Updated: Aug 28, 2018
Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images courtesy of ADAC GT Masters.
In a weekend where British GT went to one of its most iconic tracks of the year, it's German counterpart, the ADAC GT Masters, did exactly the same with a round at the Nürburingring, otherwise known as "Die Grüne Hölle" (the Green Hell). On the short GP layout also used by the DTM, Maxi Buhk and Indy Dontje won an eventful first race on Saturday.
Although the safety car lead 3 Mercedes AMGs ahead of the 35 GT3 monsters to the start of the race, it was Ricardo Feller's pink Mücke Motorsport Audi R8 in the lead after turn 1. When all dust settled, only one car remained stuck in the gravel: the black R8 of Filip Salaquarda. It had to take evasive manoeuvres to avoid a collision with the Land Motorsport Audi R8 of Sheldon van der Linde, after him being torpedoed by Kirchhöfer in the #1 Callaway Corvette. Where the Audi was out immediately, the Corvette could initially continue. The first interruption by the Safety Car was a fact. A couple of laps later and after serving a drive-through penalty for the collision, the brutal American 6.2 litre v8 was brought to a halt in pitlane as damage proved too severe to continue. Despite their DNF, Keilwitz and Kirchhöfer claimed the unofficial title of "Halbzeitmeisters" (half-way champions).
The first restart was almost a one-on-one copy of the first: Florian Spengler drove his #12 Audi R8 right into the side of the #18 Team Bernhard Porsche 911 of Klaus Bachler, eliminating both cars and again calling the Safety Car out on track.
Right before the opening of the pit window 25 minutes into the race, the still leading #25 Audi R8 of Ricardo Feller got served a 5-second penalty for allegedly jumping the start. These 5 seconds were added to the minimum pit-stop duration of 70 seconds (from pit-entry to pit-exit). This gave the virtual lead to the #20 Zakspeed Mercedes AMG of Nicolai Sylvest and Kim Luis Schramm.
From the lead group, 3rd placed Luca Stolz and 5th placed Marcus Pommer were the first to stop. A lap later Ricardo Feller brought his R8 in, having to serve an extra 5 seconds penalty. He managed however to come out in front of the #21 Zakspeed Mercedes and #47 HTP Mercedes. Another lap later Indy Dontje brought in the #48 HTP Mercedes, and managed to come out in front of the #25 Audi.
Two laps later, the Zakspeed crew managed to get #20 AMG out of the pits right in front of the #48, only 3 tenths of a second over the obligated 70 seconds pit-stop time. A fierce battle for several corners followed, in the end decided by a brilliant move from Maxi Buhk who, on warmer tyres, guided his yellow AMG round the outside of his Zakspeed cousin.
After the pitstops, Chris Haase in the #25 Audi put the pressure on the #20 Zakspeed Mercedes now driven by Kim Luis Schramm. The latter momentarily saved by yet another Safety Car period, as Zöchling parked his M6 GT3 in the last corner for start-finish.
The restart didn't cause any trouble this time, but of course the whole field, with still 29 cars in competition, was completely back together again. While Buhk was rapidly extending his lead over the rest of the field, already 3,5 seconds clear in two laps, Haase put maximum pressure on Schramm. A train started to form behind Schramm, who had to fight off no less than 6 cars: an Audi, two Lambo's and three Mercedes'. 3 laps later, Haase managed to pass Schramm, after which the fight culminated 13 minutes before the end of the race.
Perera was already on the bumper of the AMG when Schramm had a bad exit out of the Mercedes Arena. While heading to the hairpin a tad slow, two cars were already passing Perera to the right, while the grass was right on his left... There was no asphalt left to take evasive action when either Schramm braked early, or Perera too late... With a rather blunt push, Perera rocketed the white and blue AMG off the track and into the gravel. Perera was served a drive-through for causing a collision, the Mercedes had to retire in pit lane. With both cars now out of the leading group, the real sting was out of the fight and cars seemed to settle for the finish. None of them could threaten the yellow Mann Filter HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG of Dontje and Buhk, who managed to score their first win of the season.
The stars of the last minutes of the race were found a little bit down the order, where the fight for 11th placed involved no less than 10 cars. They were all within 4 seconds of each other with numerous changes of position within the group. In the end, Max Hofer finished 11th, but was handed a 30 seconds time penalty for pushing another car of the track.
After the race, the #25 Audi of Haase and Feller was given an extra 30 second time-penalty for jumping the start. This dropped them to 15th, handing 2nd place to Mirko Bortolotti and Andrea Caldarelli, while Götz and Pommer claimed the last podium spot in their HTP Mercedes.
Full results: https://www.adac-gt-masters.de/uk/rennergebnisse/nuerburgring-6706/race-1-28075/