The no.65 Hankook Team Heico Mercedes SLS retired fro third place in the final hour (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

The no.65 Hankook Team Heico Mercedes SLS retired fro third place in the final hour (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

The final three hours of the 2012 Nurburgring 24 Hours proved a worthy climax to the 40th edition of the race with victory for Audi Sport Team Phoenix and a bizarre ending to the battle for third position.

Though the leading Audi (no.3 Marc Basseng, Christopher Haase, Frank Stippler, Markus Winkelhock) that had taken the lead earlier in the day maintained its position to give the manufacturer its first win in the event the order remained fluid behind it wither several team hitting problems in the final hours.

Though the Audi held a commanding seven minute lead at the start of the 22nd hour the battle for second was close with the no.26 Mamerow Racing Audi and the no.65 Hankook Team Heico Mercedes close enough to swap positions during a scheduled round of pitstops. Any battle for position was curtailed when the Mercedes pitted with a flat front left tyre with just 90 minutes remaining.

With the Mamerow car almost a full lap in arrears Marc Basseng in the lead Audi was able to ease back, lapping in the 9 minute bracket giving up some of the advantage to protect the car.

After their puncture the no.65 crew had fallen into third place – the final car on the lead lap – and looked set to take the final step on the podium until the car was brought to a smoking halt just a quarter of an hour from the end of the race, setting up a final thrilling battle for third position between the no.11 Team Manthey run Porsche and the no.66 the second Mercedes SLS in the Hankook stable in the final laps.

The battle – at full racing speed around cars slowing down on their final lap – brought the pair back onto the grand prix with just twenty seconds remaining. Just yards from the line the Porsche slowed, letting the Mercedes through into third place. Out of fuel the Porsche crawled across the line before the 24 hours was up but was hit by the no.169 Renault Clio. Both cars were not classified in the final results, Marc VDS Racing stole fourth place overall.

The lead in most of the top classes remained unchanged for the final three hours. Kremer Racing won SP7 in their Porsche, Gazoo Racing completed a dominant performance in SP8 with their Lexus LFA.

Only in SP4T did the lead change – the long time leader retiring with mechanical problems. With the no.111 Raeder Motorsport Audi TTRS out of the race the lead passed to the no.112 Audi TT S who took the class win at the fall of the checkered flag.

2012 Nurburgring 24 Hours Selected Class Leaders After 23 Hours

SP9 GT3 – No.3 Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi R8 LMS ultra – Basseng/Haase/Stippler/Winkelhock

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.112 Pro Handicap e.V. Audi TT S – Muller/Rudolph/Patel

SP8T – No.123 Team GT Academy Nissan GTR – Yamauchi/Ordonez/Schulze/Yamamoto

SP6 – No.98 Dorr Motorsport BMW Z4 Coupe – Scheibner/Weishar/Aust/Dorr