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Americans Impress At Nurburing 24

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On: Wed, May 19, 2010 at 1:51PM | By: John Welch

Americans Impress At Nurburing 24

Too bad we don't have any serious endurance races here in America. Shyeah, Sebring is a rough track, and the race is 12 hours. Right, Petit Le Mans is a thousand kilometers and takes place near crummy 'ole Atlanta, but that really isn't that bad either. There are plenty of amateur 24-hour events, but the Daytona 24 is the only true 'round the clock race . . . even it is contained inside the cushy confines of Daytona International Speedway. Which translates to: almost zero elevation change . . .

No, by "serious endurance race" I mean 24 hours, hundreds of feet of elevation change, 220 participants and thousands of ess-faced Germans trying to scrawl dirty limericks on the actual racing surface with sidewalk chalk . . . while people are racing! And did I mention that this racing surface is nearly 16 miles in length? The Nordschilfe makes Sebring, at a little more then 4 and a half miles, almost seem small! That is the reputation that comes with being the mightiest race track in the world; The Nurburing Nordschilfe.

The annual ADAC Nurburing 24 was held last weekend, and the over-all victory went to a factory BMW very similar to the Rahal/Letterman M3 GT2s campaigned in the American Le Mans Series. More interesting to us, as Americans, are the Grand-Am regulars who scored class victories at the storied event. Leh Keen, driver of the No. 41 Team Seattle/Global Diving/Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT in the Grand-Am Series was able to capture first in the SP7 class. His No. 43 Hankook Ferrari F430 GT was the only car able to mount a challenge against the race-winning BMW towards the close end of the event. Shane Lewis, a common sight at Grand-Am races, was able to bring his No. 70 Gotz Motorsport Audi RS4 to the flag, first in the SP 8T class for big-bore touring cars.

"To be standing on the top-three overall podium at such a famous track along with the winning factory BMW team and the third-place Audi R8 was an incredible feeling," said Keen, who first moved the Ferrari into the top five after his first night stint Saturday evening. "This track is narrow and tricky enough but add just about total darkness to it and it is really wild and unlike any other experience in racing. So, taking all of that into account, it really made me feel like I made a contribution in getting us to fourth in my night run, which was our highest position to that point."

Lewis partnered with fellow GRAND-AM veteran Vic Rice and German Ring specialists Axel Duffner and Karl Pflanz in the No. 70 Team Gotz Motorsport Audi RS 4 for a convincing win in the SP 8T class for big-bore touring cars. Each of the drivers did four stints in the race and they had a trouble-free run to the class win after an early scare.

"In our first stint out there we had a serious fire inside the car," Lewis said. "At the last minute the team installed an indicator light for night identification during pit stops and the 12 volts didn't match whatever they did. About four laps into Vic running there was flames inside the car. It burned a bunch of stuff inside, but he pulled to the side, put the fire out and kept going. He came in and put in me in the car and there was so much fire suppressant, it literally looked like it snowed inside the car. We kept going after that, didn't make any mistakes and just stayed out of trouble to the finish."

Wow, German really is a harsh language . . . I still want to learn it . ..

Us Yanks almost grabbed a third class victory in one of the diesel catagories. The No. 179 Drink Florida Orange Juice!/SPEEDCOM Communications/Marcos Racing International BMW 320d of Hal Prewitt, Toto Lassally, Cor Euser and Raymond Coronel easily moved into the lead of the D1T (Diesel 1) class. Coronel ran afoul of a slower car five-and-a-half hours into the race, however, and the team later retired after nearly seven hours of repairs couldn't get the quick BMW back in action.

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