Incredibly exciting finish to the VLN season

Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS #15 with Frank Stippler, Robin Frijns and Christian Mamerow started the race from Pole Position, and was the only car below the 8 minutes barrier. Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R#911 with Fred Makowiecki and Lars Kern started P2 with Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 #100 driven by Mathias Henkola, Michele Di Martino and Christian Krognes in third.

The race was held under typical Eifel weather, with low hanging clouds, that only made the qualifying time more impressive. Between qualifying and the start of the race, there was a shower, which made parts of the track very slick, and shortly before the start of the formation lap, another shower fell on the starting grid. And with a 24,358 kilometer lap, there would be plenty of differences around the lap regarding grip.

Montaplast by Land-Motorsport #28 with Connor Di Phillippi and Christopher Mies got off to an amazing start, and was up into P3 already in the Mercedes Arena.

At the end of the first lap, the Manthey Racing #911 had gone into the lead, ahead of Phoenix Racing #15 and Montaplast by Land-Motorsport #28.

Walkenhorst Motorsport #100 headed into the pits already after the first lap, and was pushed into the garage, without the mechanics being busy with anything but a laptop.

Manthey Racing #911 lead with more than 11 seconds at the completion of the second lap, and Falken Motorsports Porsche #4 overtook both Phoenix Racing #15 and Montaplast by Land-Motorsport #28 at the start of Lap 3, in an amazing double overtaking manoeuvre.

AVIA Racing #188 Wolfgang Weber, Thomas Krebs, Hendrik Still (Aston Martin Vantage V8 GT4).
Photo: Jan Brucke/VLN

It became apparent that the #15 had made a wrong tire choice, since the #28 was right on his back bumper, closely followed by Black Falcon Mercedes #7, Falken Motorsports #3, and Wochenspiegel Team Monschau #22. #15 managed to keep P3 for another full lap, before losing the position only a few corners into lap 3. #28 went past #15 but didn’t get away, and instead became the new leader of the train.

Four laps into the race, the Falken Motorsports Porsche #4 had caught up with the leading Manthey Racing Porsche #911 with more than 10 seconds per lap. #911 chose to dive into the pits with its first pitstop, followed by #28.

The #4 pitted one lap later, making the Wochenspiegel Team Monschau Ferrari #22 go into the lead of the race.

One hour into the race, the Black Falcon #7 was leading the race, ahead of Manthey Racing #911 and Octane 126 #14, with the latter not having done its first pitstop yet.

One hour and 20 minutes into the race, there were several dramatic scenes at the Tiergarten combination. First the Black Falcon Porsche 911 Carrera #420 was spinning wildly out of control, hitting the barrier with the rear of the car, and then sliding across the track, almost collecting the Falken Motorsports BMW M6 GT3 #3. While #420 tried to recover to the pits, Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup #51 spun too, and hit the barrier. After a short Code-60 at that spot, the track was given all clear.

The track had dried up, after starting the race with doing 9 minutes + laps, the times started to get closer to 8 minutes again for the fastest SP9 cars, but as always with big variations of the lap times due to yellow flag zones and other differences weather wise around the track.

Black Falcon #7 was caught by the Manthey Racing #911 after 90 minutes of racing, but was able to keep the Porsche behind for several laps, until both cars pitted on separate laps.

#911 was the last to pit, and just as they excited the pits, the #7 passed them going into Turn 1. That made the battle continue for another hour, until the next pitstop.

Manthey Racing #911 Photo: Jan Brucke/VLN

Just shy of 2 hours left of the race, with all leading cars having done their pitstop, #7 was leading #911, #4, #15, #28 and #22.

2 hours and 20 minutes into the race saw the classic Opel Manta #617 getting into focus in the worst possible way. It spun on the Grand Prix part of the lap. Trying to get back in the right direction again, it pulled out right in front of the GIGASPEED Team GetSpeed Performance Porsche #101 and demolished the front of both cars. With coolant spitting out of both cars, the drivers tried to recover back to the pits, giving a difficult task for the mechanics to try and see what they could do.

Going into the final hour of the race, the two leading cars were less than one second from each other, with #7 leading #911. With one and a half minutes to #4 in P3, it was clear that only those two would fight for the win, as long as they kept out of troubles.

Manthey Racing #911 used the pitstop rules to their advantage, and exited the pits with a more than 10 seconds lead of the #7, who had to stay longer in the pits according to the rules. Phoenix Racing #15 was able to overtake Falken Motorsport #4 before the two cars headed into the pits for the final time.

With 50 minutes left on the clock, the wipers had to be turned on again, with another shower pulling in over the track. It wasn’t getting wet enough for the teams to consider rain tires, but everybody stayed on the slicks.

Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3
Photo: Jan Brucke/VLN

The track started to dry up again, so it would be a completely dry finish to the season.

The points system in the VLN series is a bit special, so it’s not necessarily amongst the fastest cars that the Champion will be crowned. And surely enough, the overall VLN Champion was Michael Schrey, who participated in both a BMW M235i Racing Cup #691 and a VW Golf TCR #802. By winning the title, Schrey will have the car number 1 for the 2018 season, no matter what category he will be driving in. Schrey was the defending Champion too, and therefore is the first driver since Dirk Adorf to defend the title – and that is a fully 20 years ago! So that makes it an even more special achievement for the 34 year-old.

Michael Schrey
Photo: Jan Brucke/VLN

The excitement returned with only a few minutes left of the clock because the Black Falcon #7 had to pit for fuel. The leading #911 had been “too fast” throughout the race, and that made everybody do one more lap – a lap that #7 didn’t have in the tank. But #7 managed to get back on track again in front of #15, but still with a possibility for the Phoenix car to catch it, if they had a great final lap.

That change didn’t happen, so Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R #911 won ahead of Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 #7 and Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS #15. In fact, the #15 drove the fastest lap of all on the very final lap of the race, and was the only to get over 8 minutes, repeating the qualifying achievement.

That was the end to a fantastic VLN season, which has delivered excitement through the about 37 hours of racing, which originally should have lasted one hour longer, hadn’t it been for the early Red Flag finish for VLN7.

The VLN series will be on winter break until March, where the new season will start.

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