Stephen Errity, GT Correspondent
With 19 hours down and five to go at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, still no-one has managed to pull out a convincing advantage at the front of the field. As the clock moved towards 11am, the #3 Team Phoenix Audi R8 had moved into the lead, after the #22 Rowe Racing Mercedes SLS suffered a heavy landing that damaged one of its dampers. Prior to this, the two cars had been circulating the Nordschleife nose-to-tail after over 18 hours of racing – testament to just how close this year's edition of the Nurburgring 24 Hours is.
BMW have first place in their sights again, as the #20 car is now running second. But the mechanics have to remove the car's engine cover at every pitstop, suggesting a possible overheating problem that may prevent Hurtgen, Schwager, Bastian and Adorf pushing hard for the win in the closing stages using the very quick pace they've occasionally shown during the race.
The #11 Manthey Racing Porsche also profited from the #22's misfortune and is now firmly ensconced in an overall podium position in third. Its sister #10 car has had much poorer luck, however: Joe Tandy was at the wheel when it first suffered a puncture that caused severe bodywork damage. Then, after rejoining the race following a long repair in the garage, he had to pull over to the side of the track in a cloud of smoke.
Fourth place is still the exclusive domain of the #65 Hankook-Heico Mercedes, which seems to have settled into a slower pace than the leaders, having looked like a potential race winner early on. Meanwhile, the #9 Raeder Motorsport Audi R8 had been making good progress until Thomas Mutsch crashed it heavily near Pflanzgarten, bouncing the front-left corner off the barriers and taking the car out of a strong fifth place overall.
The latter incident has promoted the #26 Mamerow Audi to fifth, followed by the #66 'H- H' Mercedes. Seventh is where the Rowe Racing Mercedes emerged after its unscheduled service stop, while the Marc VDS drivers have continued to circulate their BMW consistently after its earlier reliability troubles, and they now find themselves just two laps off the leader in eighth.