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GOTTSACKER: Getting Acquainted to the ‘Ring

BHA’s Harry Gottsacker files his first Sportscar365 column on his road to the Nürburgring 24…

Photo: Supplied

Sports car champion 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 is one of four Hyundai drivers representing the U.S. at the Nürburgring 24 in May. He will share his experiences through a series of columns over the next two moths as he makes six trips to the ‘Ring in preparation for the Nürburgring 24.

We set off for Germany on Wednesday, March 8 and it has been a trip that I’ve been waiting for since 2020. Hyundai originally intended to send the BHA squad to tackle the Nürburgring 24 in 2020 but the COVID 19 lockdown changed those plans.

We have waited patiently and through the hard work of Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai Motor America we will be able to take on one of the toughest 24-hour races in the world. My co-drivers on this adventure will be Michael Lewis, Taylor Hagler, and Mason Filippi.

The last few months have been a huge effort from the team to plan travel, logistics, and everything that goes around making six different events in Germany alongside a full IMSA schedule.

We are just finishing up the first trip, where we had to attend the DMSB Permit Nordschleife.

We will be required to carry out races in a lower class VT2 Hyundai i30 N to earn our A permit to be able to drive the Hyundai Elantra N TCR in the Nürburgring 24.

This trip started with Taylor and I meeting up at the San Antonio airport for a flight to Atlanta and then on to Frankfurt. We caught up with Mason in Frankfurt, had a local meal from McDonalds, and headed to our Airbnb in Quiddelbach to get settled in.

We spent the day on Thursday checking out the area around the track, Nürburg Castle, and enjoyed a dinner at the famous Pistenklause in Nürburg.

The Pistenklause reminds me of Siebken’s in Elkhart Lake, it is a real racer’s hangout! It was the best meal we had all week and I’m thinking we will be repeat customers there.

We started off the day a little late on Friday as we were all suffering a bit from jetlag, but nothing a coffee and croissant couldn’t fix!

We headed to the Driving Academy to register for the courses and participate in the theoretical introduction. The course covered the basics like flags, safety items, and most importantly being overtaken by faster cars.

This is going to be super important for us because we’re going to be being passed by GT3 cars at full boogie during all of these events, which is different to the GT4 cars we’re normally with in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

We finished the day in a tour bus doing a lap of the circuit at full speed, it was insane!

Saturday was supposed to be an on-track day, but we got snowed out. This was a first for all of us! The laps were rescheduled for Sunday, and we got to work changing our flights to Monday to head direct to Sebring for the IMSA event.

We crossed our fingers and found ourselves with better weather on Sunday to get on track. The start of the day was a seat fit in the cars we would be using for the laps with the team from Ring Racing and Hyundai Driving Experience.

We made our first laps around lunch time behind an instructor that was sharing tips on the line and places to watch out for that can sneak up on you.

After a sandwich that I still don’t know the ingredients, it was back on track for eight solo laps around the Nürburgring.

The track was definitely sketchy with dry and wet sections, but I was able to finish my laps and get my certificate for finishing the course.

We’re back on the road to Frankfurt and its hard to believe we will be back here on Friday after racing at Sebring!

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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