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VLN, 55th ADAC-ACAS H&R Cup - Race Report
Fässler's First

All images © Sören Herweg

After the weather treated the competitors to a beautiful spring day at the VLN season opener, the bad stuff struck back at the second race, the 55th ADAC ACAS H&R Cup; cold temperatures – going into the low single digits – rain and fog greeting the 211 cars and over 500 drivers.

Best at coping with these conditions was definitely Uwe Alzen, with the BMW works driver putting his privateer-run BMW Z4 GT3 on pole position after taking advantage of the Dunlop full-wets that were working beautifully around the Nordschleife. However, after checking the GPS tracking of all the cars after qualifying, race control deemed that the Z4 hadn’t kept to the mandatory 60 km/h in a zone where the double yellow flag was out, and this lead to Alzen being moved back five places on the starting grid. Pole position was thus inherited by Lance-David Arnold in one of the three Rowe Racing Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3s. Rounding out the front row was the G-Drive livered Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra of Frank Stippler and Marcel Fässler.

Because of the fog moving back in right when the field was supposed to set off on its formation lap, race control took another critical decision and gave the whole field two formation laps around the complete track; but the clock started ticking after the first of the two laps behind the safety car. When the field came back to the GP circuit for the second time, there was still heavy fog around but race control decided to pull in the safety car and let the pack loose. Fässler was able to jump Arnold on the GP circuit and lead the field onto the first flying-lap of the Green Hell. Also able to slip past the gullwinged sportscar was Christopher Brück in one of the two Timbuli Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, which came from eighth on the grid.

But there were also two other drivers on a charge: Uwe Alzen got his Dunlop wet tires to work perfectly once again and cut through the field like a knife, taking the lead during the second green-flagged lap; while also getting back past the Timbuli and Phoenix cars was Lance-David Arnold, who followed Alzen’s lead on Lap 2. Also on a charge during the opening hour was Christian Menzel, in one of the Manthey-Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cups; staying constantly in the top five amongst much stronger GT3 cars.

Up ahead, Alzen was able to get away from the second placed Rowe SLS, which was in a hard fight with the Phoenix Audi and the Timbuli Porsche. The first of the top four to head for the pits was Arnold, who visited the Rowe Racing crew after nine laps, followed by Brück. Because Arnold stayed in the car for another short stint, he was able to slip past Alzen up until his second pit stop on Lap 13.

Coming from a starting slot of tenth, the BMW Team Schubert Z4 GT3 of Dirk Adorf, Jens Klingmann and Martin Tomczyk found itself in fourth position with 90 minutes to go, with ahead of it still being the Alzen BMW, Phoenix Audi and Rowe Mercedes. With Sven Hannawald in the Rowe SLS being much slower than Martin Tomczyk, the BMW was able to make up another position on Lap 15. Hannawald kept on falling back, with his teammate Thorsten Drewes eventually bringing the gullwinged Benz home in 14th.

When Alzen handed his BMW over to teammates Alexander Margaritis and (later) Philipp Wlazik, the Z4 started to fall from the lead position; and a Stop/Go penalty for breaking the pitstop-time rule moved them back further. Eventually the car finished in seventh. Still in third place with about 30 minutes to go was Christian Menzel, but a gearbox failure left the car stranded, robbing Menzel and Kohler of a well deserved potential podium-finish. Taking advantage of their competitors tough luck was the Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra, which took the win after 24 completed laps. “This is my first overall victory in VLN and I hope this is a good sign for out campaign in the 24 hours, when I’ll be in the new guy in the car of last year’s overall winners,” said Marcel Fässler. “Today’s race was pretty tough; in the wet we lacked a little bit of the pace of some of our competitors, but when the track started to dry up Frank was able to make up the lost ground.”

Despite also having to serve a Stop/Go penalty for breaking the pitstop-timing rule, the BMW Team Schubert Z4 GT3 of Adorf, Klingmann and Tomczyk finished the race in second. “We crossed the pitlane exit just a fraction of a second too early, so had to come back in and do the penalty,” said Dirk Adorf. “We lost vital ground in the opening laps, because in the spray you just can’t go full throttle. After this car took third at the last race, we are really happy with the second place; and now we want to keep this trend going and go for first in the 24 Hours!”

Barely noticed by anyone was the third place finisher, the Timbuli Racing Porsche 911 of Marco Seefried, Pierre Kaffer and Norbert Siedler. The 911 came from 29th on the grid to finish 26 places further up ahead. “In the qualifying our last lap attempt was denied, when someone hit our car,” said Seefried.” I did the opening stint, and I thought it was going to be madness out there, but surprisingly there wasn’t the expected carnage. I was expecting to have many double yellow areas on Lap 2, but there were just one or two. In my stint we were able to make up about 20 places and I left the final positions to make up to Pierre and Norbert.”

A last-lap pass gave the Frikadelli Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R position four ahead of the Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3. The AMR squad was able to gain valuable data in the wet running and kept out of trouble all race long. The second Timbuli Porsche crossed the line in sixth, ahead of the Alzen BMW and the second Schubert BMW. Starting from the pitlane Sean Edwards, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Bernd Schneider brought their Black Falcon Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3 home in tenth place, one behind the second G-Drive livered Phoenix Audi.

The next VLN-race takes place on June 22nd; but ahead of the 44th Adenauer ADAC Simfy Trophy is the Nürburgring 24 Hours in three weeks’ time.

Sören Herweg