After the spring break to make way for the 24 hours, VLN returned to the ‘ring for the 60th running of the H&R cup.
As is usual post 24hr, the grid in the top class had thinned out a bit, but with a bolstered production category we still had an entry of over 160 cars.
Fine weather with only a few white clouds would allow an uninterrupted qualifying session and it was a Ferrari lock-out with Christian Menzel on pole & Jochen Krumbach also on the front row; The Konrad Lamborghini would line up third and Jordan Tresson in the Walkenhorst BMW M6 in fourth.
Half way round the formation lap, the pole sitting Ferrari slowed dramatically; fortunately Christian Menzal did not fall to the very back so was able to get back to the top after a quick reset and sailed off into the lead as the green flag fell.
A three way battle was developing early for third – Konrad Lambo leading Falken Porsche and Walkenhorst BMW M6.
Group 2 was headed by the monstrous Kremer K3 Porsche as they disappeared into the forest, but of particular note was the #806 Seat Cupra TCR car sticking with the lead group.
Michal Schrey managed to hang around the outside as group 3 took the start, into the lead while the rest of the BMW cup cars chased hard.
Ring racing’s GT4 BMW would not be so lucky – coming to a halt at the end of the GP loop; but perhaps more dramatically, the Falken Porsche would bring out the first slow zone on the entry to Hohe Acht with what looked like a terminal fault.
End of the first lap would see the leading Ferrari cars switch places as Jochen Krumbach slipped past into P1.
Amazing scenes at the end of lap 2 as the field of GT3 cars were drafting past each other, going four wide into Hatzenbach – Stippler (#5), Tresson (#35), Arnold (#31), Müller (#30) & Klingmann (#3) all in contention but having to back off into Aremberg due to a coming together between the V4 class BMWs #485 and #491.
Slight contact in loop as Frank Stippler tried but failed to sneak inside the #30 Frikadelli Porsche as the skies started to look blacker – would the rain come?
Bergwerk would be the scene of the next slow zone as the Renault Megane of Kevin Wolters found the wall – worse news for the #495 version driven by Ralf Wiesner though… the car abandoned in flames.
Another BMW was out on lap 4 – #492 Manheller Racing’s machine at the side of the track through Wippermann.
There was a change of order at the front as the #11 Ferrari & #7 Lamborghini slipped down to fourth and fifth; Krumbach still leading but only by 4 seconds from Stippler who had now got past Müller.
The leaders started to come into the pits on lap 5, at first just the #7 Lamborghini but this would turn out to be more than just fuel as the car was pushed into the garage. The #11 Ferrari, #31 Porsche and #35 BMW being the first regular stops.
#191 GT4 Mercedes was seen very slow through Quiddelbacher Höhe, a long way to tour back to the pits.
Heavy contact at the first corner – the #477 V4 class BMW and #162 GT4 Mercedes both deposited deep into the gravel as the rest of the leaders came to pit lane on lap 7.
As the first round of pit stops were complete the leader on the road were the SP7 class #57 Porsche & the early stopping #13 Mercedes GT3; but effectively our top 5 were
#35 Walkenhorst BMW (Hunter Abbott)
#22 Wochenspiegel Ferrari (Oliver Kainz)
#36 Walkenhorst BMW (Rudi Adams)
#31 Friadelli Porsche (Lance David Arnold)
#5 Phoenix Audi (Vincent Kolb)
The VW Pioneer #618 race came to a sad end at Ex-Mühle at less than half distance – having hit in a big way, requiring barrier repairs and the laying of quick dry.
With 1:30 complete, we had the next caution at Kallenhard due to FAMILIA Porsche #131 going off as the gap between the lead trio had closed – the #22 Ferrari being sandwiched by the Walkenhorst BMWs (Abbott still leading).
#475 Sorg Rennsport BMW in class V4 had to be parked at Breidscheid – seemingly a problem with the car rather than driver error.
The timing screens were getting difficult to follow due to the peculiarities of racing 150+ cars on the Nordschleife, but if you looked closely as the cars from start groups 2 & 3 completed their laps, you would have noticed several had worked their way into the net top 30 overall.
18th #930 Teichmann KTM X-Bow
21st #203 Konrad Porsche SP6
22nd #202 FAMILIA Porsche SP6
23rd #188 AVIA Aston Martin SP10
24th #828 Sorg Rennsport BMW M4 SP10
26th #806 Mathilda Seat Cupra TCR
29th #801 Atle Gulbrandsen Audi RS3 TCR
Hunter Abbott was ahead by 0.237 at the end of lap 11, but before they had got half way round the grand prix loop the #22 Ferrari had got back into the lead.
The second Ferrari though, would be back in the pits on lap 12 with ongoing hydraulic issues.
#944 Cayman cup car of ESBA racing was involved in what turned out to be a minor accident at Wehrseifen, but several other cars had to take avoiding action.
#479 BMW of Kevin & Cedrik Totz bought the slow zones out at Schwalbenschwanz as we entered the second half of the race.
Andreas Schmidt had to driver carefully though Döttinger Höhe in his #484 BMW with a front right puncture.
The leading Ferrari came in to hand back over to Krumbach – this is the same strategy the Wochenspiegel team used in earlier rounds, showing much better fuel economy than the competition.
#380 Peugeot RCZ was the latest car to go off at Breidscheid – clearly several drivers finding the limit by going over it today.
The big winners from the middle portion of the race were the Frikadelli Porsches, working themselves into second (Felipe Laser +6 seconds) and third (Müller +13 seconds).
A brief off for Rocco Di Torrepadula in the #103 Porsche at Ex-Mühle, but he was able to continue, as we entered the final 90 minutes.
Then a nasty looking move from the Kroll BMW #211 bombing into the rear end of one of the production class Black Falcon Porsches.
Frank Stippler was running a stealthy strategy in the Phoenix Audi, untroubled in fifth but would make a late stop hoping to get the jump on the Porsches and claim a podium.
We had a solid 30 minutes of full green running, but with 70 minutes on the clock, the #660 BMW driven by Anna Loewe went into the armco at Klostertal.
Team Schirmer’s #153 BMW was moving very slowly through Schwalbenschwanz, making it incredibly difficult for the leaders to get past other traffic as they worked lap 20 coming close to their last scheduled stop.
Krumbach would get two more laps over the Frikadelli Porsches; but would need to hand over to the gentleman driver Georg Weiss – the last segment of the race would come down to if he could withstand the pressure.
With pit work complete, the #22 Ferrari would have a lead of 12 seconds from #31 Porsche; a further 15 seconds back would be the #5 Audi which in turn was 15 seconds ahead of the #30 Porsche.
30 minutes remaining, and reports of rain in the Wippermann area – immediately this was demonstrated by the gentlemen drivers in the lead pack losing 5-10 seconds in sector 4.
A worrying incident was seen unfolding at Schwedenkreuz – slow zones in place, lots of debris on track, an area coned off and what remained of Dominic Detree’s #711 BMW being tended to by marshals.
The lead would change on lap 24 as the cars accelerated into the Döttinger Höhe – Lazer taking the #31 Porsche ahead comfortably with a lap time 20 seconds faster than the Ferrari.
It would only take another lap for Frank Stippler to also get past Weiss’ Ferrari who in the end would have to settle for 3rd.
Klaus Abbelen in the #30 Porsche was also unable to maintain the pace in the tricky conditions and dropped behind the BMWs into 6th, but was then able to get back past Hirschi in the #35 who had to nurse the Walkenhorst machine back home.
Final results then would be
1 #31 Frikadelli Porsche (Lance David Arnold / Felipe Lazer)
2 #5 Phoenix Audi (Vincent Kolb / Frank Stippler)
3 #22 Wochenspiegel Ferrari (Georg Weiss / Oliver Kainz / Jochen Krumbach)
4 #3 Falken BMW (Alexandre Imperatori / Jens Klingmann)
5 #30 Frikadelli Porsche (Klaus Abbelen / Sabine Schmitz / Alex Müller)
Notable mentions also to 10th overall – the SP7 class winning #70 Team Alzen Porsche & a fantastic run to 14th overall for the Cup-X winner #930 with Dennis Trebing driving solo.