As many as six previous winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with 12 trophies among them, will take the start at the 46th edition of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring on Saturday, May 12th at 3:30 p.m. local time.
The entry list for the 2018 24 Hours of Nürburgring looks a great deal like the field in the LMGTE Pro class at the upcoming 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and for good reason given the German 24-hour race includes only GTs from production cars! With one notable exception: three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer, representing Porsche at the Nürburgring, but Rebellion Racing in LMP1 at Le Mans.
Porsche, like BMW and Aston Martin, will field two top notch driver line-ups in Germany with two four-man crews that include three previous 24 Hours of Le Mans winners: two-time victors Romain Dumas (2010 and 2016) and Earl Bamber (2015 and 2017) will join Kévin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor in the #911 911, as Nick Tandy (2015) is set to share the #912 sister car with Richard Lietz, Patrick Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki.
BMW, making its big official return to Le Mans this year, isn't far behind with two four-man crews of World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship drivers: Alex Sims, Jesse Krohn, Connor de Phillippi (winner last year in Germany) and Martin Tomczyk in the #99 M6 GT3; and Nicky Catsburg, John Edwards, Tom Blomqvist and Richard Westbrook (borrowed from Corvette Racing for the race) in the #98 sister car.
On the other hand, Aston Martin will rely on just one driver line-up for the Vantage GT3: Maxime Martin, Marco Sørensen, Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner (winner last year at Le Mans in LMGTE Pro with the British marque).
Lastly, though Audi will no longer be competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the manufacturer intends to defend its trophy via two former winners, Marcel Fässler and Mike Rockenfeller, who will take the start with Corvette Racing on June 16th (tickets), as well as Stefan Mücke, a regular driver for Ford who won the LMGTE Pro class at the opening round of the 2018-2019 Super Season of the World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.
The win record at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring - five each for Pedro Lamy, Marcel Tiemann and Timo Bernhard - will remain intact this year since none of the three drivers will be participating in this edition of the race. However, Bernhard may very well clinch a first victory as a team owner: KÜS Team75 Bernhard is fielding the Porsche 911 driven by André Lotterer, Jörg Bergmeister, Michael Christensen and Matteo Cairoli! The German's record may be matched by his former (win with Audi at Le Mans in 2010) and future teammate (#94 Porsche at Le Mans in 2018) Romain Dumas who has four wins to his credit at the Nürburgring. But the French driver will have to contend with the rain expected on Sunday afternoon first...
PHOTO (Copyright - Pascal Saivet/MPS Agency): Only one of the four Porsche drivers from the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps will not participate in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring: Gianmaria Bruni! From left to right: Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen, Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni.