Class podium for Black Falcon at VLN round 7

The seventh round of the 2017 VLN championship resulted in yet another class podium for Team BLACK FALCON. Fidel Leib and Axel König brought home silverware after scoring P2 with the #420 Porsche Carrera. This result represents the team’s 14th podium finish so far this year, with V6 providing particularly rich pickings: this was the eighth podium result in that class this year. This was complemented by the positive of the team’s new Mercedes-AMG GT4 successfully completing the four-hour race, finishing in a creditable 35th overall and fifth in the development-based SPX class.

Five cars were entered for VLN7: two Team BLACK FALCON Mercedes and a trio of BLACK FALCON Team TMD Friction Porsches. The #7 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was set to compete in SP9, and had Hubert Haupt (Germany) Yelmer Buuman (Netherlands), Manuel Metzger (Germany) and Erik Johansson (Sweden) on the driver roster. The #52 Mercedes-AMG GT4 was put in the hands of Carlos Gomez (USA), ‘Takis’ (Switzerland) and Jan Seyffarth (Germany). In SP10, the #171 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport was driven by Mustafa Mehmet Kaya (Turkey) and Gabriele Piana (Italy). Two V6-class Porsche 991 Carreras were entered: #394 featured Alexander Akimenkov (Russian Federation), Olaf Schlüter (Germany) and Vasilii Selivanov (Russian Federation), while Axel König (Germany) and Fidel Leib (Germany) drove #420.

A light mist hung over the Nordschleife ahead of Qualifying; the sound of 165 racing engines shattered the still of the early morning, signaling the start of the 90-minute session. A little overnight rain meant the air felt damp and water hung in the trees, but the track was effectively dry and the sun soon burnt off what moisture there was. Cars streamed onto the track as soon as the session went green, and finding space around the track was an issue for all the Team BLACK FALCON drivers, particularly for the SP9 and SPX drivers having to thread their way past slower cars. There were several incidents that required local yellows, interrupting the flow of the session, but then the worst news came over the radio. With less than half an hour to go, #7 disappeared off the timing screen. Manuel had crashed in the super-fast Pflanzgarten section, and despite having set the ninth fastest time overall the car was too badly damaged for the team to repair in the short gap between Qualifying and the race.

Better news following the session was that #52 out-paced the second Mercedes-AMG GT4 that was entered in VLN7, on the way to setting the 30th fastest time overall. They were fifth in SPX, but the class position was misleading as several development GT3s were also entered in the same class. #171 would line up 44th overall, third in SP10, while the #420 and #394 qualified in 76th and 89th respectively, a strong second and third in V6. However, #394 were judged to have exceeded the speed limit in one of the Code 60 zones, put in place to moderate speeds in sections of the track where a car has crashed or had a problem. Their penalty was to be put to the back of the second section of the grid.

No sooner had Qualifying finished than Team BLACK FALCON’s four remaining cars were already being lined up on the massive three-part grid. Carlos would take the start in #52, Gabriele in #171, Axel in #420 and Alexander in #394. As the second wave of cars took off for their formation lap, Alexander joined the back from the pit-lane. The starts for all threes waves of cars – 162 starters in total – were all clean, and the four hours of VLN7 got underway. However, just half an hour in Gabriele was involved in a high-speed collision with another Porsche. He managed to get #171 back to the pits and the mechanics raced into action. Despite the extensive damage they were able to repair the car, and within 20 minutes #171 was back on track – though they had dropped to the tail of the field. Unfortunately, soon afterwards #394 ran over debris that littered the track from another incident, slicing a hose in the cooling system of #394. He was forced to pull over and stop the car at the next emergency exit, bringing an end to #394’s strong run to that point.

The #52 crew dropped back slightly during the first half of the race, fighting amongst Cup cars in the mid-40s, position wise, before inexorably fighting their way back up as the clock ticked down. #420’s drivers kept in touch with the V6 podium throughout the race, although the leading car was just that bit too far ahead to catch. Any chance of improving further for Team BLACK FALCON’s drivers was thwarted when with just 25 minutes left on the clock the red flag was thrown, bringing a premature end to VLN7. A major incident in the Fuchsröhre section of the track required the mobilisation of multiple recovery and safety vehicles, and there wouldn’t be time to restart the race. Initially the timing was thrown into disarray, with cars who had just started laps taking the Grand Prix cut-through back to the pits and confusing the timing screens, but when the timing shook out #52 was classified as 35th across the line and fourth in the SPX class. #420 was placed 66th, second in class and claiming yet another V6 podium for BLACK FALCON Team TMD Friction. #171 had battled on despite its near-vertical fall down the order, but successfully made the finish; they were classified 135th, fifth in SP10. This was an exception to the driver pairing’s usually excellent results.

There are just two weeks until the next race at the Nürburgring, which doesn’t give the team much chance to draw breath before returning to the track. But with two races left in the 2017 championship, there are still plenty more opportunities to add to the impressive collection of silverware that Team BLACK FALCON have amassed so far, and the work will be continuous back at the team’s Meuspath base to make sure they’re on the best possible form for the penultimate round on October 7th.

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