Monday, June 23, 2014

Nürburgring 24 Hours: Phoenix triumph in Nürburgring 24 Hours

Phoenix Racing Press Release

Haase/Mamerow/Rast/Winkelhock win in Audi R8

Christopher Haase, Christian Mamerow, René Rast and Markus Winkelhock in the Audi R8 LMS ultra of Phoenix Racing won the 42nd ADAC 24-hour race at the Nürburgring in front of more than 200,000 spectators. For Ernst Moser’s team, this marked the fourth triumph in the ‘Eifel marathon’ after 2000, 2003 and 2012. Two years ago Haase and Winkelhock, together with Marc Basseng and Frank Stippler, had produced the first Audi triumph in the 24-hour race on the legendary Nordschleife. And following the Le Mans 24 Hours Audi celebrated the second 24-hour success within just a week.

“I’m overjoyed,” beamed Phoenix Team Director Ernst Moser. “Not only the number of victories is decisive but proving that you’re in contention again and again, that’s what’s so special about it. We were optimally prepared and my guys, every single member of the team, just like the drivers, did an impeccable job. This is the victory of my squad.”

After 24 hours the #4 Phoenix Audi took the chequered flag with an advantage of 2m 59s over the Mercedes that was victorious last year. Third place, with a two-lap gap, went to Mercedes as well. The 159 laps completed have set a new distance record for the 24-hour race. For the first time, over 4,000 kilometres (4,035.102 km) were covered.

“In the Audi R8 LMS ultra we’ve got a very powerful car and we showed that we were able to counter even when the pressure increased now and then. From Saturday night on, we were leading the race most of the time but only an hour and a half before the end it was clear that we’d be able to expect victory. The minutes before the chequered flag was waved then proved particularly long and nerve-wracking,” admitted Ernst Moser.

The victorious quartet of Christopher Haase, Christian Mamerow, René Rast and Markus Winkelhock together with Ernst Moser enjoyed the winners’ champagne to the fullest. “It was simply brilliant that here at the Nürburgring, just like a week before at Le Mans, I was able to drive both the start and the final stint. That was a great honour for me and a tremendous experience,” said an enthusiastic René Rast. “I’d like to thank the Phoenix team that did a brilliant job as well as my fellow drivers. Nobody made any mistakes. That was the key to success and that’s also why we deserved winning.”

For Markus Winkelhock, after 2012, this marked the second triumph in the Nürburgring 24 Hours: “This victory is worth just as much as the first one and it feels exactly the same way too. Winning this race is a very special thing because you only get the chance to do that once a year. The competitiveness of the field was huge and it was a tough race. Everybody did a mega job.

For Christopher Haase, this was the second triumph after 2012 as well: “This is a brilliant day for me, for all of us. Standing on the very top of the podium twice is only possible with a perfect team. I take my hat off to everyone who has contributed to this victory. Plus, in the Audi R8 LMS ultra we had a perfect base.” Christian Mamerow was overjoyed too: “This victory makes me totally proud. It’s not a matter of fortune but of quality when a team like Phoenix wins this race several times. Phoenix was perfectly prepared and everything fit.”

In the top-30 qualifying session on Friday afternoon Christian Mamerow in the #4 Audi had clinched position three on the grid. After the start the #4 R8 initially dropped to fourth place but quickly made up ground to second place and fought impressive duels with the enormously strong competition in the process. A total of 165 GT sports cars and touring cars had started the endurance race through the ‘Green Hell’ at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, including more than two dozen candidates for victory.

How quickly hope can turn into disappointment was a bitter experience which Phoenix Racing, based in nearby Meuspath, had in the race as well. The second Audi R8 LMS ultra, driven by Marc Basseng, the three-time Le Mans winner Marcel Fässler, Frank Stippler and Laurens Vanthoor, retired after less than an hour and a half when start driver Basseng on a bump in the ‘Tiergarten’ track section lost control of the Audi and crashed into the guard rails. While Basseng, who like Stippler was part of the winning squad two years ago, was not injured in the incident a repair of the #3 Audi was out of the question.

The race turned into a true thriller in the early morning hours when the gap between the #4 R8 that was leading most of the time and its immediate rivals from Mercedes and BMW shrunk to less than a second. The GT3 sports cars chased each other bumper to bumper across the 25- kilometre Nordschleife, to the great delight of the fans. The Phoenix Audi prevailed in this remarkable three-way battle.

“Now we’re tired but happy and then we’re going to concentrate on the Norisring next weekend,” said Ernst Moser, who competes in the DTM with his Audi Sport Team Phoenix as the title defenders in the teams’ and drivers’ classification (with Mike Rockenfeller). “My thanks go to all who supported us in this 24-hour race, particularly to Audi Sport and Audi Sport customer racing, to Michelin and to our partner TÜV Rheinland.“

Photo credit: Audi Media