Emotional double premiere at the ADAC TotalEnergies 24h Nürburgring: The Frikadelli team won the "Eifel Marathon" for the first time and thus also gave Ferrari its first success at the endurance classic. After 24 hours through the "Green Hell", the Briton David Pittard steered the new Ferrari 296 GT3 of the local heroes across the finish line in first place. Together with Earl Bamber, Nick Catsburg and Felipe Fernandez Laser, he also set a distance record: Never before had a winning team completed 162 laps since the race's premiere in 1970. After 4,085.858 kilometres, the Frikadelli-Ferrari had a 26.911-second lead over the Rowe-BMW #98. The previous record was 159 laps of 4,035.102 kilometres from 2014 and 2022. The weekend was overshadowed by the death of a sporting director who collapsed during his stint on Sunday morning and passed away despite immediate medical attention and transport to the hospital in Mayen.
"The blood pressure is maybe a bit high at the moment, but of course I'm feeling very good now. We'll have a Kölsch tonight," said Frikadelli team owner Klaus Abbelen in the initial exuberance immediately after the success. "I don't know what to say. I'm just incredibly proud of everyone. This is my first really big success. Sabine Schmitz has helped us from heaven. I'm also very happy for dear Klaus," Fernandez Laser said. "Unbelievable, what a victory," Nick Catsburg declared. For the Dutchman, it was already the second victory after 2020, back then still in the Rowe BMW. A premiere is the jump on the top step of the podium for his teammates Felipe Fernadez Laser, the Briton David Pittard and Earl Bamber from New Zealand, who has already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice and the 24 Hours of Spa once.
In the Rowe BMW #98, Marco Wittmann and Sheldon van der Linde took second place in the "Eifel Marathon", as they had done in 2021. This time they were supported by Maxime Martin and Dries Vanthoor, who had triumphed in an Audi in 2022. The podium was completed by Raffaele Marciello, Luca Stolz and Philip Ellis in the #4 from Mercedes-AMG Team Bilstein. A total of 235,000 spectators watched the endurance classic over the weekend. The 52nd edition of the 24h Nürburgring will take place from 9 to 12 May 2024.
Duel since sunrise
Since sunrise, the Frikadelli-Ferrari and the Rowe-BMW #98 had taken turns at the top due to the pit stop difference of two laps. Adjusted, however, there was a clear advantage for the Ferrari crew, which had only lost a little time in the early stages due to a puncture a few kilometres before the pits. The #98, on the other hand, had only started the race from 31st place after a run-out in the top qualifying 1, but then worked its way into the leading group after only a few hours with a faultless performance. The Frikadelli-Ferrari made its last pit stop 61 minutes before the end of the 24 hours. With 44 minutes to go, Dries Vanthoor took to the track just under a minute behind, but was unable to make a decisive move. "In the end, we can be totally satisfied. We started from 31st place and therefore in the last row of our starting group. To be honest, we never thought we would get so far ahead," said Wittmann. "But when you are so close to victory in the last third of the race, you want to win. But the Ferrari is too fast for that. We didn't make any mistakes in the race and therefore have nothing to reproach ourselves for."
The best Porsche in the final classification was the #96 from Rutronik in fifth place, the best-placed model from Ingolstadt was the #39 Land Audi in sixth. The revival of the three former DTM champions Mike Rockenfeller, Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk in the #40 Scherer-PHX Audi ended in twelfth place. It was also the last 24-hour race of outgoing team boss Ernst Moser, who celebrated six overall victories with Phoenix at the "Eifel Marathon".
Mapelli in the Abt Lamborghini the man of the first laps
After Marciello had initially maintained the pole position he had fought for on Friday evening and led the field onto the Nordschleife in first place, Marco Mapelli was the man of the first laps. The Italian in the Abt Lamborghini #27 initially moved up from third to second at the start and also overtook Marciello on the third lap. In doing so, he immediately gave Abbots the first lead laps on their 24h return with the new manufacturer. An early puncture, however, set the team back significantly soon afterwards, and in the end it was enough for ninth place.
Turbulent night with the premature end for several candidates for victory
Up to the halfway point of the race, there were some interesting duels, but even as darkness fell, there were hardly any major incidents. The numerous fans around the Nordschleife created a great atmosphere with the smell of barbecue, music and the usual bizarre set-ups at the popular hotspots such as Hatzenbach, Brünnchen or Schwalbenschwanz. In the early morning, events came to a head when several of the winners left the race early within a short period of time. For example, the two Scherer-PHX-Audi with the #1 and the #5 spun off the track almost synchronously on an oil track, the sister car with the #16 threw a time penalty of 4:36 minutes for a total of three flag violations far behind. The Rowe-BMW #99 retired after a collision while lapping, later the Junior-BMW #72 was also withdrawn due to suspension damage. The "Grello" also retired early - the #911 Manthey Porsche kept having problems after an early puncture. Mercedes-AMG lost the #3 around Maro Engel, who started from the front row, early on.