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Nürburgring 1000 Kilometres 2000

8th - 9th July 2000

Event report

American Le Mans Series

Resurrected 1000 kilometers race at the Nürburging which has been run for the last time in 1988 was the second round of the European Le Mans Series this year and was also counted to the American Le Mans Series as the fourth round. This race took place for the first time in 1953 when it was a part of newly established World Sportscar Championship. At this time it was run on an old Nürburgring circuit which was longer than 22 kilometers. There was no race in 1954 and 1955 but since 1956 it was held consecutively until 1984. This last race was run on the new circuit for the first time. In 1985 there was one-year break while the only 1000 kms Hockenheim race replaced it. Last three 1000 kilometers races saw Nürburgring from 1986 to 1988. After that there were also three World Sports-Prototype Championship races until 1991 but they weren't a 1000 kilometers ones but after rule change kept a sprint format.

Friday - 7th July

Friday test session (15:00-18:00)

A three-hour test session was on a programme on Friday afternoon. Altogether 35 from 38 cars present in the pits took part in and quickest of all was Audi no.78 which only run under 1:30. Two BMWs and the second Audi followed it. Surprisingly well ran both ROC entered Reynard-Volkswagens being 7th and 11th overall while slower prototype was Konrad's new Lola B2K/10 which Franz shared with BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari SWRC regulars Calderari and Bryner. This may be a prediction of Konrad's bad weekend. We won't jump many when say now that Konrad Lola was the first car that retired in the principal race after only two laps completing and the second team's car Porsche 911 GT2 had an accident after 40 laps and was the third car to leave the race.

In GTS class both Oreca Vipers confirmed their dominance which has been noticeable all weekend. Olivier Beretta, one of its drivers, wishes Corvettes to return to the championship because it is more fun fighting another team than only own team mate. Similarly in GT were two Dick Barbour entries quickest two in the category and were the only ones beating slower GTS cars.

Saturday - 8th July

1st practice session (8:30-9:30)

The track was still wet after raining all night when the first practice session started. The third car that appeared on the track was the Pole Team Riley & Scott and was the first one spinning in the first corner with many others to follow. Then it ran rather slowly and cautiously all this wet session. It is mentioned here only for a contrast because this particular car would run very well later in the race when it started to rain appearing on the second position... There were no big accidents during this session and the track was drying so much that finally first four competitors ran under 1:30 - again all Audis and BMWs with McNish and Capello in Audi no.77 being the best. Only dangerous collision had Kremer Lola when battling with one of BMW prototypes at the end of the main strait. But there wasn't place for two cars on the next corner and no time to brake so Lola driver had to run in a big speed through the gravel a little damaging the car. This second Lola in the field would been repaired but like Konrad's team wouldn't have much luck and would be the second retirement in the race after 23 laps.

2nd practice session (12:30-13:30)

Second practice was whole held under dry conditions and Panoz for the first time was seen in top three when Brabham and Magnussen were third behind two Audis which looked to be a little dominant over their main rivals BMW and Panoz. Capello in no.77 set the best time. Five cars under 1:30 and top seven in less than two seconds was a good result. Especially for the fifth car which was Johansson-Matthews Reynard-Judd. Johansson was very satisfied with the Reynard chassis. BMW no.43 of Auberlen/Gounon was in the second position after 15 minutes but then Auberlen had an accident damaging rear wing and stayed for a long time in the pits to repair the damage. Although having left pits before the end of the session it has achieved only 6th time.

Konrad's Lola was the only car that didn't appear at all in this session. Gearbox problems were the reason. Problems came also to Roock Porsche when head gasket has blown after 6 laps. Both cars didn't appear also in the following qualifying sessions.

GT qualifying (15:15-15:35)

Qualifying session was performed separately for GT cars and for prototypes, both lasting only 20 minutes. The first one was for GTS and GT classes. After several laps the two Oreca Vipers set the front GTS row times and turned into the pits. Beretta in no.91 was the pole man. The third fastest was remaining Viper that was run by Chamberlain and driven by Pompidou and which was in tenth minute of the session overtaken by better of Dick Barbour's GT3-R Porsches that was driven by Sascha Maassen. But in the next lap he returned to the third position. Three GT2 Porsches were slower than the top of GT(3) cars. Best of GT BMWs was fifth in its class.

Prototype qualifying (15:55-16:40)

Prototype qualifying session started with Panoz no.1 leading after 5 minutes Audi no.77 and surprisingly ROC-Reynard no.54. In the next lap Audi no.78 driven by Biela took the provisional pole being beaten by Capello in Audi no.77 following lap. After 10 minutes Audi was 1-2 and Panoz 3-4 followed by Johansson-Matthews Reynard and ROC no.54. Where were BMWs? They were still in the pits waiting for their time. But it wasn't a good decision because when they came on the track Klaus Graf spun his Panoz into the gravel at the final corner and after two minutes was pulled out across the circuit by the rescue vehicle while still under green-flag conditions. The following Debora od Marc Rostan slid to a halt but Tinseau in DAMS Cadillac tried to pass through the gap. The tow-rope appeared to wrap itself around the Frenchman's helmet and, though he climbed out of his car unaided, he was taken to hospital with an injured hand and mouth. It wasn't certain if the DAMS driver would be able to take part in the race. Before midnight it was decided that he wouldn't start and would be replaced by DAMS F3000 driver Franck Montagny. After an accident the session was immediately red-flagged so BMWs didn't have time set any good times. In the remaining 6 minutes and 50 seconds Lehto and Gounon moved BMWs to fourth and fifth places respectively. Capello set the pole with 1:27.938. He was much quicker than last year Moncini/Pescatori who were fastest in SRWC with BMS Ferrari but stayed at 1:29.992. Times of group C cars are however very far ahead: Fabi with Brabham set pole 1:19.519 in 1991 SWC 430 km race...

Sunday - 9th July

Warm Up (8:45-9:05)

All 38 present cars appeared on a dry track for early morning warm up. The Audi R8s were once again fastest, with no.78 car setting a time of 1:30.350 and the no.77 0.18 seconds slower. Fourth was Johansson-Matthwes Reynard between two BMWs. Panozes didn't run any fast lap but rather prepared for the race.

The Race (12:15-18:00)

Before the race it was very overcast with the track still being dry. But the weather forecast was a threat of rain later in the afternoon. Cars began to leave pits at about 11:45 to roll on the starting grid which mentioned old Le Mans starts when cars were staying side by side on the right part of the main straight. It was very nice when Mr. Don Panoz was praying to God before the start for blessing, for the race and for all drivers. Something in Europe not seen much... if ever. Then Don said, "Gentlemen, start you engines". And all cars followed the pace car one lap and then the race was started. It was at 12:15.

Leading five cars were very closely running to the first corner with Audis still leading but after the first chicane Panoz no.1 with Magnussen at the wheel took the lead. Then Gounon in BMW no.43 overtook Panozes two and ran second. During the first lap Lehto in second BMW overtook Capello in Audi no.77 and was fourth. Sixth was Panoz no.2 followed by Judd engined privateers cars: Reynard no.36, Riley & Scott no.02. The only Courage in the field ran tenth behind ROC no.54 and followed by ROC no.53. Then there were two DAMS Cadillacs, Ascari and the Kremer-Lola followed by Lavaggi's Ferrari, the only car of this make. Last prototype running in front of all three Vipers was Italian Conrero entered Riley & Scott. Behind Vipers was well running Debora and Konrad's new Lola. This Lola overtook Chambarlain Viper and Debora in the next lap but immediately stops at the end of the pit-wall with lost driveshaft and engine problems.

GT class was from start led by two Dick Barbour Porsches with Müller/Lühr car no.5 running first. Best of BMW M3 was no.10 running 6th while the second team car no.6 hit Proton Competition Porsche GT2 no.35 in the third lap on the main straight and nearly put Porsche to the wall. BMW no.6 than should to the pits and lost several laps for a repair.

In the second lap Lehto in BMW no.42 moves up to third and Audi are now surprisingly only fourth and fifth. In lap 5 leaders are already lapping slower cars and Lehto in BMW no.42 and Capello in Audi no.77 are nose to tail in fight for third place. Two laps later Capello attempts to pass Lehto but Lehto closes the door and maintains third as they dice through traffic. In lap 8 Audi no.77 passes Lehto in BMW no.42, with contact. Lehto continues but Capello goes over the grass, into the pitlane entrance but then crosses back onto the track.

In lap 9 Panoz no.2 with Graf at the wheel is in the pits for fuel and tyre change. Similary stops Ascari three laps later. In lap 13 Biela in no.78 Audi passes Gounon in no.43 BMW for second place. By that time Kremer Lola improves passing progressively Ascari, both Cadillacs, ROC no.53 and even Courage of Philippe Gache and run on 9th place.

After 15 laps Gounon no.43 pulls over and lets Lehto past for third place. During 17th lap Capello in Audi no.77 passes Gounon no.43 in heavy traffic, with Gounon onto the grass. In lap 20 leaders are 1-78-42-77-43 and the Kremer Lola is running slowly loosing its good position in the race. In lap 25 Audi no.77 moved ahead of no.42 BMW at the Veedol chicane in traffic. Lap 29 means a long pitstop for until now very well running Reynard no.36 driven by Johansson. Electrical problems cost him 34 laps lost. When the car returned later to the race it was one of the quickest cars on track in wet conditions. But it chatches only one car, GT3 Porsche no.69 that was from start the slowest car on the track.

After 50 minutes on lap 32 the race leader Magnussen in Panoz no.1 went to the pits for fuel but no tyre change was made leaving lead for Audi no.78 for two laps and also for BMW no.43. By that time first reports of rain at the Nürburgring appeared. Both BMWs and Audis pitted for wet tyres. It was a wrong decision because rain soon stopped and BMW with Audi were in the pits again after 4-5 laps for slicks because track was still dry and were loosing much time when running on wet tyres. There were teams that pitted for wet tyres like Audi or BMW, and the other like Panoz that stayed on slicks which moved up to high position. Most surprising was ROC-Reynard no.54 being 2nd after one hour of racing. Panoz no.2 was third after lost many positions by very early pitstop. Great surprise was Riley & Scott no.02 that kept second position since lap 45, after ROC no.54 and two laps later Panoz no.2 pitted.

At the end of lap 49 when it was raining again, everyone was preparing for rain tyres. McNish in Audi no.77 crashes into the barriers at the same place where the SMG Courage no.17 had already parked. Audi pushed out - stranded across the track and then off onto grass at the other side. After two laps McNish gets going again and heads back along the track, into the pits for wet tyres. In lap 52 Gounon in BMW no.43 spins backwards into the tyre barriers. He returns to pits and the car is pushed into the garage for repair. When BMW no.43 appears on track again it is with Auberlen at the wheel on 29th position, 12 laps down.

In lap 57 Norman Simon in no.02 R&S is only 5 seconds behind leading Panoz no.1 driven now by David Brabham with Lehto in BMW no.42 5 seconds further back in third. Lap 58 means the end for GT class leader Porsche no.51 of Maassen and Wollek. With engine problems the car is pushed into pits and is out of the race. Lap 61 and Lehto who is the quickest man on the track overtakes Simon in the no.02, who retakes his second place on the next corner. The Riley & Scott and BMW are nose to tail and they take and retake position with JJ finally winning out. In lap 62 Simon retakes second place from Lehto though and keeps it until his pitstop in 70th lap.

After two hours Panoz no.1 still leads, Lehto with BMW no.42 is second, Simon is third after pitting. Fourth is the second Panoz followed by improving Cadillac no.31, better of the Audis, no.78 and Cadillac no.32. Next two places belong to ROC-Reynards no.53 and no.54. Audi no.77 completes first ten. On next two positions are both Oreca Dodge Vipers that are gained on by GLV Ferrari that had lost some time early in the race with stop and go penalties. Last well running prototype is Debora on 14th place. Other prototypes that were still in the race (Ascari, Kremer-Lola and Conrero R&S) were more in the pits than on the track and ran far behind GT class leader which was now Porsche no.23 with Pobst and Lambert on 15th position.

On lap 86 McNish in Audi no.77 spins and crashes off the track. Bodywork is damaged and steam coming out of the car, while ninth overall. Car gets going again but only back to the pits and straight into the garage. First of factory cars retired. Lap 92 is the last one for well running Simon in no.02 Pole Team Riley & Scott. The car stops and is pushed behind barriers. For next ten laps Team Pole tries to fix the problem, which is a broken accelerator cable but unsuccessfully. On lap 99 second Oreca Viper no.92 is running slowly and stops on track. Retires.

After third hour first two positions remain unchanged. Brabham in the no.1 has 37 seconds lead over Lehto in the no.42. Audi no.78 is third, Collard/Bernard in Cadillac no.31 fourth and Panoz no.2 is fifth. So four different manufacturers on top four positions. Sixth and eight are ROC-Reynards while Cadillac no.32 is 7th. GTS class leader, Oreca Viper no.91 is ninth, with two laps leading over the tenth placed GLV Brums Ferrari. In GT Barbour Porsche no.5 leads nearly one lap over Murry/Mowlen in Skea Racing Porsche and best BMW M3 no.10.

At this stage of the race the rain was very strong and it was very surprising that all three Reynards (no.54, no.53 and no.36) and both DAMS Cadillac were running noticeable quicker that Audi, BMWs and even Panozes! For example in lap 111 Cadillac no.32 with Montagny at the wheel caught up Audi no.78 and nearly overtook it but Audi pilot didn't want to be passed so cars made a contact and spun. ROC no.54 passes them both. Cadillac lost more time than Audi but soon catches it again.

In lap 127 fourth placed ROC no.54 beached in the gravel and lost two laps. Later in lap 146 alternator had to be change in this car so it finally meant 9th position in the finish behind all time GTS leaders Beretta/Wendlinger/Duez in Viper no.91. Ferrari of Lavaggi overtook Viper no.91 in lap 118 and was 9th. At the end the Ferrari was classified seventh when improving two more places. Sixth position in the finish belonged to ROC-Reynard no.53. It was best finish for Reynard yet and it looks that problems with the chassis have been already resolved. All three cars looked very well, ran very strong and were one of the prettiest cars on the track.

DAMS Cadillac no.32 finished 5th while the second team car retired with 20 minutes to go. Battle for third place was between Audi no.78 and Panoz no.2 with Audi taking the honors and finishing on podium. It didn't look for podium finish for Audi in the middle of the race. After Panoz no.1 pitstop in lap 151, BMW no.42 with Müller at the wheel took the lead. After 4 hours Panoz no.1 with Magnussen was second 40 seconds back and it was the only hour when he and Brabham didn't lead. In lap 167 the gap between the leaders is down to 27 seconds after Magnussen lapping slightly quicker than Jörg Müller. In lap 173 Müller spins off the track, allowing Magnussen to close right up. A lap later Müller allows Magnussen move into the lead. At this time it was about 20 minutes to go and Müller had still to pitstop. He went into pits on two laps before the end of the race. Lap 185 was the last for Magnussen in Panoz no.1 who takes the chequered flag to give Panoz their first victory of the season.

Dirk Müller/Lühr won the GT class in Barbour Porsche no.5 (11th overall) in front of Murry/Mowlem in Skea Porsche and Lewis/Wagner in MCR Porsche. Debora after very nice performance finished 14th as third in LMP2 class behind two ROC Reynards and 15th was the best of BMW M3 (Cunningham/Cunnigham/Jönsson) which also finished 4th in GT class behind three Porsches.

The race was very interesting and official attendance 29.000 seems also good although such race should have much bigger crowd. Hopefully next year.