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Endurance 24 Hours of Nurburgring

Nurburgring 24 Hours explains decision to end race early amid backlash

The Nurburgring 24 Hours race director has explained his decision to end last weekend's shortest-ever edition of the fog-blighted endurance event before the planned elapsed time.  

Atmosphere during Red Flag

Scherer Sport PHX's Audi took a provisional victory on Sunday when attempts to restart the race, which was halted by fog on Saturday evening and paused for 14 hours, proved abortive. 

To the huge frustration of the 240,000 spectators, drivers and teams, following five laps behind the safety car to determine whether the race could be restarted, race director Walter Hornung made the call to end the race with 54 minutes left on the clock.

The Rowe Racing BMW team that finished seventh in the provisional classification has appealed the decision of the stewards to protest the outcome.

As soon as the decision against a restart was announced, the fog finally lifted for the first time in more than 15 hours.

Speaking to Autosport/Motorsport.com's German language sister site Motorsport-Total.com, Hornung explained: "Our original intention was to resume the race after the restart. 

"Before the restart, I called a weather station, which told me that things would improve between 2 and 2:15 pm."

The race started behind the safety car. Since a safety car is not normally used on the Nordschleife, the rules for this are not specified in the regulations. The lead vehicle was called the 'leading car', but it took on the function of a safety car according to the DMSB circuit regulations.

"We drove five laps behind the leading car and during this time the weather did not change much," added Hornung. 

"What the weather station had predicted did not come true and it was already 2:30pm.

"We were also promised a gap at 8 o'clock and then again at 12 o'clock, but neither of these happened. This made my trust in this weather station even smaller." 

When the fog then lifted, it was too late to resume the event which was forming part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge for the first time.

Hornung reflected on the development philosophically: "It's like always; no matter how you do it, you do it wrong. 

"If we had let them drive seven or eight more laps, the fog would probably have remained. We didn't, so it cleared up."

He also clarified that the decision was taken not to restart the race and use Code 60 at the worst-effected points on the Grand Prix loop because of feedback from the 2021 event which previously held the record for the shortest event and fewest laps completed.

"Back then, before the interruption, we tried exactly that," noted Hornung. 

"Then the drivers came to me and complained that the tyres were getting too cold and it wasn't working. At the time, they made it very clear that they didn't want that."

The decision to end the race with the chequered flag rather than the red flag has major implications for the result. 

The possibility of prematurely stopping a race is regulated in the DMSB circuit regulations under Article 17.2, which states that "the organiser may decide that the race ends after a certain time, even if the distance is not reached. After the start of the event, such a decision requires the approval of the stewards."

If the race were abandoned, two laps would be counted back, as was the case when the race was interrupted on Saturday night.

In addition, another clause in the regulations would apply, which would turn the entire classification on its head. 

Under this circumstance, Article 35.1 would apply, which states: "The minimum pit stop times (including any time penalties) valid at the time of the classification will be added to the total driving time (of the interrupted section of the race, to determine the starting grid for the resumption) as a time penalty."

That would have led to some delays, as some teams including Rowe tried to be clever behind the safety car and headed for the pits - on the one hand because they hoped to gain an advantage at the restart, but also in case the race was stopped with a red flag.

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