Oct 2018

VLN 9 - GT3 debut on the Nordschleife

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Thanks to Max Bermel - NRING INFO for the pic

After a last minute change of plans I was promoted to the Walkenhorst M6 GT3 car for VLN 9, alongside team owner Henry Walkenhorst and team regular Andreas Ziegler. After getting my permit in a BMW 235i Cup car and having done a race in the BMW M4 GT4 car, I was looking forward to being back in a GT3 car after a couple of years away and to being back in something with downforce! I managed 4 laps on Friday afternoon during the traditional track day where there's an opportunity for VLN regulars and others to give their sponsors passenger rides around the 24.4 km rollercoaster that is the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Being in a GT 3 car, I didn't have any passengers to take round so I could just concentrate on getting my eye in with a car that's considerably faster than the other cars I'd been around there in. It gave me a good feel for the car and getting used to weaving in and out of the traffic which can be considerably slower. It's amazing how quickly you catch other cars!

Saturday dawned cold and very foggy and everybody waited around as the qualifying session was delayed for about an hour after the scheduled start time while the cloud lifted. I was on track second of our three drivers to set a grid slot - I managed an 8:12.2 which meant we lined up 19th on the grid - considering the quality and experience of the drivers around me, it wasn't a bad start and I was looking forward to more laps in the race. What I wasn't expecting was a few left over patches of thick fog on a very quick part of the circuit which kept me on my toes.....just got to keep it pinned!

The plan was to double stint me in the second half of the race and I was grateful for the extra time in the car. Henry and Andreas did a good job to bring the car in after multiple Code 60s for various incidents and I got into the car with about an hour and 45 minutes to go. It was invaluable to spend some "proper" time in the car and to get into a rhythm around the unique challenges of the Nordschleife. There's no margin for error, so you have to pick your moments for overtaking and when to be patient. I equalled my qualifying time on my first flying lap and then had Code 60's and yellow flags at various points around the circuit for the whole first stint - this is all part of the challenge of VLN. Things calmed down a couple of laps after I had pitted for the final stop and I shaved 7 seconds off my previous best with an 8 minutes 05.037 which put me among the GT3 Pro driver's times which was very satisfying first time out. It would be good to start another race weekend now that I have had some time in the car. Thanks to Walkenhorst Motorsport for a fantastic car and for bringing me up to speed round the Nordschleife over the last few months.

On to 2019!