A stunning early lap from the #69 McLaren MP4-12C GT3 Dorr Motorsport team was enough to give them provisional pole for the ADAC Zurich Nurburgring 24 Hours after the first qualifying session.
The team of Rudi Adams, Sebastian Asch, Sascha Bert and Arno Klasen were placed the top of the times by a lap set amongst the first flying laps around the Nordschleife after the session began. Their lap of 8:18.513 comfortably bested the leading time from free practice set by Phoenix Racing’s #4 team. That squad (Christopher Haase, Christian Mamerow, Rene Rast and Markus Winkelhock) were the McLaren team’s nearest challengers in the session as they – together with the rest of the top four – dipped below the practice benchmark.
However, the #4 squad’s 8:21.454 was still nearly three seconds slower than the McLaren’s time, lended more importance as the #69 line-up are one of the GT3 teams yet to book their place in the top-30 qualifying shootout. 19 of the slots have already been filled, guaranteed places handed to the fastest teams from both April’s N24 Qualifying Race and the three VLN races held so far this year.
The sole problem for the Dorr Motorsport team turned out to be local wildlife, the front-right of the orange machine striking a fox on the way round the Nordschleife leaving a minor mess – mechanical and biological – for the team to clean up on its return to the pits.
The #502 R8 LMS ultra of the Audi Race Experience team that features Felix Baumgartner was third fastest (8:23.322). Pierre Kaffer had already secured a top-30 place for the car after his exploits in the Qualifying Race, while both the #20 BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert and Team Falken Tire entries, that lay just behind in the times need a strong qualifying performance from the two sessions this weekend prior to Friday evening’s shootout finale.
The #30 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN entry was sixth fastest ahead of the HTP Motorsport Mercedes, the #3 Phoenix Racing Audi, the second of the Dorr McLarens and the #25 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS that completed the top ten.
That top ten remained unchanged for the final two-and-a-half hours of the session’s four and a half hour duration, their places cemented by the coming darkness and the arrival of the typical Nordschleife cocktail of rain and fog.
Many of the top teams – remained in the pits once the weather reached their arbitrary tipping point, venturing out only to gain the necessary few laps of experience of the track in the darkness and less than perfect conditions. Among those to use the rain for practice was Marc VDS’ Dirk Adorf, explaining – almost in disbelief – that their VLN exploits through the first half of the year haven’t included any wet races.
There were, unfortunately, some accidents in the conditions, but the most high profile of the offs happened before the worst of the weather arrived.
Turn one of the Grand Prix track continued to catch out drivers, the Mazda Motorsports Jota Sport the latest car to skip across the gravel on the outside of the corner to make contact with the tyre barriers. The major casualty of the session was the Schulze Motorsport Nissan GT-R, which was carried back on a truck after tangling with one of the Cup class Opel Astras at Klostertal.
The top 20 teams in the session were all GT3 entrants, the best of the rest being the SP8 class Gazoo Racing Lexus LFA which set a best time of 8:35.745 for the team of Takayuki Kinoshita, Hiroaki, Ishiura, Kazuya Oshima and Masahiko Kageyama.
Behind them one of the smallest classes in the race provided one of the closest battles, the Wochenspiegel Team Manthey SP-PRO Porsche edging out Gazoo’s LFA Code X by just 0.023 seconds on a best lap time.
Kremer Racing’s #71 team (Eberhard Baunach, Wolfgang Kaufmann, Edgar Salewsky and David Schlwietz) set the best time in the SP7 class, their 8:41.030 more than six second faster than the next best in class.
The #118 Subaru WRX STI claimed provisional pole in SP3T, 43rd fastest overall in the session, while the Besaplast Racing Team entry beat Rotek Racing to the SP4T class pole.
Team Mathol Racing’s #94 team (Wolfgang Weber, Norbert Bermes and Uwe Nittel) were the best of the GT4 runners and the Kissling Motorsport Opel Manta was again top of its, SP3, class.
The second part of qualifying is scheduled for 10:15am (local time) on Friday morning with the top-30 shootout scheduled for 5:10pm. The race itself begins at 4pm on Saturday.