P3 in Pro Am at NLS 7
It was great to be back at the Nordschleife with Racing One, Christian Kohlhaas and their Ferrari 488 GT3. We started the weekend with some laps on the Grand Prix version of the Nurburgring to check the setup on the Friday morning, before moving onto the Nordschleife in the evening, doing some passenger laps for Hella Pagid guests.
Saturday morning was dry but after a lap on slicks, Christian came back in for intermediates as there was heavy dew making the track wet out on the Nordschleife. We waited as long as we could for the track to dry and I went out on slicks with about 20 minutes of qualifying remaining, which would give me 4 laps to set a time. It was still quite damp on sections of the track, very tricky but quicker every lap. I was in P2 when I crossed the line at the end of my last lap but was bumped down to P6 (P2 in Pro Am) as others finished their laps on a track that was getting quicker all the time. The car felt good for the race and we were at the sharp end.
The rain started again before the start, then stopped and started several times while we were on the grid. We changed to intermediates just before the start as the sun was out and the forecast looked good. In the GT3 field there was a mixture of full wet, intermediate and slicks heading out behind the safety car for the start although several pitted for wets immediately before the start. The first few laps were challenging to say the least as the intermediates were struggling for grip in the surprisingly wet conditions. The cars on full wets were a lot quicker and I slipped to P19 in the opening laps waiting for the track to dry but started to make my way forward and set some quickest laps as the front runners pitted for slicks. We stayed out for over an hour and I was running in P3 when I handed over to Christian for his mandatory 2 hours in the car. He did a great job in tricky conditions with hard rain coming back mid stint necessitating a change to wets. No sooner had the rain started than it stopped and the sun came out, so he was changed back to slicks to complete his stint.
I got back in the car with about 40 minutes to go and a gap of just over 2 minutes to the car ahead; the third placed Pro Am Walkenhorst BMW. We weren’t sure it would be possible to bridge the gap, but on my first flying lap I caught nearly 30 seconds in spite of running very wide when I hit some oil on the Grand Prix loop, and continued to take over 30 seconds a lap out of the gap. The team told me to push as it was touch and go whether i would catch before the end of the race as we weren’t sure whether there would be an extra lap, depending on when the leader crossed the line - it was down to 14 seconds going onto the last lap and I passed the BMW out on the Nordschleife. I also had to do a bit of fuel saving, but managed to cross the line 18 seconds ahead.
I really enjoyed the last stint and it was a nice way to round off my NLS year. Thanks to all at Racing One for a great job.