The Hong Kong-based KCMG squad is facing a “big learning curve” as it tackles the Nürburgring 24 for the first time with two Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s, according to team principal Paul Ip.
KCMG is marking Nissan’s return to the top SP9 category for the first time in three years with a pair of cars, while Super GT squad Kondo Racing is fielding one GT-R.
The team entered the first three rounds of the Nordschleife-based VLN series, along with last month’s N24 Qualifying Race, in preparation for its debut in the main show.
Ip told Sportscar365 that KCMG’s preliminary VLN outings were a “useful” starting point for the Nurburgring 24 assault, which has presented several new challenges that the team never faced during its prior spells in Blancpain GT Asia and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“There are many challenges,” said Ip. “It’s a 25km circuit, so if it starts to rain on the other side of the circuit, it could be a mess. That’s one challenge.
“Another is space, with six cars in the garage – some have eight – the feeling is different to what we are used to.
“Normally we have a fuel rig right in front of the box, but now we have to find the next available fuel rig. We have quite a few dead spots on the radio, but we now know exactly where that works so we can communicate in those areas.
“It’s a learning year, so a lot of drivers are at the Nürburgring for the first time and had to get their licences – so that was another challenge.
“It’s a big learning curve. That’s why we the majority of the drivers that we are running are KCMG drivers, however we’ve got some specialists like Christian Menzel to really bring the guys up to speed this year.”
The VLN and Nurburgring 24 program runs in the middle of KCMG’s full-season Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli campaign with two Nissans.
Ip said that the long gap between the California 8 Hours in late March and the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July created an open window for the team’s Nordschleife attack.
KCMG is operating its VLN and N24 program out of a workshop in Germany, and has access to spare parts support from NISMO at the circuit.
“The key to do two programs is that you basically have to run it as two different teams,” he explained.
“The schedule actually fits in quite well because after Laguna Seca, there’s a long break, and that’s when VLN starts to get busy. Then after the 24 Hours we have Spa [24 Hours], so calendar-wise it’s actually quite good.
“There is a lot of preparation, so you have to invest more in doing two programs, and you can’t do it with two cars and one crew.
“You can probably do it with the same set of crews, but you definitely need two sets of equipment and four cars, to do it right.
“Ip believes that KCMG can challenge for the podium if it manages to have a clean race this weekend.
“I think a lot depends on the factors of a 24-hour race, especially at the Nürburgring – weather is one thing, accidents are another,” he said.
“If everything goes smooth, I think the top five or a podium is within reach. A win is difficult, but I think a podium or a top five is possible.”
Other Schedules Impacting Macau Return
KCMG is currently “undecided” on returning to the FIA GT World Cup in Macau on November 14-17, where it ran three Nissan GT3s last year.
Ip explained that the team is planning to file an entry for the FIA GT Nations Cup at Vallelunga on Nov. 1-3, while Macau is wedged between that event and the IGTC season-closer at Kyalami on Nov. 23.
“It’s actually quite tough with the last round of IGTC one week or two after Macau, we’re going to do Nations Cup a week before Macau, so it’s difficult logistically,” he said.
“Nations Cup is in Italy, Macau is in Asia, and then there’s South Africa, all within a week [of each other]. Even on a flight every day, it’s still going to be tight.
“And you can never know if you get a crash or damage to a car. To prepare for Macau, you can’t just go halfway. It has to be properly done.”