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Preview of the Nürburgring 24h Race: Who Conquers Hell?

Preview of the Nürburgring 24h Race
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E It seems to be bewitched. Every year, the prognosis for the 24h race is like looking into the crystal ball. This year, the special weather conditions and the five percent reduction in output for the top cars were factors that caused confusion. If you ask manufacturer representatives for their personal assessment of who could do particularly well at the big chariot races, you often get a shrug this year at least a clear picture. Some even wonder where you are at all. First, the FIA, together with the DMSB, mixed up everything by advising the technical committee to reduce the performance of the top cars by five percent for safety reasons.

In the second step, Petrus caused general amusement: The VLN season opener was shortened due to fog, the second race was stopped after only one lap due to snowfall, and it rained in the third run. Only the qualifying race offered reasonably reasonable conditions to prepare for the long-distance classic in the Green Hell. But some teams were missing because the ADAC GT Masters was taking place in Most at the same time. As a result, one or the other top line-up was missing, which didn't necessarily make the picture clearer for creating the balance of performance.

Stefan Baldauf /Guido ten Brink
The VLN races came up with some weather freaks.

Yokohama surprised

At least one point gave the feeling that it would be easier to better evaluate the individual manufacturers in terms of their performance: the tires. Here Michelin has regained the monopoly that the French had before the introduction of the new tire rules (each manufacturer can use the other's tiresbuy) already had. At Porsche, Audi and Mercedes all factory-supported cars roll on Michelin rubbers - with the exception of Falken. At BMW, the two Rowe cars and the Schnitzer M6 also raised Michelin. Only Walkenhorst Motorsport really added salt to the soup in the 24h qualifying race. People have always sworn by Yokohama tires. So far they have been extremely fast even on one lap, but when it comes to viewing an entire stint, Yokohama tires were never really taken seriously. They mostly broke in. That has now changed.

Walkenhorst clinched victory in the qualifying race and demonstrated with the lap times that Michelin has to warm up. The Yokohama tire was particularly superior in terms of traction and grip in slower corners. 'We have developed a lot over the winter, especially with regard to the long run,' says Walkenhorst regular driver Christian Krognes. 'Due to the heavy rain during the preparatory races, we didn't really know where we were.'

Stefan Baldauf /Guido ten Brink
The Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3 surprised at the qualifying race with the Yokohama tires.

Top qualifying no longer limited to 30 cars

The question that many are now asking: Was that a flash in the pan? Did the Yokohama tire simply fit exactly into this temperature window - and are you no longer so superior in the 24h race under other conditions with other compounds? A difficult question, especially for Norbert Kreyer's technical committee. “We always have to use the fastest car for our assessment,” he explains.

Michelin provides the teams with the tire compounds soft, medium and hard, a “full wet” rain tire and a “drying wet” rain tire. The Slick differs from the model last year: The temperature windows of the individual mixtures should be more overlapping. The new version is not driven by all manufacturers. Because there was not enough time to familiarize yourself with the new slick tires from Michelin, Mercedes decided to use the version from the yearTo drive in 2018. The rain tires only have the current version.

As far as the regulations are concerned, there have been two special changes compared to last year. On the one hand, the top 30 qualifying is no longer limited to 30 vehicles, so it only has to be called top qualifying. 17 cars have already bought their tickets for the VLN races and the 24h qualifying race, the other places will be allocated in the combined qualifying for the 24h race based on the theoretical best times. The number of starting places to be allocated is limited to a maximum of 80 percent of the PRO entries and 80 percent of the PRO-AM entries. Prominent names who do not have an early ticket are, for example, the Car Collection-Audi (Winkelhock /Rast /Haase /Fässler), the Falken-BMW with Dusseldorp /Dumbreck /Imperatori and Klingmann, the two KCMG-Nissan or the HTP- Mercedes (Hohenadel /Marciello /Götz /Arnold).

5-lap compulsory at the start

Second innovation: all vehicles from the SP9 class, i.e. GT3, are allowed in the first five laps not refuel. What's behind this idea? You want to avoid playing tactical games. In other words: You could deliberately bluff in qualifying so as not to risk any changes to the BoP for the race, and make up for your poor starting position by pulling yourself out of the traffic with an early stop. Although you could theoretically pull this joker in the second stint. For example, if you have a puncture early on, you can of course come to the pits, but you have the disadvantage of not being able to refuel in the same step.

Of the total of around 160 starters, 34 representatives from the GT3 clique are there. Last year's winners from Manthey Racing line up with Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. The sister car is shared by Earl Bamber, Michael Christensen, Laurens Vanthoor and Kévin Estre. With Romain Dumas, Matthieu Jaminet, Sven Müller and Matt Campbell, Frikadelli Racing also has a pure works driver line-up at the start. The Falken Porsche is also one of the favorites. The new generation of the Porsche 911 GT3 R will have to prove itself in the Green Hell.

Audi with a smaller line-up

At Mercedes, they rely on four factory-supported hot irons in the fire. Three Mercedes AMG GT3s come from Black Falcon, one car from HTP. With the combination of Christian Hohenadel, Raffaelle Marciello, Lance-David Arnold and Maxi Götz, this is just as strong as the quartet Maro Engel, Adam Christodoulou, Manuel Metzger and Dirk Müller with Black Falcon.

With Audi it is Commitment has shrunk significantly. While the two teams WRT and Mücke competed in the previous year, the works-supported operation is now limited to Car Collection, Land and Phoenix Racing, each with an Audi R8 LMS. Christopher Haase and René Rast even have a dual role and are registered with both Car Collection and Land.BMW has reported the two Rowe-BMW M6 GT3s (Catsburg /Wittmann /Krohn /Edwards and Eng /De Phillippi /Blomqvist /Jensen), Schnitzer only has one car (Scheider /Tomczyk /Farfus /van der Linde), plus the Falken -BMW. And then there is the black horse, the Walkenhorst M6 on Yokohama tires, with Nick Yelloly and a driver from the BMW driver pool.

BoP before the 24h race

Before the weekend of Pentecost, the BoP for the 24h race was published. Compared to the 24h qualifying race, the following changes have occurred: Audi and Porsche are allowed to unload 15 kilograms, BMW has to load 5 kilograms and, by adjusting the ignition angle, loses around 15 hp, which should correspond to two seconds. Mercedes gets an air restrictor 0.5 millimeters larger and the 2018 version of the Ferrari 488 GT3 has to get by with 10 millibars less boost pressure. The adjusted ignition angles at Mercedes result from the desire to drive a different map this season so as not to sacrifice too much engine power in hot temperatures.


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