It’s arguably the toughest race track on earth at the best of times, but impenetrable fog and torrential rain made the Nürburgring essential underivable – leading to the shortest 24 hour race ever held at the famous track.
7 June, 2021
It’s not the first time that the 24 Hours of Nürburgring endurance race has had to be stopped due to poor conditions. But the weather over the weekend set a new standard for ‘challenging’ conditions and resulted in the shortest 24 Hours of Nürburgring held in the event’s 49 year history.
The downpour started less than an hour in and then proceeded to get steadily worse, reducing visibility to just metres at times and sending veritable rivers pf water across parts of the track in places.
Some commentators described it as more of a boat race than a motor race, with many competitors reduced to passengers as their cars aquaplaned in the terrible conditions and careered off the track.
Numerous yellow flag periods were called, but even seeing the yellow flags through the rain and spray from other cars, was at times impossible. With a thick bank of fog enveloping parts of the 25km circuit, conditions became so bad that organisers had no choice but to suspend the race at the sixth hour mark – and that’s how things stayed for the next 14 hours.
Racing resumed at noon on Sunday after the longest stoppage in the event’s history and teams scrambled to make up for the lost time. For the Audi Sport teams though the final four hours produced mixed results, with the Audi Sport Team Car Collection, driven by Christopher Haase, Nico Müller and Markus Winkelhock, the best finish netting fifth outright after fighting back from down in the field after earlier tyre issues. Even after the stop start nature of the race and the trying conditions, the team crossed the finish line within four seconds of a podium time.
The Audi Sport Team Land likewise staged a spectacular comeback drive, racing from 64th position right up into the lead group, only to have their race snatched away with just laps to go when Kelvin van der Linde was involved in a race-ending accident.
Of the three Audi Sport Team Phoenix teams taking part, the two fighting for outright results were both ultimately sidelined or pushed well back in the overall standings by accidents, but the driving combination of Max Hofer, Vincent Kolb, Dennis Marschall and Jan-Erik Slooten took their R8 LMS GT3 to a podium result in the Pro-Am class with a strong second place.
The Giti Tire Motorsport by WS Racing team running the Audi R8 LMS GT4 though took their race one step further, winning the SP8 class for the second year in a row. This year’s result saw the team completely staffed by female personnel and a female driver line-up, the driver grouping of Pippa Mann, Célia Martin, Christina Nielsen and Carrie Schreiner staying out of trouble during the worst of the weather, to put in a strong performance and ultimately take top spot after no less than six lead changes in their category throughout the race.
Although the race didn’t result in the sixth outright victory Audi Sport had been hoping for, it nevertheless showcased some strong performances in extremely difficult conditions. Audi Sport customer racing next heads to Spa in eight weeks to contest the Spa 24 hours – another legendary race that has seen Audi Sport clinch outright victory in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2017.
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