Mercedes power continued to lead the way in the pre-race running for the Nurburgring 24 Hours with Black Falcon setting the best time in the first qualifying session for the 41st edition of the Nordschleife endurance challenge.
With four hours of running in the first of two qualifying sessions for the entire field the track dried considerably – an easily visible dry line being carved out before darkness fell in the Eifel mountains. As such times fell throughout the session with the best lap coming at 11pm, with just half an hour to go.
At the time the lap by the #10 Black Falcon Mercedes SLS – 8:39.989 – was fastest by a whopping 12.9 seconds for the team of Andril Lebed, Andreas Simonsen, Dennis Rostek and Harald Proczyc. That mammoth margin – even by Nordschleife standards – survived the final half hour largely intact. Almost immediately after it was set the Abt Team Mamerow Audi cut the margin by just over a second before the Schulze Motorsport Nissan GT-R GT3 moved into second – just 1.778 seconds down with a best lap of 8:41.767.
“It’s a real surprise for us that we currently hold third position,” Tobias Schulze said during the session. “We found a clear lap in the dark. Our goal for tomorrow: to secure the blue light,” he added, referring to the signifier given to the 40 fastest cars during the race.
It was the Schulze entry – the only GT-R in the field – that the Black Falcon lap had pushed from the top spot they held for more than half an hour following a breathless 20 minutes in which the best time in the session in which the top time changed hands five times and times fell by nearly 20 seconds from the 9:11.783 of ROWE Racing’s #22 SLS to an 8:52.889 by the Schulze Nissan with BMW Team Schubert’s #19 the first car through the nine minute barrier.
The Abt Team Mamerow Audi kept third place overall until the end of the session ahead of the #45 Timbuli Racing Porsche (Marco Seefried, Norbert Siedler, Pierre Kaffer and Marc Hennerici) which moved into fourth with its last lap of the session.
Behind the #9 Black Falcon Mercedes Manthey Racing’s #18 was again by far the quickest in the Porsche dominated SP7 class. Its lap of 8:54.607 was almost exactly 20 seconds faster than their closest challengers in class, who ended the session 26th fastest overall.
“For me it was important to complete some laps,” said Lucas Luhr, the only non-Porsche works driver in the #18 quartet. “I haven’t been behind the wheel of a 911 and at the Nordschleife since last year’s 24 hour race. My lap was OK. The track was permenently getting faster and the times are dropping but we didn’t care for our position. Tomorrow is the day that counts and up to then we want to have the car set up for every eventuality.”
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT were seventh fastest with another Audi R8 LMS ultra in the form of the G-Drive by Phoenix #3 8th overall.
The BMW lap that first took the pace inside of nine minutes was good enough for ninth fastest with Black Falcon’s third Mercedes SLS completing the top ten overall.
GT Corse were the best in SP8 in 23rd overall with their Ferrari 458, while second in class the Aston Martin Test Centre run #5 V12 Vantage completed the potentially all-important top-40 with tomorrow’s two hour second qualifying session remaining before the grid is set and the top-40 take part in the qualifying shootout to decide the front most part of the grid.