Every January, you’d normally find Klaus Abbelen playing music in bars and clubs throughout the Eifel region of Germany, as a way of getting through the cold winter days of the racing off-season.
Instead, this year, the 55-year-old butcher is fulfilling a dream by competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and taking his Frikadelli Racing team with him for what could end up being a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I’ve been making music for 30 years now and I said this year I want to go [to Daytona],” Abbelen told Sportscar365. “I’m old enough now and only getting older to do it. I wanted to do it here and see how the racing is in America.”
Abbelen and longtime girlfriend Sabine Schmitz, known as the “Queen of the ‘Ring” and soon-to-be Top Gear personality, are partners in the Frikadelli team, which translates to “meatball” – Abbelen’s nickname in the meat industry.
With a giant meatball graphic adorned on the side of the team’s Porsches its runs in the VLN series and at the Nürburgring 24, Abbelen says, “It means we’re the quickest meatball in the world.”
Its world, however, has up until now only been the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with Daytona marking not only the team’s U.S. debut, but its first race outside of the legendary German circuit altogether.
“There’s a few teams like Konrad that do it every month,” Abbelen said. “They jump to America and back. If you’ve done it a few times, that’s usual. But for everyone in [our team], it’s a big deal.”
To help ease the transition to IMSA racing, Abbelen is receiving assistance from veteran team owner, manager and race strategist Cole Scrogham, who has assembled a support crew and logistics for Frikadelli’s Daytona adventure.
The two first met at Le Mans last year, where the initial plan was formulated.
“Cole has been a very big help,” Abbelen said. “I’ve been working on this since Le Mans. I met all of the guys.
“They made it possible that we could get a place here. A lot of teams don’t get an entry. Sabine and me wanted to drive and they’ve made it possible. It’s great working with him.”
While Abbelen’s small, but hard-working team no doubt likes to have fun, they’re not going to Daytona to just make up the numbers.
He said he’s there to win and has assembled a driver lineup that could get the job done.
Audi GT factory driver Frank Stippler, four-time Porsche Supercup champion Patrick Huisman and Porsche Junior driver Sven Mueller will join Abbelen at Schmitz at the wheel of the team’s brand-new Porsche 911 GT3 R, which will be among the expected 22 entries in GT Daytona.
And having posted the fifth quickest time in class at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, and second best among the new Porsches, Frikadelli heads into the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic as a darkhorse pick.
“The target is to come through,” Abbelen said. “Don’t make mistakes, don’t get a penalty and that’s the main thing we want to reach here.
“We’ve got good drivers, of course. I know what I’m doing. They’re all quick and don’t need a lot of time to learn the track.
“We want to win every race, no matter where we are. When it’s rain or shine, you want to win the race and be focused on not making mistakes.
“If you run around here and not make mistakes, you’re going to be good.”