The season finale of the VLN endurance championship Nürburgring was a race of superlatives: 8 years after Alex Böhm (2008 and 2009), Michael Schrey was the second driver ever in this worldwide biggest grassroots series who successfully defended his title. “Awesome”, said Schrey with a big smile in his face after his seventh class win in 2017. “It cannot realize yet that I made it again. It was so close this year in the fight for the title. The pressure was huge, much higher than in 2016. We will now celebrate this adequately.” The last day victory of the season in the VLN went to Manthey-Racing. With five wins, the local heroes around Olaf Manthey were thus not only the most successful racing team of the year but also celebrated an important jubilee with their 50th victory in the history of the VLN team.
There is nothing that can replace experience in the VLN – and Team Principle Michael Bonk is an old hand in this regard and worked out a brilliant but at the same time risky strategy in the night before the finale. To gain enough points to defend the title, Schrey would have had to finish first or second at the 42nd DMV Münsterlandpokal race in his established BMW Cup class. This is a big challenge which Schrey nevertheless successfully faced six times in a row recently. However, Bonk evaluated the risk to be higher than to take a victory in a numerically less competitive class. So they spontaneously decided to change the class for Schrey and he started with the Volkswagen Golf TCR of Benjamin Leuchter and Adreas Gülden in the TCR class. “We’ve put together our heads last night and considered how we could minimise the risk – and we came up with this idea”, said the Team Principle proudly with a smile in his face. As TCR class winner, Schrey took 9.17 points and was crowned VLN champion for the second time in a row with a lead of 0.74 points. For his team Bonk-Motorsport, this marks already the fifth VLN title. The racing team from Münster has thus matched the previous record of the team around local hearo Johannes Scheid. It the 15th time that a BMW team wins the championship.
The day victory went to Fred Makowiecki and Lars Kern in the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Manthey-Racing. Their lead over the second-placed crew with Hubert Haupt, Erik Johansson and Maro Engel in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Black Falcon was 51.622 seconds at the finish. Third place was secured by Frank Stippler, Christian Mamerow and Robin Frijns in an Audi R8 LMS of Phoenix-Racing. So three teams which are based in Meuspath nearby the Nürburgring took the positions on the podium.
For amateur driver Lars Kern, who is Porsche test driver for series vehicles in his main profession, this was the first VLN victory in his first race with “Grello”, the eye-catching nine eleven in the yellow-green colours of Manthey Racing. “Fantastic – this car is normally driven exclusively by works drivers“, he said after the prizegiving ceremony. He had the privilege and the honour to drive the car as he recently completed successfully a record-breaking drive over the Nürburgring with a road-legal Porsche GT2 RS. “Olaf Manthey and Nicki Raeder offered me this chance as a gesture of appreciation. That was a great honour for me. I must admit that I was a little nervous, but I also knew that, with Fred at my side, I simply had to ‘administrate’ the lead.”
One week after the DTM finale, Mercedes AMG works driver Maro Engel was happy about second place: “Hubert Haupt completed a top first stint, I did the same in the middle stint and Erik did a fantastic job in his only third GT3 race”, said Engel who lives in Monaco. “With our early stop, we gained some time as we got out of the traffic. But we were calculating with one race lap less.“
Behind the top three, Klaus Bachler and Romain Dumas became fourth in the Falken-Porsche, Connor De Phillippi and Christopher Mies finally took fifth place in the Land-Audi. Norbert Siedler, Frank Stippler and Alexander Müller finished sixth in the Frikadelli-Porsche. The fastest Pro-Am car was the Ferrari 488 GT3 of the Wochenspiegel Team Monschau, driven by Georg Weiss, Oliver Kainz and Jochen Krumbach. Jordan Tresson and Jonathan Hirschi of Walkenhorst Motorsport finished eighth as drivers of the fastest BMW M6 GT3, followed by their team mates and best-placed gentlemen team Peter Posavac and Alex Lambertz in a BMW Z4 GT3.
Even though they missed out the title only by a small margin, the 2017 season had an enjoyable end for Norbert Fischer, Christian Konnerth and Daniel Zils of Pixum Team Adrenalin Motorsport. In the Porsche Cayman, they celebrated their eighth class win and received for the first time the award on the podium as group winner in the category of VLN production cars. The title in the VLN production Car Trophy is another well-deserved reward for the team.
Third in the drivers’ championship is Marcel Manheller who had to retire with his BMW 325i at the season finale. Last year’s winner Alexander Mies, who took the title in 2016 together with Schrey, is fourth in the championship standings after his sixth class win in the Porsche 911 GT3 of GIGASPEED Team GetSpeed Performance. His team mate Time Scheerbarth, the champion of the season 2011, is sixth behind the Mühlner trio of Moritz Kranz, Hamza Owega and Alex Schula.
The annual prizegiving ceremony for the successful drivers in the VLN endurance championship Nürburgring will take place on 25th November at the Bitburger Event Centre Nürburgring. One week later, the VLN will be present from 2nd to 12th December at the Essen Motor Show.