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GOTTSACKER: First Race Laps at the ‘Ring

BHA’s Harry Gottsacker checks in after completing NLS1 in his, Hyundai Motor America’s road to N24…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

It has only been a week since I last checked in about our Nürburgring adventure, but we have had a lot of action since then!

On our way to Sebring on Tuesday, Taylor Hagler and I missed our connecting flight, our luggage got left behind, and we were missing some of our race gear heading into the two-day event.

Luckily, we had some spare items in the transporter and were able to piece a set together for our race at Sebring. Our missing luggage did show up to Orlando for race day.

Speaking of Sebring, we didn’t have the fastest car, but our BHA crew had a great strategy for us that put us out front for a significant part of the race.

Getting my first podium with Robert (Wickens) feels really good, it was a solid points day finishing second, and I think more are coming our way. After the Sebring podium, we quickly jumped in the car and headed back to Orlando for a night flight back to Frankfurt.

We landed around lunch time and after a long wait for our luggage, we stopped for McDonalds (see a trend here?) and headed out to the Nürburgring.

Photo: Harry Gottsacker

We arrived around 1:30 p.m. and our teammates from the Hyundai Diving Experience team were, well into the practice day. Mason (Filippi) and I were introduced to our No. 487 Hyundai i30N Fastback, and we started to work with the team on seat belts, radio, and other driver related items.

The car we are driving is similar to the old IMSA ST class cars and originated life as a street car. We will run in the VT2 FWD class against VW, Renault, and Mini Cooper competitors.

Around 4 p.m., Mason set out for some laps on the GP circuit to bed in the brakes and check the car out. He was able to make a lap around the Nordschleife and bring the car into the pit for me to make a few laps.

I wouldn’t say at this point any of the BHA drivers felt really comfortable with the car or track, but it was nice to make a few dry laps after a wet permit course last weekend.

We had a meeting in the late afternoon to discuss strategy for the four-hour race on Saturday and what the driving order/lap count would be.

Photo: Hyundai

Last item for the day was the official NLS drivers meeting for the English language drivers. It was a very professional meeting where they focused a lot on respect and racing room and showed a lot of example videos from previous Nürburgring events.

We headed to the track at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning to get our equipment inspected at tech and prepare for qualifying. Mason got the nod to qualify our car and I would take the start of the race.

We set a lap about an hour into the session that would put us in P6 on a drying track with wet tires and we were comfortable with that.

The track did dry rapidly, and others switched to dries and made last laps and we ended up P11 to start the race. Taylor, Michael, and our Korean teammate June Sung Park earned a P2 starting spot after a flyer from June.

We worked with the crew from Hyundai Driving Experience to do some media work and photos in between qualifying and the race.

They are going to help us tell our story as we work through the NLS races to get our required 24 laps and top 75 percent finishes.

Photo: Hyundai

And now to the most important part of the weekend – our four-hour NLS1 Race! As I mentioned, I took the car for the race start, and it was wild. I was able to move up quite a few spots solidly to the top ten and behind Michael Lewis in class after Lap 1.

Once the opening lap chaos finished up, people really started racing hard and trying to move up the order. My objective was to make the laps and not find trouble, so I found a rhythm and just put in my four laps in the opening hour.

That’s right, four laps, don’t forget the track is over 14 miles. I can’t explain the racing except to say it’s like 120 mph rush hour traffic in a new city with a blind fold on. INTENSE!

Mason swapped in at the pit stop and he did six clean laps through a bunch of Code 60 and yellow flags and brought the car in from P5. I jumped back in, and the plan was to do six laps and let Mason finish the race off.

I really felt a lot more comfortable in this stint and found a lot of pace even though the lap times were slowed by Code 60 (caution laps).

Mason would bring the car to the finish in P6, and we would end with 13 and nine laps, respectively.

We will be back at it again in a few weeks and I’ll check back in!

Photo: Hyundai

Harry Gottsacker IV drives the No. 33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR alongside Robert Wickens for Bryan Herta Autosport in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Gottsacker holds the IMPC record for the most pole positions and has won at least one race each season while competing for Bryan Herta Autosport in the TCR category.

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