3 of the main contenders for victory - 911 GT3 R, R8 LMS, SLS AMG

With just over two weeks to go until the 2011 ADAC 24h on the Nürburgring, questions are being raised as to who the favourites are likely to be.

Judging the favourite, with over 200 cars racing, is pretty difficult at the best of times, as whilst pre-season form is an indicator of overall performance, it is suspected that many of the front runners have been holding something in reserve, so as not to be unduly penalised before the big race.

With a plethora of manufacturers running top line cars this year, and a number of key privateer teams entering too, it is expected that a new distance record will be set for the race, with the current record being 155 laps (set in 2009, after the thrilling battle between Audi and Porsche).

Rather than listing every combination of car, team and driver, I've decided to list the key players by car, and include some of the likely team/driver combinations for that car. Once the entry list for the 24h is published, the article will be updated accordingly.

1) Porsche 911 GT3 R

Haribo Team Manthey GT3-R 

  • Teams to watch: Manthey Racing, Falken Motorsports, Frikadelli Racing
  • Key strength: Reliability, Driver line up, Was leading until accident last year.
  • Possible chink in the armour: Heavily restricted for 2011, following success last year, therefore seems to lack the outright pace of some of the competitors, although this could be a deliberate ploy

2) BMW M3 GT

BMW M3 GT - winning car from 2010

  • Teams to watch:  BMW Motorsport
  • Key strength: Factory team, won last year
  • Possible chink in the armour: Is it quick enough? did it only win due to attrition? - That said rumours are that it is holding back the most right now...

3) Audi R8 LMS

Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS

  • Teams to watch: Phoenix Racing, Abt Sportsline
  • Key strength: Easy to drive very quickly, number of entries, factory support (inc drivers)
  • Possible chink in the armour: Seems fragile over very long distances (failures when leading during ADAC 24h in 2009 and 2010, and issues during Spa 24h in 2009 + 2010).

4) Mercedes SLS AMG

Mercedes SLS AMG GT3

  • Teams to watch: Mamerow, ROWE Racing, Heico Motorsport, Black Falcon
  • Key strength: numbers (there's loads of them!), lots of pace, strength, factory support to privateers
  • Possible chink in the armour: Relatively unproven over long distance, other than Dubai 24h - 'ring much more punishing, also apparent lack of factory drivers.

5) Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid

Porsche GT3 R Hybrid

  • Teams to watch: Porsche Team Manthey (there is only one)
  • Key strength: Economy/Efficiency - less time in the pits, KERS helps on the straights, and overtaking.
  • Possible chink in the armour: There is only one. Failed last year after 22hrs, although tweaked since
6) Ferrari F458 GTC

Ferrari 458 Italia GTC from Team Farnbacher

  • Teams to watch: Farnbacher
  • Key strength: Won last time out, strong team + driver line up.
  • Possible chink in the armour: Fragility - 458s experiencing issues in other series. Also is it quick enough? - it only won due to top 10 cars, getting a penalty lap...

7) Porsche 911 GT3 RSR

Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR

  • Teams to watch: Manthey Racing, ???
  • Key strength: Won the 24h in 2007, 2008 and 2009 when run by Manthey Racing. Outstanding reliability, great efficiency.
  • Possible chink in the armour: Restrictions will limit it to 430bhp for the 24h - 70bhp less than its heigh day, may mean it wont run. (if it was a confirmed runner with a top team, it would be up near the top of the order).
8) BMW Z4 V8 GT3

Schubert Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3

  • Teams to watch: Schubert Motorsport, Dorr Motorsport
  • Key strength: Version 2.0 has been competitive in FIA GT, best sounding car by a long way.
  • Possible chink in the armour:  Seems a little off the pace at the 'ring - possible compromise by the short wheelbase, updates not tested at long distance yet.
9) Lexus LFA

Gazoo Racing Lexus LFA

  • Teams to watch: Gazoo Racing
  • Key strength: V10 power, factory backing
  • Possible chink in the armour: This will be its 4th 24h at the 'ring, and it hasn't delivered, yet
 10) VW Golf GT 24

Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GT24 

  • Teams to watch: Volkswagen Motorsport
  • Key strength: Driver line up, factory team, 4WD could be useful if wet.
  • Possible chink in the armour: Unproven over this distance, seems a little down on pace -aerodynamics limit its top speed on the straights.

There a a couple of other cars, which may spring a surprise, which will be covered in an article coming soon!

Update: The article on the Dark horses for the 24h is now live: http://www.thepitwall.com/2011/06/dark-horses-for-adac-24h-2011-at.html