With magnificent cars racing around the legendary Nordschleife circuit and four days of festivities, May 14 to 17 of 2015 was an action-packed weekend at the Nürburgring. This year MANN-FILTER made its first ever appearance at the ADAC Zurich 24-hour race with a complete green and yellow branded car – a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, no less. What’s more, we made quite an impression! Adorned with the number 31, our car was the member of the Mercedes AMG SLS family to attract the most attention, with compliments on the quality of the design coming in thick and fast. Fans were even snatching autographs from our drivers! All in all, the event was a huge success for our brand image, allowing us to project the dynamics of motorsport onto our strong MANN-FILTER brand.
Our drivers Peter Schmidt, Alexander Mattschull, Pierre Ehret and Vic Rice from the Car Collection Team performed extremely well over long stretches, despite being the only team racing in the top SP9 GT3 class that entirely consisted of private drivers. On Friday morning, we actually just missed out on a place in the top 30 qualifying session. 18 spaces had already been secured in races in the run-up to the event anyway, so there were only 12 left. In the afternoon the top 30 went on to compete for the best starting position in the 24-hour race around the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife. Team Marc VDS achieved the fastest time in its BMW Z4 GT3 (number 26).
This 24-hour race is very special thanks to its 25-km laps and the flexibility of the rules in place. It is unique in its accessibility and also its unprecedented proximity to the fans, who are likely to bump into a professional driver every few metres. It is never too much trouble for the drivers to sign an autograph or stop and chat with their fans. If you ask me, it is the last major motorsport event to allow spectators to truly be part of the action. More than 200,000 fans stayed the whole weekend to share in the excitement around the Nordschleife, and many set up camp in the grounds in tents or caravans.
I also really enjoyed the excitement in the pit lane. During the 24-hour race, eight cars share each pit, making it a bit tight for space once you factor in 32 drivers and dozens of mechanics. There are approximately 600 drivers in total and they take turns behind the wheel, changing every 90 minutes or so throughout the race. Sometimes, the drivers even take on a double stint, staying in the driver’s seat for up to 2.5 hours at a time and using the pit stop just to change the tyres and fill up on fuel.
The race itself started at 4.00 pm on the Saturday and three groups of 60 cars embarked upon the marathon around the Grand Prix circuit and legendary Nordschleife. After the third lap, if not before, when there are more than 160 vehicles on the track, the cars from different classes begin to intermingle. It’s great for the spectators that standard series vehicles also line up at the start line of the 24-hour race – whether a Mini, BMW 2 Series or Opel Astra, nothing is left out of the VLN series classes. This mix of vehicles makes for an interesting, challenging and even dangerous race, with 550 HP GT3 racing cars speeding past vehicles in the smaller classes.
This year’s race ended up being one of the most closely contended races in the event’s history: the BMW Z4 of the BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS in second place was just 40.729 seconds behind the winning Audi Sport Team WRT’s Audi R8 LMS (#28).
Unfortunately, after rain left the track wet, our green and yellow Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 was involved in an accident after midnight and was forced to leave the race early. You will be pleased to hear, though, that the driver wasn’t hurt. It’s a real shame that we had to pull out of the competition before we could cross the finish line, but it wasn’t just our team that suffered this fate. Many competitors from various customer sports teams and brands on track for victory also had to bury their dreams of getting a place on the podium as the race progressed.
As luck would have it, however, we didn’t have all our eggs in one basket! MANN-FILTER motorsport professional Kenneth Heyer drove a different Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 to secure tenth place with his team Premio. Congratulations to them!
It was a truly thrilling weekend packed with captivating motorsport. I will be taking home lots of memories of fantastic moments and exciting experiences, as well as no end of positive feedback from the ‘Green Hell’ of the Nürburgring, as I head back to Ludwigsburg.
I’d definitely recommend that you make a date in your diary for the 44th ADAC Zurich 24-hour race, which will take place at the Nürburgring on May 26-29, 2016.