52. ADAC RAVENOL 24h Nürburgring 2024 - Foto: Gruppe C Photography

Pista – ROWE RACING experiences a busy weekend with a controversial outcome at the shortest ADAC 24h Nürburgring

For ROWE RACING, the 52nd edition of the ADAC 24h Nürburgring was a busy race weekend with severe setbacks, great fighting spirit, and ultimately a controversial ending due to adverse weather conditions. A race interruption of over 14 hours due to dense fog and an early race end at 15:05, instead of the usual first finish after 16.00, made it the shortest “Eifel Marathon” since its inception in 1970. While the #99 BMW M4 GT3, which had been leading the race on Saturday evening, was taken out of the race through no fault of its own in a serious accident caused by another vehicle, the sister car with #98 was provisionally placed seventh in the final results.

The provisional result was due to ROWE RACING lodging a protest against the race classification. According to the team, the race had not been properly concluded, and the failure to account for the minimum pit stop times affected the results to the detriment of the team from St. Ingbert and other teams. The stewards dismissed ROWE RACING’s protest, stating that even if there had been an error in the early race conclusion, the team did not suffer a disadvantage. ROWE RACING disagrees and has announced an appeal, which will be heard by the sports court of the German Motor Sport Federation (DMSB).

In the early stages of the race, the #99 BMW M4 GT3 was one of the main contenders. Starting driver Augusto Farfus from Brazil moved from eighth to third at the start amidst rain and then to second place within the first lap. He then engaged in an exciting battle with Kevin Estre in the Manthey-Porsche for the lead, which he secured after the first pit stop with a significant margin. South African driver Sheldon van der Linde continued the dominant performance at the front until he was rear-ended by a slower vehicle while lapping, causing a serious accident involving three cars on lap 22. Sheldon van der Linde and the other two drivers were unharmed, but the race was over for the heavily damaged #99 BMW M4 GT3. Belgian driver Dries Vanthoor and Dutch driver Robin Frijns did not get to race.

In the #98 BMW M4 GT3, two-time German DTM champion Marco Wittmann, Belgian Maxime Martin, Swiss Raffaele Marciello, and Augusto Farfus executed a strong comeback from start position 22, moving into the top-10 after an early switch to rain tyres right after the formation lap. They were in seventh place when the race was red-flagged at 23:23 due to thick fog. After accounting for the minimum pit stop times, the #98 was placed eighth in the restart line-up.

The restart took place at 13:30 on Sunday with neutralised formation laps behind a Leading Car announced by race control. After the third of these five laps, Raffaele Marciello pitted for refuelling and new tyres, rejoining the field in a similar manner as other teams employing the same strategy. In the fifth formation lap, race control announced the race end at the next crossing of the finish line, waving the checkered flag at 15:05 and taking the current order as the final result, placing the #98 in seventh.

Hans-Peter Naundorf, Team Principal ROWE RACING: “I want to make it very clear that our decision to appeal to the DMSB court is not about begrudging other teams their success. Our concern is that the often very complex regulations in our sport are applied reliably and correctly, and that all participants can rely on this. In our view, the race was not concluded in accordance with the rules by race control. We want this matter to be clarified by the DMSB appeals court. Since yesterday, I have received a lot of support from other teams and manufacturers who share our assessment of the situation. A clarification of the regulations would benefit all participants in the future, and ultimately the organizers as well.”

Sheldon van der Linde (#99 BMW M4 GT3, ROWE RACING): “My heart hurts after such an accident, and it wasn’t my fault. If I were in that situation again, I would do exactly the same thing. I believe the driver in the other car didn’t see me. I was in her blind spot as I passed. I was almost past, and then she hit me on the left rear. Then I hit another car that was completely uninvolved, and that’s how it happened. A racing incident. But at the end of the day, we were out after leading for so long and that hurts, also for the team, which puts so much work into it. We work almost half a year towards a 24-hour race, and then it goes so wrong.”