As the GT3 specification has swept across the globe in the last five years, taking in world renowned races and tracks as it goes, it has lifted certain – already longstanding – events and lifted them to all new prominence. Victory, even a drive in them, has become one of the key points in any sportscar driver’s CV.
For few races is this more true than the ADAC Nurburgring 24 Hours. The endurance race around the Nordschleife has always been one of the greatest races in Europe, fought over by some of the biggest teams and best drivers but the arrival of GT3 cars as the premier class has made the fight for victory all the closer and unpredictable.
31 entries will contest the SP9 class with works supported entries from seven different manufacturers.
As you might expect for one of the biggest races in Germany the field is led – at least in number – by four German manufacturer who between them have won the race every year since 2004.
As defending winners the entry is led by Audi with last year’s four winning drivers, Christopher Haase, Christian Mamerow, Rene Rast and Markus Winkelhock reuniting to drive the #1 Audi R8 LMS for Audi Sport Team Phoenix. Six factory backed Audis, including four of the latest generation of the R8 racer, feature on the entry list. If the #1 team are installed as favourites – and in a race as unpredictable as the N24 naming a favourite is impossible – then their main rivals should come from a BMW camp that has four Z4 GT3 lined up and filled with factory driver talent including Alexander Sims and Richard Westbrook, the later swapping the surroundings of a Porsche for a Marc VDS run Beamer for the 2015 race.
However, while the British involvement throughout the GT3 class – Adam Christodoulou in the #2 Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG GT3, Peter Dumbreck in Falken Motorsports’ Porsche, Alex Buncombe lined up in one of the factory Nissans – the UK’s presence in the race is perhaps greater than ever as a new manufacturer joins the grid for 2015.
Three Bentley Continental GT3s will line up for the start of the including, two in evocative British Racing Green and one with a three-quarter British line-up with the race winning trio of Andy Meyrick, Steven Kane and Guy Smith joined by German Lance David Arnold in the #85 car, one of the two cars carrying the same racing colours Bentley made famous in the 1920s.
Aston Martin also hold the British flag aloft at the ‘ring with a pair of GT3 Vantage in the race with British GT regular Jonny Adam elevated to the works team in the #6 car while Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Pedro Lamy in the #7 car, the Portuguese still seeking the victory that would lift him alone to the top of the list of multiple N24 winners.
The Aston entry also includes three cars fielded by the road car arm of the company and three of the GT4 Vantage so familiar to watchers of British GT competition.
The entry list, goes far, far, far beyond the GT3 cars. The unique size of the Nurburgring Nordschleife allows a depth of field that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else in racing.
Nowhere else do racing specials like Jim Glickenhaus’ SCG 003 lap the same track as Renault Clio and Porsche Cup cars. Each class is a race in itself, frequently with a field just as varied as to be found in the GT3 class that will soak up all the headlines throughout the weekend.
The British entry, likewise, goes beyond the GT3 class. Scot Marino Franchitti is one of the men tasked with wheeling the formidable Scuderia Glickenhaus machine with the Saxon Motorsport team – podium finishers at the Dunlop 24 at Silverstone last month – take on an altogether bigger challenge with their diesel BMW 1-series in an AT class that also features a Ford Focus, a Volvo V40 and a Chrysler Viper. That should give you some idea of the variety to be found right down the order.
TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have full coverage throughout the build-up to the race and the event itself as we try to keep track of possibly the world’s biggest race.