Nurburgring 24h: Engel storms to third pole in Top Qualifying

Mercedes star Maro Engel took pole position for the 2020 Nurburgring 24 hours in dominant fashion, beating octane126's Luca Ludwig by almost five seconds in difficult wet/dry conditions in Top Qualifying.

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Engel, 25, first had to qualify for the second session during Top Qualifying 1 thanks to the N24h’s all-new, MotoGP-inspired, two-part qualifying format. The #4 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes wasn't able to secure a spot in Top Qualifying 2 during this season's NLS races.

However, Engel was fastest in every single lap in a flawless display, first setting fastest time in Top Qualifying 1, to then smash the opposition in Top Qualifying 2 in 8m57.884s, the only driver to duck below the nine-minute mark.

Tyre choice proved to be crucial on a typical ‘Eifelwetter’ day with occasional rain showers affecting only certain parts of the track. Engel's so-called ‘drying wet’ Michelin rubber proved to be the correct choice.

Dunlop-shod Ludwig, who was the last driver to start the two-lap-shootout, managed the second fastest time despite a new Balance of Performance ahead of the event, which slowed the Ferrari 488 GT3 down after the car was found to run on too much horsepower in the NLS races due to a skewed run on the dyno during the winter. However, the German was 4.93-seconds down on Engel's impressive time.

Two more Mercedes-AMG GT3 will make up the second row of tomorrow's grid: Raffaele Marciello set third-fastest time in the #9 GetSpeed Mercedes followed by Daniel Juncadella, who secured fourth spot on the grid for the 10Q squad in only its second-ever GT3 race.

Nick Yelloly and Augusto Farfus were spearheading the BMW effort for ROWE Racing and Schnitzer, qualifying in fifth and sixth respectively.

Farfus was one of three drivers to only have one flying lap after changing tyres following his out lap. The other two driver were Land Motorsport's Christopher Mies, who gambled on slicks, and Car Collection Motorsport's Mirko Bortolotti, both driving an Audi R8 LMS. Nevertheless, the Italian managed 11th position which turned out to be the fastest laptime for Audi.

Both Audi and Porsche struggled against their German opposition from Mercedes-AMG and BMW, which completely occupied the top 10 spots except for the Ferrari's second position.

Porsche only managed to bring two cars into Top Qualifying 2, after Frikadelli Racing's Mathieu Jaminet missed out on the last spot by 1.858 seconds to Frank Stippler's #5 Phoenix Audi. However, Dennis Olsen's KCMG-entered Porsche 911 GT3 R, second fastest in Top Qualifying 1, broke down on the out lap in Top Qualifying 2, leaving the Norwegian without a laptime.

Porsche's destiny was now in the hands of Alex Muller in the #30 Frikadelli Racing Pro-Am car. The German managed 14th-fastest time in a disappointing session for Porsche, who had withdrawn many of its factory drivers only a few days before the event due to COVID-19 cases within Manthey Racing following the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Elsewhere, Lamborghini factory driver Marco Mapelli couldn't manage to break into the Top Qualifying 2 session after setting the fastest laptime in the three regular qualifying sessions. The Italian only managed 10th fastest for Konrad Motorsport in Top Qualifying 1, leaving the Lamborghini Huracan in 23rd position overall.

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