Porsche may have been the favorite, but it was the Schnitzer Motorsport BMW M3 GT2 that won this weekend's epic Nürburgring 24 Hour race. Drivers Jörg Müller, Augusto Farfus, Uwe Alzen, and Pedro Lamy fought through the 15.8-mile course, 198-car wide starting grid, and a failing transmission, losing gear after gear in the closing laps. It's been five years since BMW has won the infamous endurance race.
"The way we won this one was particularly difficult," said Lamy, who now holds five 24 Hour Nürburgring victories. "Maybe some of the other teams were missing the bit of luck that was needed here. However, as you can make your own luck, this entire team most definitely earned its victory."
Luck proved the key for the top running teams. Of the three Audi R8s in the top ten spot, two succumbed to mechanical issues, leaving the number 97 LMS edition to take third. Finishing in second place, three minutes behind the winning BMW, was a Ferrari F 430 GTC; its four-man team included U.S. driver Leh Keen, who, just last week, won the Tire Rack One Lap of America.
Five-time champion Marcel Tiemann, who has won the race consecutively since 2006, led the beginning hours in a Manthey Porsche GT3 R, but a crash in the seventh hour ended the team's weekend prematurely. A much-hyped Hybrid GT3 R took an impressive lead following the Audis mechanical breakdown, but then itself suffered an engine failure at the 22-hour mark. "I heard a loud noise at the rear of the car and suddenly the power went," said driver Joerg Bergmeister.
Michael Macht, Porsche Chairman of the Board, remained positive afterwards, saying, "It wasn't enough for a win, but the Porsche hybrid technology clearly proved its potential at one of the world's toughest races. We will continue developing this innovative drive concept. That was certainly not the last race for a Porsche hybrid car."
Other highlights include the successful return of the Lexus LFA. It won the "near-production" SP8 class, achieving 18th overall and beating a slew of Aston Martins. A Lexus IS F competed in the same class with none other than "Gran Turismo" guru Kazunori Yamauchi at the helm. Walter Röhrl, who had planned to participate in the race with a stock Porsche 911 GT3 RS, withdrew due to health concerns.