The battle for overall victory in the 40th edition of the Nurburgring 24 Hours increasingly looks to be a four horse race as accidents on track as accidents, as well as the startling pace set by Klaus Graf in the lead ROWE Racing Mercedes whittled down the number of cars on the lead lap.
Nick Tandy in the no10 Team Manthey Porsche suffered an accident on the GP track, severly damaging the front from the car before coming into the pit through the back entrance at the end of the GP loop. The Manthey team were able to repair the car and send it out, but the car pulled over on its out lap from the pits in subsequent retirement – or at least another delay after initially losing five laps to the repair.
Thomas Mutsch, driving the no.9 Raeder Motorsport Audi R8 crashed heavily exiting Pflanzgarten, with heavy damage to the green and white Audi that had previously been a fixture in the top ten and on the lead lap.
Their troubles and lapping the Hankook Heico Mercedes and Mamerow Racing Audi left just four cars (one from each of the four top manufacturers) on the lead lap – ROWE Racing;s no.22, Audi Sport Team Phoenix no.3, BMW Team Schubert no.20 and the no.11 Team Manthey Porsche.
There were, however, large gaps as the leading Mercedes held a lead of nearly three minutes over the chasing combination of BMW and Audi with the Porsche a further three minutes in arrears.
The hour ended with a scare for the Mercedes team as both they and Team Schubert performed brake disc changes at the same point. With their lead in hand ROWE Racing returned their man to the track first, only for him to promptly outbrake himself into T1, skittering through the gravel to rejoin the track without too serious a delay.
There was delay too for the SP4T leader – the no.111 Audi TT RS of Raeder Motorsport as it was hit with a two minute stop-go penalty but remained at top the class standings.
Still inside the top 20 Kremer Racing continue to lead SP7 with a clear lap over Timbuli Racing and Team Manthey opposition. Also keeping up their class lead were Gazoo Racing, who continue to appear unbeatable in SP8 with the Lexus LFA with several laps advantage over the Aston Martin Zagato that lies second on class.
Elsewhere the leaders in most of the top classes remained unchanged, however, the SP10 GT4 has passed to the BMW M3 GT4 of Bonk Motorsport with six hours remaining.
2012 Nurburgring 24 Hours Selected Class Leaders After 18 Hours
SP9 GT3 – No.22 ROWE Racing Mercedes SLS – Graf/Jager/Roloff/Seyffahrt
SP7 – No.150 Kremer Racing Porsche 911 GT3 KR – Kaufmann/Heger/Schornstein/Kuku
SP8 – No.83 Gazoo Racing Lexus LFA – Kinoshita/Iida/Wakisaka
SP3T – No.133 Subaru Tecnica International Subaru GVB – Yoshide/Sesaki/Belka/van Dam
SP10 GT4 – No.70 Bonk Motorsport BMW M3 GT4 – Flack/Silvester/Akata/Merten
SP4T – No.111 Raeder Motorsport Audi TT RS – Deegener/Wohlfarth/Breuer/Landmann
SP8T – No.123 Team GT Academy Nissan GTR – Yamauchi/Ordonez/Schulze/Yamamoto