The season opener of the Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS) had all the ingredients for pure entertainment. The sun was shining, the spectators were present in large numbers and the motorsport action at the the legendary Nordschleife was as thrilling and varied as ever. The 67th ADAC Westfalenfahrt was ultimately won by Laurens Vanthoor, Michael Christensen and Frederic Makowiecki in the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Manthey Racing. However, the “Grello” had to withstand the bravely fighting Christopher Mies and Jusuf Owega in the Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Montaplast by Land Motorsport until the final metres of the race. Third place on the podium went to Dennis Olsen
“Two GT3 wins in such a short time are not so bad. It’s a great start into the year. The car worked very well. We can build on that, hopefully it’s a good omen,” said the victorious Dane Christensen, who had previously won the 1,000 miles of Sebring.
Especially the only 19-year-old Jusuf Owega, whom his team mate Chris Mies – just for fun – called the “Kimi Raikkönen of GT racing” after the race due to his sometimes taciturn interviews, caused a stir. In his first GT3 race in the Green Hell, he delivered an impeccable performance. “I know the track very well and was looking forward to the race. I can’t complain today. Chris gives me a lot of tips because of his many years of experience here and I soak them all up,” said Owega. Team principal Wolfgang Land was also full of praise: “What he showed here in his first GT3 race was really great, he did a fantastic job. That’s going to be very promosing.”
There were also happy faces in the Team KCMG throughout. “We are very happy with third place, we had a few problems this weekend, we still have a lot of work to do, but we came back strong in the race. It was great to see all the spectators back at the track and in the pit lane. The race was spectacular with lots of overtaking. I enjoyed it very much,” said Dennis Olsen.
Brand diversity already prevailed in the battle for the best starting position. Axcil Jefferies and Michele Di Martino in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Konrad Motorsport secured pole position in 7:50.370 minutes ahead of Daniel Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen in the BMW M4 GT3 of the BMW Junior Team, who were followed by Jakub Giermaziak, Kim Luis Schramm and Ricardo Feller in the Audi R8 LMS GT3 3 of Scherer Sport Team Phoenix and the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Falken Motorsports with Patrick Pilet and Marco Seefried.
Jefferies sets a new track record with the Lamborghini
With his time of 7:50.370 minutes, Jefferies significantly improved the NLS track record set at the 2021 Doubleheader by Christian Krognes (7:51.807). In total, 19 cars stayed under the eight-minute mark. The new asphalt on the access from the Grand Prix circuit to the Nordschleife and in the Tiergarten and Hohenrain chicane sections, as well as sunshine and temperatures of ten degrees provided very good external conditions.
Pilet got off to a rocket start from fourth place. The Frenchman immediately took the lead with a brilliant driving manoeuvre and pulled away from Ricardo Feller in the Audi by 8.179 seconds after four laps. Max Hesse, in contrast, had a poor start. The BMW junior dropped from second to ninth place in the early stages. At the end of the four-hour race, he only just made it into the top ten.
The protagonists of the first hour did not subsequently play a role in the front field. For the Falken Porsche, NLS1 was over after seven laps and an accident with a Porsche Cayman. The race was also unlucky once again for the Lamborghini. Due to a damaged tyre, the Huracan dropped from third place to a meanwhile 17th place following a pit stop after lap eight. “All of a sudden I had a massive loss of power for some reason, I had to fight the whole stint to even keep the car on the track, there were a few tense moments and then, suddenly, I had a puncture, it’s frustrating. It’s hard to say what the problem is,” said pole-sitter Axcil Jefferies. At the end of the day, he finished eleventh overall.
Mies and Vanthoor deliver a breathtaking battle
With 90 minutes to go, others then moved into the spotlight: Niklas Krütten, team-mate of Alexander Sims and Jesse Krohn, was leading in the Schubert Motosport’s BMW M4 GT3 ahead of the “Grello” with Laurens Vanthoor behind the wheel. Team mates Michael Christensen and Frederic Makowiecki shared the team’s excitement for the Porsche 911 GT3 R from Manthey Racing. Christopher Mies was next, having taken over the Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Montaplast by Land Motorsport from Jusuf Owega. The three cars were within four seconds at this point. However, the 19-year-old Krütten could not withstand for long the attacks of the two experienced drivers. Mies took over first place from the Belgian Vanthoor with a risky manoeuvre halfway across the green grass on the hard shoulder, raising a lot of grass and dust. The two then delivered a thrilling battle and changed positions several times.
“It was all relaxed and absolutely within the limits of what is permitted. I had a lot of fun. When I came back to the pits, the first thing I saw were smileys from Christopher on my mobile phone. We had already expected to be in the leading group. It’s certainly going in the right direction for the coming weeks,” said Vanthoor and Mies added: “It looked more spectacular than it actually is in the car at the end of the day. I know Laurens very well and I know that he gives me space, so you can allow yourself a bold action like that. Sure, I would have liked to win today, but I’m satisfied, that wasn’t the last NLS race either.”
This captivating slipstream duel continued seamlessly after the pit stop between Jusuf Owega and Frederic Makowiecki. With a lead of 1.231 seconds, the Frenchman in the Porsche ultimately crossed the finish line in first place.
In the SP9 Am, the team principal himself celebrated his ninth NLS class win. Henry Walkenhorst won the class with Jörg Breuer and Friedrich Von Bohlen at his side in the BMW M4 GT3. “We are very satisfied, that was really good. Even though we had a puncture on the first lap, we brought the car home in one piece. I was amazed at how many people were at the track. I felt like I was back in my living room. I set a time of under 8.10 minutes, which was okay for a 56-year-old amateur,” said Walkenhorst.
Laurin Heinrich’s move from the DNLS to the NLS was also successful. The fresh Porsche Junior won the AT class alongside Ayhancan Güven in the Four Motors Bioconcept-Car Porsche Cayman GT4 CS. “Because of my experience in the simulator, I was very well prepared. But in real racing the effect of the differences in altitude are rather different, so it was a different feeling. I had to find my way around before I can go to my limit, but I’m on a good track,” said Heinrich.
The action in the Cup classes was also exciting: Adrenalin Motorsport Team Alzner Automotive won the BMW M240i Racing Cup with drivers Yvan Muller and Yann Erlacher. In the Porsche Endurance Trophy Nürburgring Cup2, Karsten Krämer, Moritz Kranz and Christopher Brück in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup of KKrämer Racing finished first. In the Porsche Endurance Trophy Nürburgring Cup 3, Mauro Calamia, Ivan Jacoma and Kai Riemer triumphed in the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS of Schmickler Performance powered by Ravenol. The win in CupX went to Teichmann Racing with Georg Griesemann, Felix von der Laden, Yves Volte and Maik Rönnefahrt in the KTM X-Bow GTX.
The second race of the Nürburgring Endurance Series will take place in two weeks. The 46th NIMEX DMV 4h Race on 9 April runs over the usual distance of four hours.