VLN5 – Masterful Mercedes

Round 5 of the 2018 season was an elongated 6 hour affair.
Big news from practice and qualifying was the burnt remains of Hunter Abbott’s BMW having to be withdrawn; Hunter was added to one of the BMW cup cars to at least get some fun.
Adam Christodoulou would take pole in the #6 Black Falcon Mercedes, with the top 4 separated by less than a second.

Before racing began, we had several pieces of bad news with the Opel Manta off at Hatzenbach; Christian Menzel’s Ferrari, Norbert Siedler’s Frikadelli Porsche, the development 2019 Porsche GT3 & Konrad Lamborghini all staying in the pits.

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

An excellent start for the Ferrari, getting past the lead pack of BMWs into second place at the start but #6 Mercedes maintained the gap at the front as the #33 Audi was spun off in turn one.
In group two, it was the biofuel Porsche #320 that guided them into the forest, but with two of the Opel Astra TCR cars making contact – the #823 coming off very much the worst.
Tristan Viidas would bring out the first slow zone proper, his BMW cup car off at Fuchsröhre; followed shortly by the #286 Toyota GT86 at Aremberg.

At the end of lap 1, the #99 BMW would get back past into second place with a clean sweeping move onto the Flugplatz; positions would be swapped back again by the time the cars had reached Klosteral, then back yet again at the end of the lap as the VW Jetta made its presence felt by the leaders.
The #11 Ferrari did get the race started, but was back into the pits on lap 3 with more turbo issues.
The group of lead cars in trouble at the start gave a blessing to some of the SP7 Porsches – with the Team Alzen machine of Fabian Hamprecht running in the top 10 on pace.
Through the first segment of the race, the GT3 Porsches were if anything holding each other up as they squabbled over 5th place – Lazer keeping ahead of Ragginer & Dirk Werner (Werner would blink first and pit on lap 5).

A difficult phase of the race with 50 minutes elapsed as the #250 Opel Astra dumped a load of oil all through the Karussell, even with a slow zone this would be a test for the drivers as they got close to the first scheduled pit stops.
As the clock hit hour one, the #99 BMW of Eng would get past Christodoulou as they blasted through Brünnchen; but only until Pflanzgarten – it was all academic though as both would pit at the end of the lap along with Stef Dusseldorp in the Falken BMW.
So once again the Ferrari, being able to pull an extra lap of fuel over the pack, would lead with Jochen Krumbach behind the wheel.

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

The #6 Mercedes & #99 BMW came out of the pits nose to tail and would be side by side by the end of the next lap, but a mistake at Metzgesfeld would see Christodoulou give way to Philipp Eng – once again though, the positions would change before they got back to the line.

The #164 GT4 Mercedes came to a sudden halt at the very end of lap 7, this bought out yellow flags and one of the production cars slowed heavily with the leaders flying past under caution.
Looking further down the field, with 90 minutes complete; the #806 Cupra in TCR & #828 in GT4 were clear class leaders running in the top 30 overall.
The top production car was the #400 Pixum Cayman driven by Loannis Smyrlis, miles ahead of the competition in 57th overall; while the ever popular H2 class was led by the #620 Clio which was yet to make a pit stop.

A few problems seen through on boards including the #1 BMW cup of Michael Schrey hitting the wall, the #161 BMW GT4 having to pit with a steaming engine & #711 V4 class BMW dragging its rear bumper back to the garage.
The #930 KTM pulled off on the apex of Schwalbenschwanz; but then big contact between the SP9 Porsches – Sabine Schmitz making an unusually optimistic move into turn 1, dive bombing past a production BMW and nerfing the #2 Porsche into the gravel.

That would allow Oliver Kainz in his Ferrari some breathing room in 6th; as the third hour began the top 5 positions would be:
1 #6 Adam Christodoulou Mercedes AMG
2 #99 Philipp Eng BMW M6
3 #4 Alex Müller Porsche 911
4 #3 Alexandre Imperatori BMW M6
5 #12 Otto Klohs Porsche 911

Eng would bring the BMW in a lap early which would allow the Rowe team to jump into the lead with Tom Blomqvist behind the wheel, but the very next lap he would be back in the pits with a puncture.
Ralf Oeverhaus had to have the #36 Walkenhorst BMW taken behind the barriers at Hohe Acht, briefly bringing out a slow zone.
The Cayman cup cars were having a mixed bag of a race, with the lead Teichmann #960 in the top 20 overall, but the #969 MABANOL machine going nowhere very quickly at Kesselchen.

Care for Climate’s biofuel Porsche #320 was on the verge of the top 10, but the normally fuelled version #460 was less fortunate as the driver had hit the wall at Aremberg.
The #645 production class BMW at Brünnchen & #652 BMW cup car of Fabian Vettel (brother of) at Schwalbenschwanz, were the next causes of code 60.
Lap times really suffering but Manuel Metzger was making the most of it, stretching the lead to nearly 2 minutes before stopping to hand over to Hubert Haupt as we reached half distance.

The following hour would be incredibly well behaved by the leaders, with only the recovering Lamborghini trying to uplap himself from the leader giving us a breathless moment.
One of the leading production category cars had been the Black Falcon Porsche 991 of Vasilii Selivanov, but with 2:30 remaining on the clock the car was wheeled into the pits with gearbox gremlins.
Kurt Strube proved his worth in the #198 BMW – keeping the car under control as a tyre blew with no warning just as he was coming through Adenauer-Forst.

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

It was starting to look good for the Falken team with their cars running 2nd & 3rd – Porsche leading BMW; a bit of a playful battle between them briefly, but driving sensibly.
The #212 Cayman of the family Wawer was sent into the gravel thanks to a coming together with Uwe Petersen in the #481 BMW.
Thomas Jäger was spending the day trying to help out Lubner motorsport in their TCR Astra, able to last into the last hour in a class that had reliability issues all day.
The #198 was next to fall – Stefan Manheller dropping out of the top 100 shortly followed by a spin from Stefan Müller on the GP loop & further difficulty for the #33 Audi R8 of Klaus Koch.

Sad news for the biofuel #320 Porsche – had been running near the top 10 all day, but with an hour to go it was pulled up on the exit of Adenauer Forst.
The SP2T class Clio of Peter Utsch got tapped into the wall at Brünnchen by what looked like an SP7 class Porsche.

The #4 Falken Porsche of Müller was running a strong third until having to come in for fuel 15 minutes before their team car and the Rowe BMW; the nature of the refuelling regulations meant that this early stop would take them out of contention for a podium.

A couple of slow laps from Philipp Eng would close the fight between the BMWs of Dusseldorp & Eng – the Rowe machine squeezed onto the grass as they came down the Döttinger Höhe, the #99 lost out on the GP loop briefly; but they would stay close for the next half hour until both came into the pits for a final splash of fuel where the Rowe #99 would get a clear break.

Tobias Jung in the #501 Opel Astra spun wildly in Ex- Mühle, leaving the car parked dangerously in the middle of the track.

Three laps remaining and Manuel Metzger underlined his 2 minute lead with the fastest lap; the BMW of Phillip Eng would go one better the next time past with an 08:02.1 but this race was utterly dominated by the Black Falcon Mercedes – at one point heading the field by nearly three minutes.
Sad faces in the pits as the BMW cup car of Carrie Schreier would sit out the final half hour, Carrie in particular looking dejected.

Metzger would cross the line with 6 minutes left on the clock, frustrating several teams as they would effectively have to do an extra lap because of this – possibly catching out the #888 Peugeot and #507 Renault who were both in need of attention on the final tour along with the #111 biofueled Ford Mustang who had to tour all the way from Brünnchen home.

So it was the Black Falcon Mercedes of Manuel Metzger taking a clear win.
Rowe racing’s BMW would be followed home by the Falken team cars – BMW heading a very lucky #4 Porsche which was sporting a heavily dented front end (an incident which we never saw).

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

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