The checkered flag fell at 4pm on Sunday, May 20, to end the 40th running of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. A total of 177 entries filled the grid at the start of the race on Saturday. Two Callaway Corvettes were entered in two different classes, and one became the talk of the race. It was a Z06.R GT3 that started life in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but was heavily modified for racing in at Callaway Competition in Leingarten, Germany. The car was sponsored at the 'Ring by the Haribo Candy Company, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.
In order to improve their chances for victory, the team added factory Corvette drivers Jan Magnussen, Richard Westbrook, and Tommy Milner. Daniel Keilwitz, winner of the 2010 FIA GT3 Drivers Championship, was the Corvette's fourth driver.
Milner captured the 18th starting position with a time of 8:24.901, then handed the car off to Westbrook to start the race. At the end of the first hour, Westbrook was 10th overall and only 15 seconds behind the leader. Unfortunately several early crashes around the circuit covered the course with shards of broken carbon fiber.
Westbrook punctured his right rear tire, which caused extensive damage to the Corvette. This included the wiring, bodywork, battery, and many other smaller parts. Westbrook was unable to return the Corvette to the pits under its own power and had to be towed to the pit box by the team. The crew went to work putting the Corvette back into running condition. It returned to the race 30 laps behind the leader in 158th position, but quickly began turning fast laps around the 15.2-mile course. The drivers were setting a torrid pace until an electrical problem in the middle of the night (caused by the earlier tire failure) required repairs.
Once the car was fixed, the drivers got back to work. By the 23rd hour, the Haribo Corvette was in 89th position. The team's incredible driving performance was earning it a lot of attention from the TV broadcast crew. This included dramatic footage of the Corvette flying over a hill with all four wheels high in the air.
Magnussen set the fastest rain time when showers covered the course early in the morning. But just 20 minutes from the end, the Haribo Corvette fell out of the race with a dropped valve. The failure was traced to an electronic problem that caused an engine-timing error, which broke the valve. The Corvette finished in a disappointing 120th position. It was a valiant effort, however, and we're hopeful the popular Corvette will return next year. With a little luck-and another incredible driving performance-it could well end up on the podium. That would be sweet indeed.