver duo in the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR of mathilda racing dominated six competitors in their class. Gülden was already involved in the first win of a TCR car in the VLN last year when it was still competing in class SP3T.
The overall winners become the first championship leaders
With 33 cars, the GT3 class figured the greatest number of competitors. Dumas, Makowiecki and Pilet are hence also the first championship leaders of the season 2017. In second place are Adams and Jäger who won the Cup 5 class (22 cars), follwed by Manheller and Müller in third position. The championship standings after the first round reflect the huge spectrum in the VLN endurance championship Nürburgring.
The total of 188 cars of 24 different car manufacturers started at the 63rd ADAC Westfalenfahrt. 466 drivers with 27 different nationalities participated. 33 GT3 vehicles were on the grid but the class of VLN Specials figured the greatest number with 77 cars. The field however also included 58 Cup vehicles and 44 series production based cars. The entry list was completed by nine group H cars.