Tag Archives: VLN

A Primer on Sports Car Racing – Part Two

In the second part of his survey of the endurance motorsport scene, János Wimpffen considers the leading organisations in European GT racing, SRO, Creventic and VLN.


The Stéphane Ratel Organisation is now the granddaddy of European GT racing. Its antecedents go back to the BPR (Barth-Peter-Ratel) Global GT Series which began in 1994 and most famously provided the framework for the long-lived FIA GT Championship. After having lost its World Championship status SRO became semi-independent from the FIA which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.


SRO, through its former European GT3 Championship, was responsible for carving out a niche for the GT3 class and it has become the sole category for what has bifurcated into two quite different series. The present form of the Sprint Series began in 2010 and consists of two races during the weekend. The main function of the Qualifying Race, typically held on Saturday, is to set the grid for the Main Race. Both are one hour in length with pit stops and driver changes taking place during a mandated ten-minute mid-race window.


The SRO Sprint series is the most creative of all sports car series in testing the waters at some rather unique venues, including street courses in Baku and Moscow.

2013 BES Spa 24 Hours

The SRO Endurance Series primarily consists of three hour races with the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours as the season’s centerpiece. In many ways the Endurance championship is the spiritual successor to BPR as it caters largely to “gentleman” drivers. While the technical formula for both series is based on GT3, there are subsidiary classes reserved for non-pro rosters called Pro-Am and Am (Silver Cup in the Sprint Series).

2014 Spa 24 Hours

The Blancpain sponsored Endurance Series has grown into a very rich forum displaying all of the current GT3 machinery. New models for 2015 include the Lamborghini Hurracan and the McLaren 650S. Many other marques are currently circulating such as Audi, Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Nissan, Porsche, and Jaguar—the last being represented only by a troubled, privately built car.

Entries for the Endurance Series have frequently exceeded 60 cars but the Sprint Series rarely has made it to two dozen. The short races do offer no holds barred cut-and-thrust battles. It is rare for the entire field to make it through the opening lap unscathed. That expectancy of carnage is one reason why some teams have balked and run primarily in the endurance rounds. Orthodox sports car fans may balk at one-hour races being considered a major event but the made-for-TV / video game format has a special type of appeal. Both of the SRO series have exclusive agreements with Pirelli.

2013 Dubai 24

The Dutch based Creventic Organisation has emerged as another major player on the European scene. They have been managing the Dubai 24 Hours since 2006 and this race has steadily risen in prominence, becoming a wintertime jaunt for European runners. Creventic expanded the concept a bit with a loose series begun in 2008 and this year the all-Hankook shod 24 Hour Series has become a full-fledged FIA championship. Despite the title, many of the rounds are actually 12 hour races. The fields for Creventic races are an eclectic mix of GT, Touring and silhouette specials. Overall winners at Creventic races invariably are built GT3 specs. Called A6, they are slightly altered and frequently must run above a reference lap time—a variation on the BOP theme.

2014 Nurburgring 24

There are important endurance races which are independent of any series. The chief European example would be the Nürburgring 24 Hours. For most of this race’s 30 plus year existence it was primarily a gigantic German club race.

2014 Nurburgring 24

Many of teams in its almost preposterous starting fields of nearly 200 cars still fit the mold of club racers and come from the ranks of slower GT and Touring categories. However, the sharp end of GT3 (called SP9-GT3) has inexorably become the domain of the major factory teams and has been fiercely contested of late by BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. Further afield in Australia, the Bathurst 12 Hours has taken on a similar role as the antipode’s most significant independent GT endurance race.

Nürburg Notes

36th DMV 4 Hour Race.

There is something very special about being at the Nürburgring when the winner of the race is a Mercédès-Benz.

One recalls the company’s first post-war win on the Nordschleife in 1952, when a team of four 300SL models (uniquely in open form just this once) dominated the sports car race which accompanied the German Grand Prix that year. These cars had a close affinity to the current SLS AMG GT3 cars, as Engineer Rudi Uhlenhaut had been given permission by the Daimler-Benz board to create a sports car provided that it made as much use as possible of parts from the production 300 Saloon. The resultant car did admittedly have a space frame but it evolved a year or so later into the famous production gullwing 300SL Coupe which was as much a GT as anything at the time.

( Image courtesy of Daimler-Benz AG )

The occasion for this latest three-pointed star success was the second round of this year’s Veranstaltergemeinschaft  Langstreckenmeisterschaft Nürburgring or VLN for short!

It is a series of races round the Nordschleife “proper” circuit for GT/Touring cars and on average there are usually about 200 starters which, like the similar field in the 24 Hour race, are set off in three separate packs. It seems to work very well and if there is an incident official cars/rescue vehicles go round to the scene while everybody carries on racing – no safety cars picking up leaders here! There are plenty of classes to cater for different specifications – 26 categories in this race – and with such a long lap (14.2 miles) the cars are soon spread out.

This round was a four-hour event with 203 starters. Not surprisingly the manufacturers use these races as a preparation for the forthcoming 24 Hours. For example, BMW has elected to do the first three rounds this year, winning the season’s opener.

There were no less than eight of the new Mercédès taking part, all run by private teams but with the support of the factory. The car had made its competition debut here in the September 2010 VLN race but crashed early on; it scored its first win in the following round and took a third place in that year’s final race. (The car which finished 21st)

Porsche continued to develop its 911 Hybrid. This was the first appearance of this year’s new car: it is about 50 kilos lighter, has less engine power to improve economy and more power is sent to the front wheels. Also, the air intakes ahead of the rear wheels have been deleted.

The Aston Martin Test Centre nearby uses VLN races to perfect its products.

By the end of the race 63 cars had retired leaving 140 finishers. The always competitive Manthey Porsche followed the victorious Mercédès (driven by Chris Mamerow and Armin Hahne) home; then came one of the “works” BMWs, another Mercedes, the second factory BMW and in sixth place the first of the Audi R8s.


© 2011 Words and images by David Blumlein