Thursday, June 19, 2014

A shortcut to the 2014 ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours entry list

www.nuerburgring.de

As I wrote in my weekly Hooniverse Motorsports Weekend Guide, I should let the sportscar racing experts handle the previews of the ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours. But being who I am, I'll give a quick rundown of my thoughts because, well, this is my website.

Before delving too deeply into this, it's important to remember that just about anything can happen in a 24-hour race (especially at such a daunting circuit) so there are no givens anywhere. But the talent in the driver lineups and on the pit wall is high enough that most of the top-class (SP9) cars can win outright.

You can find more information on how to follow the race in the Motorsports Weekend Guide over on Hooniverse, but let's go right to my partially informed opinion!



SP9 Class

This is the race's top class, all FIA GT3-spec cars that will fight for the overall win. Each of the big three German manufacturer has tossed its hat in the ring with serious entries: Mercedes hope to defend last year's win, Audi hopes to win its second 24-hour race in a week after their triumph at Le Mans, and BMW's driver lineups may be the best of the lot. Aston Martin and Nissan also hope to steal a win out from under Ze Germans. I've skipped a few entries, but you can see the whole list here.

#1 Black Falcon, Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Andreas Simonsen, Christian Menzel, Lance David Arnold

The defending champions carry the #1 on the doors, but only one driver (Bleekemolen) returns from the winning lineup. Bleekemolen comes off 14 hours driving at Le Mans, but he should be mostly recovered in time to drive his 6-8 hours. Simonsen is an FIA GT champion while Menzel and Arnold both feature Porsche backgrounds. Whatever may be lacking in driving talent (though likely very little is lacking), this team know endurance racing with several 24-hour wins in the last couple years.

#3 Phoenix Racing, Audi R8 LMS Ultra 
Marc Basseng, Marcel Fässler, Frank Stippler, Laurens Vanthoor

Fässler could win his second 24-hour race in a week after piloting the winning at Audi at Le Mans. The other three are all FIA GT champions. This could be the Audi to watch.

#4 Phoenix Racing, Audi R8 LMS Ultra 
Chrisopher Haase, Christian Mamerow, René Rast, Marcus Winkelhock

...or maybe this is the Audi to watch. Haase, Rast, and Winkelhock drive R8s all the time all over the world. They know their cars as well as anyone. Mamerow remains something of a question with a background mostly in Porsche Cup races, but Audi seldom makes mistakes when filling their cars.

#6 Frikadelli Racing Team, Porsche GT3-R 
Klaus Abbelen, Sabine Schmitz, Patrick Huisman, Patrick Pilet

Abbelen is an amateur racer, sure, but if he only runs the minimum time, this could be a nice longshot. Huisman is a Porsche Supercup veteran and Pilet is a Porche factory driver. Schmitz won the N24 twice and is one of the world's most formidable 'ring specialists and is a nice wild card to have.

#7 Aston Martin Racing, Aston Martin Vantage GT3 
Stefan Mücke, Darren Turner, Pedro Lamy

Aston's factory #97 GTE-PRO lineup from Le Mans runs their second-straight 24-hour race. Many consider this entry a favorite and with good reason. They're all fast and all capable. If the car holds up, they'll be in the thick of it.

#8 Haribo Racing, Porsche 911 GT3-R
Norbert Siedler, Jorg Bergmeister, Mike Stursberg, Hans Guido Riegel

Sielder is a veteran and Bergmeister is a Porsche factory driver. Stursberg and Riegel are solid-but-not-spectacular Porsche drivers. A longshot.

#9 Prosperia C. Abt Racing GmbH, Audi R8 LMS
Nicki Thiim, Marco Seefried, Richer Westbrook, Alex Müller

Thiim comes off a GTE-AM class win at Le Mans and won in the Black Falcon Merc last year. He is partnered with some very talented drivers. Corvette aficionados know Westbrook and Seefried is a well-known veteran. Müller is a former race winner from FIA GT1 and Abt Racing are no strangers to success.

#10 Prosperia C. Abt Racing GmbH, Audi R8 LMS
Christopher Mies, Christer Jöns, Niclas Kentenich, Dominik Schwager

All-German lineup. Mies and Jöns both drive the R8 in the ADAC Masters and will lead the charge. Kentenich and Schwager have been around GT racing for a long time but never really dominant. This is an intriguing second-car entry for Abt.

#15 HTP Motorsport GmbH, Mercedes SLS AMG GT3
Harold Primat, Maximilian Götz, Kenneth Heyer, Roland Rehfeld

Primat's sportscar career included long time in prototypes before entering the GT world. Götz has looked awfully competitive in the Blancpain Endurance Series this year. While Heyer and Rehfeld aren't superstars, they have driven the SLS GT3 at the N24 in the past and experience counts for a lot in endurance racing.

#17 G-Drive Racing, Audi R8 LMS Ultra
Roman Rusinov, Stéphane Ortelli, Edward Sandström

This could be a team that steals the win from Audi's better-known (Abt, Phoenix) teams. G-Drive know endurance racing and Rusinov is one of the G-Drive regulars, having won the WEC's LMP2 championship last year. Ortelli won Le Mans outright in 1998 and is a former FIA GT champion. Sandström lacks the outstanding history, but he's no stranger to the R8 with several full Blancpain and GT series in the Audi to his credit.

#19 BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert, BMW Z4 GT3
Dirk Werner, Dirk Müller, Lucas Luhr, Alexander Sims

American Le Mans Series fans should will this lineup well. Dirk and Dirk both drove Team RLL BMWs for many years. Luhr is new to BMW, but he drove Porsches and prototypes in ALMS and even had a three-year run as an Audi factory driver. Sims is relatively youthful by comparison and doesn't win a whole lot of races, but he's usually been near the front of them.

#20 BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert, BMW Z4 GT3
Jens Klingmann, Dominik Baumann, Claudia Hürtgen, Martin Tomczyk

Klingmann and Baumann represent a bright future for BMW and Schubert. Both run in the ADAC GT Masters championship and both are under 25. Tomczyk is currently running his 14th season in DTM and knows a thing or two about racecraft. Hürtgen is another Schubert regular in the ADAC series and the veteran anchor of the group.

#25 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS, BMW Z4 GT3
Maxime Martin, Joerg Müller, Uwe Alzen, Marco Wittmann

Like the #19, ALMS fans will know Martin, Müller, and Alzen. Müller and Alzen are consummate veterans while Martin is one of the most exciting young GT drivers in the world with remarkable pace. Wittmann is a 25-year-old sensation who has won two of DTM's three 2014 rounds thus far. This should, on paper, be the best of the BMWs.

#26 MW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS, BMW Z4 GT3
Bas Leinders, Markus Palttala, Nick Catsburg, Dirk Adorf

This lineup may not have the big names, but it could be a good underdog. Leinders and Catsburg both race the Z4 in the Blancpain series. Palttala quietly kept his nose clean with the Turner Motorsports Z4 at Laguna Seca this year before turning it over to co-driver Dane Cameron, who took it to the winner's circle. Adorft is a wild card, a veteran N24 driver without a regular professional ride.

#30 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN, Nissan GT-R GT3
Michael Krumm, Tetsuya Tanaka, Kazuki Hoshino, Katsumasa Chiyo

I like this entry a lot and there's some speculation that these driver lineups may foreshadow some of the driver selections for Nissan's 2015 LMP1 car. Krumm knows the 'ring like few others and has a tremendous resume. The Japanese trio might fly under the radar, but they're all extremely talented. Tanaka's regular drive has been, ironically, a number of German GT3 cars in the Japanese GT300 championship. Hoshino drives the same championship in a GT-R. Chiyo graduated from GT300 in a GT-R to Formula Nippon in 2013 and is now driving a GT-R in the Blancpain Endurance Series.

#80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN, Nissan GT-R GT3
Nick Heidfeld, Alex Buncombe, Lucas Ordonez, Florian Strauss

This should be exciting to watch. Heidfeld, a former F1 driver, leads three GT Academy winners who have proven to be well on the pace. If anyone is still doubting that sim driver experience can translate to real-world success, I have no idea where they've been.


#44 Falken Motorsports, Porsche 911 GT3 R 997
Wolf Henzler, Peter Dumbreck, Martin Ragginger, Alexandre Imperatori

Falken thrive as underdogs and if it rains, they've shown they can build a hell of a rain tire. The car is an older-spec GT3 Porsche, but factory driver Henzler is a rain master and Dumbreck has made a name for himself. Ragginger and Imperatori will drive anything anywhere, but they both do pretty damn well in Porsches.

#66 & #69 Dörr Motorsport GmbH, McLaren MP4-12C GT3
#66 - Kevin Estre, Peter Kox, Tim Mullen, Alvaro Parente
#69 - Rudi Adams, Sebastian Asch, Sascha Bert, Arno Klassen

McLaren's GT3 looked good at this year's Bathurst 12 Hours, so expect a top-flight production again this year. Estre won last year's Carrera Cup Germany championship and Parente lacks nothing for pace. Kox has had hard luck in GT3 racing this year but can be awfully fast. Mullen is something of a question mark still.

#502 Audi Race Experience, Audi R8 LMS Ultra
Felix Baumgartner, Marco Werner, Frank Biela, Pierre Kaffer

This might be the most awesome driver lineup in the whole race. Yes, that is the Felix Baumgartner who jumped to earth from the edge of space. He'll be aligned with former Audi Le Mans winners Werner (3 Le Mans wins) and Biela (5 Le mans wins). Both are mostly retired from motorsport so this is something of a fun-run team. Kaffer, once paired with Biela and Allan McNish at Le Mans, may do the heavy lifting as an active driver who will drive just about anything anytime.



The Rest of the Classes

If you've read this far, you know that there's only 160 cars left to preview! But I'll only touch on the highlights and notable names rather than dive deep into the rest of the classes. Here goes:

SP7 Class - #40 & #41 Manthey Racing
#40 - Steve Smith, Nils Reimer, Reinhold Renger, Hari Proczyk
#41 - Marco Schelp, Marc Gindorf, Peter Scharmach, Frank Kräling

This is the same team that fielded Porsche's GTE-PRO cars at Le Mans and while the names may not be familiar, expect them to show up and compete.

SP8 Class - #51 Toyota Swiss Racing Team, Lexus ISF CCS-R
Helmut Baumann, Horst Baumann, Lorenz Frey, Fredy Barth

SP8 Class - #48 Gazoo Racing (Lexus LFA), #52 Gazoo Racing (Lexus IS-F), #53 Gazoo Racing (LFA Code X)

Toyota (branded as Lexus) is going all out in motorsports and starting at the N24.

SP8 Class - #50 Hyundai Motor Deutschland, Hyundai Genesis V6

Hyundai wants a piece of endurance racing, too.


SP10GT4 - #100 Aston Martin Test Centre, Aston Martin Vantage V8
Chris Harris, Richard Meaden, Oliver Mathai, Andreas Gülden

The GT4 class is chock full of great cars with the Ginetta GT4s usually being the class of the field. But, hey, the #100 car has /Drive host Chris Harris behind the wheel, so they'll garner some attention.

SP4T - #108 Rotek Racing GmbH, Audi TT RS
Rob Huff, Robb Holland, Richard Meins, Kevin Gleason

This entry is notable for several reasons. First, it features touring car drivers and popular drivers Huff and Holland. Additionally, they are also crowdfunding their expenses, having reached 20 percent of their IndieGoGo goal with four days remaining.

SP3 - #144 Kissling Motorsport, Opel Manta
Olaf Beckmann, Volker Strycek, Peter Hass, Jürgen Schulten

It doesn't really matter what I say because it's an Opel Manta. AN OPEL MANTA.

V3 - #195 Mazda Motorsport Team Jota, Mazda MX-5
Teruaki Kato, Stefan Johansson, Owen Mildenhall, Wolfgang Kaufmann

It's former F1 and Audi factory driver Stefan Johansson in a Miata. How brilliant is that?! They'll face a class of Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZs, an Opel Astra, and a Renault Clio 3 RS.


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