Manthey Racing Porsche drivers Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Matteo Cairoli became first-time Nürburgring 24 winners in the event’s shortest race to date which ran to only 59 laps after being interrupted by a near 15-hour-long overnight red flag period.
Estre crossed the line 8.8 seconds clear of Sheldon van der Linde in the No. 98 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3, after emerging from his final pit stop ahead of the South African who teamed up with Connor de Phillippi, Martin Tomczyk and Marco Wittmann.
Estre controlled the gap over the remaining four laps to clinch Porsche’s first Nürburgring 24 triumph since 2018 when Manthey – which now has seven wins to its name – prevailed with Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz.
Manthey started from 11th on the grid but a charging first stint from Estre put the ‘Grello’ Porsche 911 GT3 R into first position at the end of the opening hour.
Despite Estre losing the lead in hour three to Luca Stolz aboard the No. 4 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, Manthey remained in contention through to the end of six hours when the race was red-flagged due to heavy fog around the 25 km circuit.
The stoppage, which was initiated at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, lasted for more than half the race and was only brought to an end with a green flag at midday on Sunday.
This made the 49th edition of the Eifel enduro the shortest to date, with the winner’s 59-lap total undercutting the previous record of 76 laps posted by the 1992 winning car.
The ensuing three and a half hours of racing after the long interruption involved several incidents and saw multiple high-running GT3-spec SP9 cars encounter trouble.
One notable casualty was the No. 4 HRT Mercedes-AMG which crashed out from second at Tiergarten around 30 minutes after the restart.
This initially helped leader Philipp Eng in the No. 1 ROWE Racing BMW, but the Austrian was forced to serve a long first pit stop after the red flag which dropped him outside the top 10 and passed the lead to Estre, who had overtaken Tomczyk at the green flag.
ROWE then retired its 2020-winning car due to an electrical issue, pinning its hopes on the No. 98 sister BMW which had run a solid race from 24th on the grid.
A short six-lap stint from Van der Linde enabled the BMW to take the lead, but ROWE’s strategy left it with a final stop that would take place two laps earlier than Manthey’s.
Manthey completed its final service in 1m 47s, almost a minute quicker than ROWE, and managed to return Estre to the front with Van der Linde pursuing to the checkered flag.
Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed’s No. 7 crew of Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Juncadella and Maximilian Goetz completed the podium in an entertaining five-car scrap for third.
Marciello overtook Falken Motorsports Porsche driver Sven Mueller at the Aremberg right-hander in the final 10 minutes to access the top-three.
Mueller and his Falken co-drivers Klaus Bachler, Alessio Picariello and Martin Ragginger settled for fourth at the end, under pressure from Christopher Haase who overtook a handful of cars in a brilliant last couple of laps for Audi Sport Team Car Collection.
Haase, who teamed up with Markus Winkelhock and Nico Mueller, finished less than two-tenths behind Mueller at the line in the highest-finishing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.
Audi Sport Team Phoenix crashed out in the early stages, while Audi Sport Team Land fell back after an off in the last two hours that almost collected Estre in the leading Porsche.
Other high-profile entries to fall by the wayside late on included the Rutronik Racing Porsche, the No. 6 HRT Mercedes-AMG, the No. 31 Frikadelli Porsche and the No. 77 BMW Junior Team M6 GT3.
The latter two cars came together when Frikadelli’s Patrick Pilet ran into a slow-running Augusto Farfus on the run out of Kallenhard.
Schubert Motorsport’s BMW driven by Alexander Sims, Stef Dusseldop, Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn came through in sixth, from the No. 8 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG which formed the tail end of the podium-contending quintet.
Huber Motorsport’s Pro-Am Porsche finished an impressive eighth, from the other Falken 911 GT3 R and the 10Q Racing Team Mercedes-AMG which rounded out the top 10.
RESULT: Nürburgring 24 (Provisional)