Kevin Estre made a 10-position charge to lead the Nürburgring 24 before heavy rain on part of the Nordschleife forced the leaders to make wet tire switches in the first hour.
Estre started 11th in the No. 911 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R that he shares with Lars Kern, Michael Christensen and Matteo Cairoli but had advanced to third by the end of the opening lap.
The Frenchman then drove past Nicky Catsburg in the pole-sitting ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 on the high-speed run down through Metzgesfeld before setting off in pursuit of Luca Stolz’s No. 4 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
Stolz had overtaken Catsburg for the lead on the opening lap, powering past the Dutchman on the exit of Aremberg.
Estre found a way past Stolz, who had built up a seven-second lead after lap one, with 36 minutes complete by drafting past the Mercedes-AMG on the Dottinger Hohe straight.
On the following lap, heavy rainfall on the run down to Aremberg resulted in several cars from classes outside the top SP9 category spinning and hitting the barriers.
This change of conditions prompted the leaders – headed up by Estre, Stolz, Catsburg and Schubert BMW driver Jens Klingmann – to ditch their slick tires for wet compounds.
Estre maintained the net lead but three cars including the No. 7 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG driven by Raffaele Marciello stayed out for another lap.
Once Marciello, Moritz Kranz and Sven Mueller pitted, Estre was released back into the lead from Stolz, Catsburg and Audi Sport Team Phoenix’s Robin Frijns who was up to fourth having passed Porsche drivers Julien Andlauer and Frederic Makowiecki in quick succession coming out of Flugplatz before the pit stops.
That move gave Frijns sixth, while slow stops for Klingmann’s Schubert BMW and Marco Mapelli’s Hankook FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo made two more places.
Konrad Motorsport’s front-row starting Lamborghini dropped to fourth on the opening lap before picking up an issue on its left-rear corner to drop it out of contention early on.
Following the tire changes, Estre briefly lost the lead to Stolz exiting Schwalbenschwanz but returned the favor on the Dottinger Hohe where the Porsche has appeared strong.