Le Mans Series, round 4 on the Nürburgring, Preview
It is kinda odd that both both Audi and Porsche will be racing their prototypes in Germany for the first time.
After securing wins in Spain, Italy and Belgium, the Porsche RS Spyder now races on home ground for the first time. At the fourth of five rounds of the European Le Mans Series (LMS) three of the 476 hp sports prototypes, developed and built in Weissach, take up the race for LMP2 class honours from 15th to 17th August on the Nürburgring. The RS Spyder, fielded by Porsche customer teams Van Merksteijn Motorsport (Netherlands), Essex (Denmark) and Horag Racing (Switzerland), rekindle memories of Porsche’s great tradition on the Eifel track. Fascinating motorsport is guaranteed at the 1,000 kilometre race – alone considering the entry list of almost 50 race cars on the 5.148 kilometre Grand Prix circuit. Porsche is also represented in the GT2 class for near-standard sports cars with six 911 GT3 RSR vehicles.
“The RS Spyder’s first race on German soil, and in particular the Nürburgring, is something very special for us,” says Hartmut Kristen, Head of Motorsport at Porsche. “It’ll certainly be exciting and a real highlight for spectators.”
The RS Spyder racers travel to the Eifel with an immaculate track record. Following a win at the season-opener of the LMS in Barcelona came two triple victories in Monza and Spa. Currently leading the LMP2 drivers’ championship is the ex-Formula 1 pilot Jos Verstappen and Peter van Merksteijn. Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) celebrates a premiere in the Le Mans Series in August, although teamed up with his compatriots van Merksteijn and Verstappen they form a formidable trio: In June they won the Le Mans 24 hour race with the RS Spyder. “After the long break in the LMS I can hardly wait for the Nürburgring race,” says the two-time LMS winner Verstappen. “This circuit will be particularly suitable for our car. The RS Spyder has excellent balance and its high downforce makes it a true master of cornering.”
Their toughest rivals hail from Denmark. Only six points separate sports car legend John Nielsen and Casper Elgaard of the Essex team from the leaders. The pair celebrated a win in Monza as well as two third results in Barcelona and Spa. For the 52-year-old Essex team manager Nielsen, the Nürburgring is a little piece of home: “I conducted tyre tests with Porsche vehicles for nine years here in the mid-eighties. I feel right at home in the Eifel.”
Making up the proven squad of the Swiss Horag team are ex-Formula 1 driver Jan Lammers (Netherlands), Belgium’s Didier Theys as well as Fredy Lienhard (Switzerland). Lammers and Theys currently rank third in their classification after claiming third in Monza and second in Spa. Lienhard is sixth due to missing one round. During tests in Magny Cours, the team gained crucial information for the rest of the season. Lienhard comments: “To stay in the swing of things we also practiced our pit stops.”
In the GT2 class for near-standard vehicles, only one point separates the top placed Porsche pairing in their 911 GT3 RSR from the points’ leader. Porsche works driver Marc Lieb from Germany and his Australian team mate Alex Davison (Felbermayr Proton team) hold 19 points, Robert Bell/Gianmaria Bruni (Ferrari) have 20. “The race in the Eifel will not be easy for us. With many slow and semi-fast corners on this circuit we won’t be able to make the most of our power advantage,” explains Lieb, the 2005 and 2006 GT2 champion. “But to win on the Nürburgring would be especially wonderful.”
The trio competing for the Farnbacher Racing team, Porsche works driver Richard Westbrook (Great Britain) as well as Lars Erik Nielsen (Denmark) and Allan Simonsen (Australia), currently rank sixth with ten points each. Factory driver Richard Lietz (Austria) and his French team mate Raymond Narac (IMSA Performance Matmut) sit eighth in their classification with nine points each. Horst Felbermayr Jr. (Austria) and Germany’s Christian Ried each have six points. The pair shares driving duties with Horst Felbermayr Snr.
The race takes off on 17th August at 12.05 hrs and receives the flag after 195 laps or a maximum of six hours. Eurosport 2 broadcasts from 12.00 to 14.00 hours and from 17.00 to 18.00 hrs.