Black Falcon has snatched victory at the 2016 Nurburgring 24 Hours in their Mercedes AMG GT3, battling tooth and nail with the #29 HTP Motorsport Mercedes with a door-banging final lap on the Nordschleife. Such was the Mercedes runners’ domination that the top four places were filled with the three-pointed stars.
Much of the last six hours of the race, picking up from the overnight report, saw Mercedes continuing to position themselves for the final dash for the flag with the two eventual winner and second place entries setting up camp in those positions early with erstwhile leaders Haribo Racing slipping off the podium, replaced by the pole sitting #9 Black Falcon machine.
The Mercedes domination was very much helped by the bad luck that struck the #912 Team Manthey Porsche 911 GT3R. The car was running within touching distance of the top five but a mechanical issue with only a few hours left on the clock meant their chance at a podium was cruelly taken from them.
That said, even Usain Bolt wouldn’t have been able to keep up with Maro Engel in the #4 as he started to take chunks of time out of the HTP Motorsport car’s lead, but with less than 50 minutes left Engel knew he had to really step on it, and step on it he did.
However, Hohenadel was wise to his game and started to log quick times himself to bring the lead up to a minute with ten minutes to go. But there would be a shock as Hohenadel pitted the #29 for a quick splash of fuel and worse – the car had to be push started as it refused to fire, by the time the car came out of pit road it was just five seconds ahead of Engel.
Like with so many other moves on the Nurburgring, traffic played a huge part in the #29 losing the lead as it got caught behind a significantly slower Porsche moving into the third sector and that loss of momentum let Engel move up the inside. The pass, when it came, was far from clean with Engel diving up the inside and colliding with the side of Hohenadel’s machine, the Black Falcon car came off the better and with less than 30 seconds left on the clock it was just a case of powering away and making sure it kept its nose clean.
Clean it was, with the Black Falcon car crossing the line with a 5.6 second lead and Engel claimed a unique double – pole in the #9 Black Falcon car and victory in the #4 Black Falcon machine.
The HTP car would finish second with the #88 Haribo Racing car, which ran in the lead for most of the race, having to settle for third place thanks to late issues that delayed the car in the pits. Finishing fourth was the pole-sitting #4 with the #23 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 finishing in fifth place.
After the race Engel said: “To have won this 24h race means a huge dream come true. It’s just incredible to be sitting here and celebrate the win with these three guys. I’m truly overwhelmed. I have been pushing to the max all the time but there was so much traffic. I came close to despairing. But then I was offered the chance. I exited the Dunlop Kehre on a better line and also was faster in the Schumacher-S and so I was right behind him. I think Christian also was aware of the situation. I assume that he looked into his rear-view mirror. He had the possibility to close the door at the inside – but he didn’t and moved to the right, instead. That was my possibility to brake into the inside.
“I was aware that if I was going to make a move it had to be a clear move. This meant that I had to put my car completely next to his – and I did so. Then, when I was next to Christian, he turned in and hit me at the rear area of my fender. I can understand his disappointment.
“Had I lost the race win on the final lap I also would feel sad. Chris and Renger are good friends of mine. I’m really sorry. But I think they knew that I would try to make a move, being that close behind.”
For Christina Vietoris the disappointment was palpable, he said: “We are truly disappointed to have lost the 24h-Race win on the final lap. We always were among the front-runners. Surviving the opening stages unharmed already represented an achievement. After the retirement of our sister car, we were supported by the entire team. The last hour was truly nerve-wracking. I’m just proud of being part of this team. Currently, the disappointment predominates but now I’m going to sleep and next week, I will travel fully motivated to the DTM race meeting at the Lausitzring.”