BLACK FALCON scores fifth overall and two class victories at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring
Team BLACK FALCON’s 2017 adventure at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring has ended with the addition of yet another pair of class victories to their already impressive tally at the race, as well as manufacturer pride for once again registering the highest-placed finish for the Mercedes brand with fifth position overall. All three of the team’s Mercedes made it to the flag after 24 hours of racing which were fraught with challenges, a result further sweetened by the wins in the V6 and SP10 classes. The first position in V6 was the third in a row at the 24 Hours Nürburgring for a BLACK FALCON Team TMD Friction-entered Porsche 911, whilst the SP10 class was an inaugural win for their Porsche Cayman.
Two Mercedes-AMG GT3 were entered with factory support as Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon. The #1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 came to the race as the defending champion from last year, with three of 2016’s winning crew – Adam Christodoulou (United Kingdom), Manuel Metzger (Germany) and Maro Engel (Germany) – joined by Yelmer Buurman (Netherlands). The #3 Mercedes was driven by Dirk Müller (Germany), Thomas Jäger (Germany) and Jan Seyffarth (Germany) with Maro Engel (Germany) also on the roster. In the Team BLACK FALCON #4 entry, regular partners Abdulaziz al Faisal (Saudi Arabia) and Hubert Haupt (Germany) were supplemented by DTM star Dani Juncadella (Spain) and Luca Stolz (Germany).
A trio of BLACK FALCON Team TMD Friction Porsches were entered in three sub-classes: a pair of 991 models and a Cayman GT4. Jürgen Bleul (Germany), Stefan Karg (Germany), ‘Takis’ (Switzerland) and Alexander Toril (Spain) crewed the #65 991 GT3 Cup in SP7; the #133 991 Carrera in the V6 class featured Saud Al Faisal (Saudi Arabia), Thomas Bolz (Germany), Aurel Schoeller (Germany) and Fidel Leib (Germany); the #72 Porsche 981 Cayman GT4 ran in SP10, with VLN regulars Mustafa Mehmet Kaya (Turkey), Gabriele Piana (Italy) and Ronny Lethmate (Germany) joined by Carlos Gomez (USA).
The build-up to the race commenced with two hours of Free Practice on Thursday, with the first session of note occurring that evening: Qualifying 1. The #1 crew were, as expected, on the pace of the fastest cars, setting sixth fastest time in the session. In the second Qualifying session on Friday morning, times tumbled. With the Nordschleife bathed in sunshine and the track in perfect condition, Team BLACK FALCON set the second and third fastest laps, separated by just a tenth of a second – though no one could beat Maro’s stunning lap record from last year of 8m14.515s. With the sessions combined, #65 had posted the sixth fastest time in SP7 and would start 42nd overall; in SP10, the team’s Cayman lined up second in class, 61st overall; #133 was third in V6 (89th overall).
The scene was set for an epic Top 30 Qualifying shoot-out that would decide the starting positions at the head of the massive field. The #3 car was already guaranteed a spot thanks to Maro’s performance in last month’s Qualifying Race, and the team’s other two Mercedes easily made the cut. Dani would run ninth on the road in #4, with Maro in #3 following directly after. Adam was behind the wheel of #1, setting out 16th of the 30 cars. They were released at 10 second intervals, with one build-up lap followed by two flying laps to set their time. It was a nail-biting session, taking place under a warm evening sun: Maro completed his laps and posted an impressive time less than two seconds from pole that was good enough for seventh overall; #4 would line up 20th and #1 22nd.
As the clock reached 15:30 on Saturday, the first wave of the 157 starters in total streamed over the line, with Maro, Dani and Yelmer in the trio of Team Black Falcon Mercedes and Alex in the #65 Porsche. A few minutes later the second wave arrived, Gabriele in #72 towards the front, and then finally the third group with Fidel in #133 to the fore charged across, all kicking off their round-the-clock marathons. The opening segment of the race went well for the Porsches: #133 hit the front of their class before the end of the first hour, and #72 matched them in the second to lead SP10. However, there was frustration for the team as #3 suffered a serious setback during the third hour. A car ahead braked hard for a yellow flag and there was no chance for Thomas to avoid contact. He managed to bring the car back to the pits and the team worked hard to repair the damage and get #3 back on track – though they’d dropped right back, losing well over 100 places. But hour after hour they clawed back positions, neither the drivers nor the mechanics giving up despite losing so much time.
As the light began to fade and night drew in, #65 crashed in the Breidscheid section of the track and was forced to withdraw after enjoying a solid opening to the race, but the team’s other cars continued to fight on. Adam brought #1 into the top 10 during the first quarter of the race, running as high as fourth at one point and also as the highest-placed Mercedes, whilst the #4 crew were running strongly in the top 20. With 12 hours counted off, of the Mercedes #1 still hunted in the top 10, #4 was fighting for 17th and the recovering #3 crew was already on the periphery of the top 50. The #72 Cayman dominated SP10 and was even into the top 40 overall; #133 was 60th and leading V6.
As day broke, the team’s positions remained similar, with #3’s drivers continuing their impressive recovery. The two BLACK FALCON Team TMD Friction Porsches maintaining a relentless pace throughout the rest of the race. The drivers of both cars controlled their classes, always in contention for victory, before securing them with fine finishes. For once the weather seemed like it would play a smaller part in proceedings – until the last half hour that is, when a sudden deluge soaked the far side of the 26km the track, sending many cars sliding off the track and the majority of cars piling into a chaotic pit-lane to change to wet-weather tyres. Maro suffered a puncture in an incident during this phase, but recovered to the pits to change tyres and still managed to finish in a fighting fifth position, retaining the honour of first Mercedes home. #4 crossed the line in a fine 13th, whilst #3 claimed an impressive 23rd after regaining an incredibly 112 positions.
After the race, Sean-Paul Breslin, BLACK FALCON Team Principal, commented: “I’m really happy with the job that the team did at the toughest 24-hour race of the year, and we can be proud of what we’ve achieved here this weekend.”
Attention now returns to the VLN series, with the third race up in less than a month’s time. You can support Team BLACK FALCON across all social media platforms. Follow the team via twitter.com/TeamBlackFalcon, facebook.com/teamblackfalcon/ and instagram.com/teamblackfalcon to get live action updates direct from the tracks, as well as fantastic images of the team in action.