A typical summer climate and an attendance for big event spectators were the setting of the 24th ADAC 1000 km-Rennen, which took place on a circuit in an infrastructural updating in view of the 2009 German Grand Prix. After the Audis performance, first at the 1000 km Spa and further on at the Le Mans 24 hours, we could expect to be present at a duel on the thousandth edge between the R10 and Peugeots, also in consideration of the features of the track. But since the free practice sessions we have been taking note of the thirst for revenge pervading the Lions of France after being defeated in mid-June on Sarthe circuit. The two 908 HDI cars turned out to be constantly unapproachable, also because some setting up problem characterized the week end of two Capello-McNish.
During the free practice session the LMP2 situation was more balanced with Porsches of the Van Merksteijn and Essex teams that were taking turns in the lead, closely followed by Zytek of Barazi and Lolas of the Speedy Racing and RML teams, by the end separated by less than one second. The Team Modena Aston Martin showed no fear of the Corvettes and Lamborghini competition in LMGT1, lapping less than the opponents and however taking a good lead over the others. In the LMGT2 session there were instants of drama for the Virgo Ferrari, the back of the car was caught by fire during the free practice second session and obliged Bell to hurriedly park his car near a marshall post. The Ferrari number 96 offside, the Felbermayr Team Porsche and Farnbacher cars were left to compete for the first place.
Finally, it’s worth noting the quarrel lasting between Racing Box and Lucchini: as it already happened after one day from the beginning of Le Mans 24 hours, the constructor hasn’t produced the conformity certificate needed for entering the race and to the team was only left to go back to Novara already on Friday.
On Saturday the two turns qualifying session represented the two faces of the up-to-date motor racing: in the first session devoted to Gt cars, the best cars in the two categories have dominated, setting a result that we have partially been expecting since the free practice, on Friday while in the session on Prototypes, many surprises have shuffled the cards put on the table in view of the race.
Among the LMP1s, as already happened during the free practice sessions, Peugeots dominated, being able to afford for never lapping at the same time: in the first minutes, here comes Lamy who taking advantage of a free track during his fourth lap, has set the temporary best time of 1:39:515. Afterwards, just when the Portuguese went back to pit stops, the team let Genè be taken to the track, the driver managed in three passes only to get Pole with the time of 1:39:492. For their part Audis have been looking for the good lap since the very first minutes, being, however, slowed down by the heavy traffic, present on track, which prevented them to go down 1:40:978 (Premat) and 1:41:027 (Capello). However, surprise came up at only three minutes from the checkered flag, when Lola Astin Martin driven by Mucke set the overall third time of 1:40:951; the Berlin driver made the most of the new car, proving the good performance of the project. Among the other cars of the queen category is worth while pointing out the competitive degree of Courage Oreca cars, with Panis placed 6th and Ortelli placed 8th , and the important improvements made by Epsilon Euskadi, able to catch the tenth time overall with Valles.
The second surprise was the one given by Verstappen and Elgaard Porsche prototypes, which alternating on the LMP2 top classification, ended by stopping the clocks at 1:43:169 and 1:43:608 which permitted him to gain the 7th and the 9th time overall. Behind them Belicchi, always quick, at the wheel of Lola and Verger with Zytek of Barazzi team, only a second after the Dutch driver.
In LMGT1 category Aston Martin gained the best time of 1:52:387 running one only timed lap at five minutes from the end of qualification, while throughout the session he had let the two Corvettes of Luc Alphand Adventures face each other and at the end more than a second separated.
Among the smaller LMGT2 there was a fierce battle between the Farnbacher Ferrari, driven by Beltoise and Porsches: at the end the French driver managed to stop the clocks at the best time, followed by the 997 cars of Felbermayr and IMSA Performance teams. On the contrary, the Virgo Team Ferrari didn’t enter the qualifying practice, whose technicians went on working hard to repair the Ferrari so as to be able to ultimate the car in view of the race.
On Sunday when the cars went out from their pits to take place on the starting grid, the sun, which was shining on the circuit, started looking threatening with a thick mass of clouds: the threatened rain won’t peep out on the circuit, but the variable weather will make all pits people quite anxious. Latest hour news was Panis’ subjudice participation (pending judicial decision) for his blocking the pit lane during qualifying practice, the relegation of the Corvette driven by Beretta to the last position and the presence of the Virgo Ferrari on track, whose technicians managed to perform a real miracle.
At start Peugeots were not taken by surprise by their opponents, lining up and taking the lead on the first hairpin bend: behind them Premat came up by the Mucke’s side, but the outside path chosen by the German let him keep the third position in acceleration, before the pair Audi; behind them Barazi ended by spinning right round, luckily avoided by all the group. The two 908 HDI were immediately dominating with a frantic rate and managed to gain three seconds every lap over the Lola Charouz, marked closely by the Audi number 2, decidedly quicker: at the beginning of the fourth lap, Premat followed in the adversary’s wake coming up by his side at the first hairpin bend and overtaking him. From now on the rate that the Joest young crew will manage to make will be good, but never comparable with the one of the Lions of France, who, in fact, will go on outdistancing. Also Capello tried to press hard but, because of the RTL Kurve small off-track due to the wheels locking (that all over the week end made the Audi number 1 drive difficult), the Italian driver will have to wait for other ten laps before being in a position to restore Le Mans Series hierarchy completely. Behind the first five drivers Oreca driven by Panis ran undisturbed, while the twin car and the Pescarolo with Collard scarcely managed to get the better of the Verstappen Porsche: for the Pescarolo team this 1000 km Nurburgring will represent one of the most difficult week ends of the last years: while Premat and Tinseau will be forced to an innumerable series of pit stops, Boullion will finish his race on the 97th lap getting stuck in the gravel of an escape way.
Meantime Sarrazin started to let him seen in the Minassian’s rear view-mirrors, ending by overtaking him while Peugeot technicians were starting to prepare first refueling series: ten days later on, however, at the pit exit Minassian found himself in the lead. Also in the Audi house there will be a family struggle, with a sensational Mc Nish undertaken to reduce the gap lap by lap from Rockenfeller.
Among the LMP2s a great battle broke out between the Porsches, with the Essex team car and the Van Marksteijn one, separated by only 299 thousandth of seconds after one hour race. Unluckily a misunderstanding with a lapping obliged the car driven by Elgaard to run off-track, which delayed him significantly and compelled the two drivers to a desperate run-up that finally will bring them to a well deserved third step podium of the class. Suffering from a trouble to the braking system the Horag team Porsche saw vanishing an important score, like the Speedy Racing team, at the second place for a long time. At the end the win was gained by the pair Verstappen/Bleekemolen, with Jos 2008 champion crown of LMP2, followed by more and more surprising Ragues and Lahaye (already placed third at Le Mans 24 hours) who gained an incredible second place thanks to a very careful race.
Among LMGT1s a race without history, with Aston Martin that was sure of winning an hour earlier the checkered flag. In fact, the Corvettes were damaged by two touches occurred with as many prototypes during the second hour of race: as there wasn’t the available part to be replaced on the Alphand’s car (the tank closure valve), the pit technicians decided to stop the twin car definitively to dismantle it from that car and permit the former ski champion to run again and finish second. The second crew sacrifice practically made the team win the LMGT1 title, unless a retire at Silverstone and a contemporaneous Aston Martin victory.
In LMGT2 the Virgo had no rivals: started from the last position it constantly made laps quickly and has already taken the lead by the end of the first hour with a twenty seconds’ gap over its direct rivals. At the end of the race the difference over mate Lieb/Davison will be even of two laps in hand. The meeting for the title between these crews will be put off at Silverstone. Coming back to the lead of the race, the win was decided on the 61st lap, when the car number 7 suffered some problem of ignition from the pit-stop restart: when Gené replacing Minassian, went back onto track, Lamy’s gap was about 20 seconds, too many to justify a crazy run-up. Behind them McNish managed to overtake the Audi number 2 after a long struggle, but at only three laps before the end, officially for a tire problem but more probably not to let Rockfeller and Premat have one point less in the classification, McNish was called back to pits and finished fourth. Finally a good performance for the Lola Charouz, fifth on the finishing line, even if it was separated by six laps due to a non excellent performance of the young driver from Czech republic, of Ortelli the sixth overall and Campbell Walter, the eighth overall and the seventh in the class, both coming back from Monza accidents.
A very significant win was the one gained by the Lions of France over the eagles of Germany, not so much for the result in itself as for the performance shown throughout the week end. Now if Audi wants to try to gain the title, will have to work overtime to prepare and to its utmost for the Silverstone appointment.