Falken Tyres’ mixed 24 hours at the Nürburgring
With a huge contingency of auto- and tyre manufacturers and a crowd estimated to be close to a quarter of a million, this year’s ADAC Nürburgring 24 hour race was won by Manthey-Racing – the works team’s fifth in the last six years – as Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Lucas Luhr drove the team’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to victory, completing a record 156 laps (3958.968km) of the Nordschleife. Tyre manufacturer and main sponsor of the event, Falken Tyre Europe – a company inaugurated in 2009 to distribute the Sumitomo-manufactured brand in the continent – also ran a highly competitive Porsche 911 GT3 R with its own team in the event, and while a change of engine and gearbox made for ultimate disappointment in terms of its finishing position, persistent top ten lap times meant the team occupied positions between 176 and 14 during the course of the 24 hours, eventually finishing 48th. Falken also supplied specially developed tyres to its eponymously named team.
After qualifying in 17th position, Schnabl Engineering team chief Sven Schnabel’s crew was immediately in action after the first lap as the team checked tyres and rims in the pits for safety reasons following a minor collision with another vehicle. Drivers Wolf Henzler and Peter Dumbreck fought their way up from position 85 to reach 14th, but problems hit the team’s race shortly after Dumbreck gave way to Martin Ragginger at around 19:15. The transmission failed and the car broke down in the Schwalbenschwanz section of the track, losing half an hour as it was towed to the pitlane.
The team’s mechanics fitted the 911 with a new engine and transmission in around two hours, allowing it to re-enter the race at 22:00 in lowly 176th. Its consistent lap times, which equalled the pace of top ten vehicles allowed the team to complete a total of 128 laps. “Today each and every one of us is a winner,” said Falken Tyres Europe marketing director Satoru Ushida. “The mechanics, because they managed to get the car back in working order within the shortest time possible. The drivers, because they fought for every inch and place. All of us at Falken, because our phenomenal lap times are impressive proof of our tyres’ outstanding potential. And just as much, 250,000 fans at the race track are winners, many of whom were on the edge of their seats all through the night, keeping their fingers crossed for us. We also drove this race for them, for their brand of passion and enthusiasm for motorsports, which you will probably only find here in the ‘Green Hell’.”
Driver Sebastian Asch said: “The breakdown at the beginning made us drivers so angry that we literally beat the car through hell after that. I have never pushed a car this much. It was absolutely crazy.”
Schnabl Engineering and Falken Tyre Team boss Sven Schnabl: “Congratulations to the colleagues at Manthey. The entire field was exceptionally strong, so victory is doubly valuable. I also want to congratulate my team. In this truly mad chase you have demonstrated what a fighting spirit can accomplish. Everything fit together: the new team, the tyres, the drivers. Everyone gave 120 per cent, our lap times were squarely among the top 5, and that is something I am indeed proud of.”
In addition to the entertainment on track, Falken’s Drift Team ran a demonstration at the Fahrsicherheitszentrum 2 (driver safety training centre), while 40 racing fans had the famous outline of the Nordschleife circuit inked into their skin by a tattoo artist.