Tag Archives: Audi R8 LMS ultra

Time for Blancpain

One of the great successes in recent endurance racing is the Blancpain Endurance Series. Stéphane Ratel has come up with a formula for GT3 cars that has a widespread appeal.  As the jewel in the crown, the Spa 24 Hours, approaches, it seems appropriate to get the thoughts and reflections from our Special Correspondent.

An impressive 57 GT cars started the Blancpain Silverstone race, a week after the British GT series managed a splendid 46 starters for their “500” event. GT racing is certainly popular, but despite these successes, I pose the question: are there now too many GT races? On the very day of the Blancpain race, the British Endurance Series (Britcar) could only muster 8 starters for their Rockingham round and the GT Cup race at Brands Hatch had just 11 runners. These are series that have mustered healthy grids in the past, so is it all being overdone? It would seem to suggest so and this is a shame. Inevitably a consequence is an over-crowded calendar, of course. Much as we like them, fewer races, please, so that enthusiasts can attend more.
An unexpected and most welcome feature of Silverstone’s Blancpain round was the last-minute entry of a works Aston Martin, their V12 Vantage GT3. The car had been brought from the Nϋrburgring 24 Hours, given a quick work-out at Snetterton to adapt to the Pirelli tyres and taken thence to Silverstone.

2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone

That this car dominated the event was especially appropriate in Aston Martin’s Centenary year and it mirrors the appearance 60 years ago almost to the week of a single works Aston Martin winning the sports car race at Charterhall when Reg Parnell gave the DB3S its début (no GTs then!). The addition of the GT3 car to the regular Blancpain entry was very desirable – it makes the race more memorable and it breaks up the “package” concept whereby the same cars are expected at every round, so worryingly reminiscent of the unhealthily rigid situation in Formula One. Motor racing needs plenty of “natural” variety, with cars turning up when they’re ready, not because some selfish rules (motivated by greed) dictate that everyone has to come every time. Well done, Aston Martin, for coming when it suited your needs!

2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
The Audi R8 has gradually been coming good, winning the important 24 Hour races at the Nϋrburgring and Spa in 2012. They provided strong opposition at Silverstone and one was not surprised to find two of the very competitive Belgian WRT Team cars next home after the Aston. This is the Ortelli/Vanthoor/Rast second-placed example.
2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
Also offering strong competition were the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3s. The British team JRM has been developing these cars in conjunction with NISMO in Japan and was rewarded with 4th place. The RJN no. 35 machine even led the winning Aston in the early laps, in the end it won the Pro-Am category, finishing 10th.

2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
Disappointing were the McLarens – their best result was 7th courtesy of the Hexis team who had much success formerly with their Aston Martins. Like several others they elected to use the Woking cars for 2013 but these new cars seem to be off the pace at the moment. Above is the French ART Team MP4-12C three-wheeling out of Becketts.
2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
One of the particular joys of endurance sports/GT races is the presence of the subsidiary classes, especially when they throw up unexpected winners. Such was the case with the Gentlemens’ Trophy, the GTR category. This Slovakian-entered Porsche 997 GT3 R of the ARC Bratislava team came out top of the thirteen starters:
2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
Of the original 57 starters overall only 9 cars were unclassified, a most satisfactory reliability rate. Alas, one which failed was this Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 which understandably could not recover from an under-bonnet fire.

David Blumlein July 2013

The Ring Cycle

The first of the three great endurance classics was a week or two ago. The weather Gods frowned upon the event and yet those of us who got cold and wet were still smiling  A bad day on the Nordschleife is better than good days most anywhere. Our Special Correspondent braved the elements to bring you this commentary. Danke!

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It is not often that one drives down the main street in a town and passes under a bridge that looks just like a typical railway bridge except that it isn’t! No, this bridge (on the left) carries the race track of the Nϋrburgring’s Nordschleife (northern loop), and the track climbing up to the right can just be seen. This is the Adenau section of the circuit and the cars come down the hill from the left, cross the bridge and charge up the right hander on their way to Bergwerk.

A race circuit cutting through a town’s normal buildings – magic!

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The Nϋrburgring 24 Hours 2013 will go down in history for two main reasons. First, it contained the longest enforced suspension of racing in the 41 races run so far owing to the impossibly wet weather conditions – it was red-flagged at 22.44 p.m. when visibility was practically zero and racing only resumed at around 8 a.m. on the Monday. (Fog had already caused a stoppage in 1992 and 2007, and in 1973 the race format called for two 8-hour heats with an 8-hour break between).

Secondly, this was the first win in the event for Mercedes-Benz – BMW had been victorious no less than 19 times, Porsche 11, Ford 5, Chrysler 3 and Opel and Audi once each. The Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 has been developed into a reliable car and it gave Black Falcon yet another 24-hour victory, providing also a first time win for drivers Schneider, Bleekemolen, Thiim and Sean Edwards, the first Briton so to triumph.

173 cars started the 2013 race with 36 retirements (in 2007 there were 224 starters!) but each year this fascinating event attracts scant coverage in the British motoring journals, so a brief look at some of the contenders should go a little way to compensate:

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Aston Martin has long had positive links with the Nordschleife – who can forget the DBR1’s three successive wins in the 1,000 km races in 1957-59 thanks to the skill of C.A.S.Brooks and Stirling Moss with their three different co-drivers? The company now has a technical centre alongside the Döttinger Höhe section and has in recent years been a regular entrant in the 24 Hours. This year their works-backed Vantage GT3 shared the front row of the grid and was leading the race prior to the onset of the dreadful weather and the subsequent red flag. The wet conditions that persisted at first on the Monday morning did not suit the car and it had dropped back to tenth by the finish. The picture shows the car diving down to the Hatzenbach towards the end of the race.

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This Opel Manta seems to be a regular fixture in recent editions of the 24 Hour race. The crowds love it because the model dates from the Eighties and once again it completed the race, this year in 100th position.

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This Audi R8 LMS ultra of Phoenix Racing was one of the favourites, having sat on pole position at the start. Here it is climbing the rise out of the bridge at Adenau on its way to Bergwerk. After last year’s victory this was not Audi’s year – this car could not manage better than 8th.

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Nor was it BMW’s! The Z4 GT3s are very potent machines with 4.4-litre V8 engines (the road cars use 6-cylinder units) but this car , again a favourite, finished only 6th. BMW honour was upheld by Maxime Martin’s remarkable drive in the last hour or so when he snatched second place with the Team Marc VDS Z4 GT3 thus spoiling a 1-2-3 Mercedes finish!

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Peugeot has been scoring class wins in recent Nϋrburgring 24 Hour races with the RCZ coupés but this year they have been very anxious to promote their new 208 GTI model and all three of their entries completed the race, the best winning the class.

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The GT4 class was hotly contested with Porsche no. 56 running away with the class initially but in the end this BMW M3 GT4 finished first in the group on the road followed by a Ginetta G50. Alas it seems that both cars have since been disqualified!

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Cor Euser brought his GT4 Dubai 24-Hour class-winning Lotus Evora to the race in an attempt to repeat the performance. Unfortunately, American driver Shane Lewis not only crashed it in practice but out-braked himself in the race and damaged the car again. However, Euser does not give up easily and his team had the car repaired in time for it to do a final lap at the finish and qualify in 134th position.

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Alset Global, a company pioneering a hybrid hydrogen fuel system, entered into a collaboration with Aston Martin to develop a car that could take part in an international race using hydrogen as the fuel. Aston Martin chose their newly-released Rapide S model as the basis of this and it was intended that it should have its first outing thus equipped in the Nϋrburgring 24 Hours. The car is a hybrid and used hydrogen for a lap or so at the start of each driving stint, the normal fuel for the V-12 engine taking over for most of the time. In the course of the meeting the car did the first ever lap of the circuit using hydrogen only and thus entered the history books.

This car was run prior to the 24 Hour race in the second and third VLN races (the first was cancelled) to get it race-worthy but it only used petrol on these occasions.

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While on the subject of fuels, diesel cars have long had their own class in this race – BMW had the first outright win for a diesel car in an international race when it won here in 1998 – and the smoke being emitted from this 1-Series BMW confirms its  diesel status – it went on to win the class ahead of a Seat Leon.

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No Nϋrburgring 24 Hour race would be complete these days without the Manthey Team Porsches. Here is car no. 18 pedalled by the top works Porsche drivers. The flashing blue light in the windscreen is to warn drivers of slower cars that the really fast boys are approaching them!


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Mission accomplished – the three Peugeot 208 GTIs arrive at the finish.

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David Blumlein, June 2013