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Nürburgring Endurance

Nürburgring Weekend Notebook

James Newbold’s weekend notebook from the Nürburgring…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

***Pole-sitter Jeff Westphal says Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus has been working hard to improve the reliability of its SCG003C after missing out on a possible victory in the closing stages of April’s qualifying race. “We always seem to be learning, we’re learning new fatigue rates and trying new parts for different advantages,” he told Sportscar365. “It absolutely is a team effort, we’re working together as a cohesive unit and that’s what makes this work well.”

***The American driver added that despite not being homologated to GT3 specifications, the Glickenhaus deserves to be held to the same standards. “We built the car to GT3 rules and to my understanding, the homologation or lack of it is based on the production number and certain paperwork things in that regard,” he said.  

***Westphal’s pole time was eight-tenths slower than Daniel Keilwitz’s best lap from Qualifying 2 earlier in the afternoon, which still stands as the quickest lap of the weekend so far.

***This year’s 45th running of the event was due to be contested by 161 cars, including 34 entered in the SP9 class. However, this was reduced to 33 after the No. 100 Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3 was withdrawn following an accident in second qualifying. The Dunlop-liveried car driven by Nico Menzel hit the barriers at Metzgesfeld, causing too much damage to be repaired at the circuit.

***There has been plenty of talk about tires all weekend, as much hotter conditions than were seen at the opening VLN races have highlighted the differences between the latest brand of customer tires, introduced after the DMSB banned confidential tires over winter. “When you make a tire for the Nürburgring, generally the testing and the development happens in cold conditions, so we’re all learning everything as we face conditions we’ve never seen before,” BMW’s John Edwards told Sportscar365.

***Four manufacturers – Dunlop, Michelin, Yokohama and Falken – are represented in SP9 in total, although Bridgestone, Pirelli, Hankook and NIKA are also represented among the lower classes.

***With all the tire manufacturers at different stages in their development, the race is expected to be among the most unpredictable seen in recent years. Consistency in the tires has varied wildly in the buildup to the race, with some drivers reporting that they have struggled to complete more than four laps on a set before experiencing a drop-off in performance.

“[The DMSB] launched it I think in February which is really late,” Marco Seefried told Sportscar365. “It’s not just mounting some tires on and go, you have to evaluate different compounds, different constructions and they have to produce it. In our case Falken is in Japan, so it’s not an easy call to make something and have it the next day, but I think that is a big thing for all the tire manufacturers, no matter who it is.”

***The No. 31 Frikadelli Porsche 911 GT3 R elected not to participate in the Top-30 Qualifying Session to save tires and will start from 30th position.

***Several drivers are pulling double-duty across two cars this weekend. These include Audi drivers Rene Rast, Christopher Mies, Connor De Phillippi, Nico Mueller, Frank Stippler and Peter Terting in the new Audi R8 LMS GT4, Mercedes-AMG duo Maro Engel and Dominik Baumann, Felipe Fernandez Laser and Franck Mailleux at Glickenhaus and BMW pair Alexander Sims and Augusto Farfus.

***ROWE Racing driver Nicky Catsburg is running in both the 24 Hours and the FIA World Touring Car Championship support race. The Dutchman set a new WTCC track record of 8:34.813 in Free Practice 2, driving a Volvo S60 TC1 for the Swedish Polestar team.

***Several North Americans are tackling the event for the first time, including 2005 Pirelli World Challenge champion Andy Pilgrim in an all-American Prosport Performance Porsche Cayman and BMW factory driver Kuno Wittmer, who is entered in the No. 20 Schubert Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.  

***Wittmer admits that he has found the Nordschleife intimidating, but said his experience on tight and narrow circuits in North America was good preparation for the classic German venue. “I’ve always grown up on circuits that were a lot narrower, like Mont-Tremblant, Trois-Rivieres, the Montreal Grand Prix circuit and smaller circuits across Canada,” he said. “They’re very daunting, very high-speed and if you have an off, you know it’s trouble.”

***There is plenty of interest to be had in the lower classes too. Hyundai have a large presence at this year’s race and have entered two production-spec i30 N machines in the SP 3T class. Blancpain GT Series regular Stuart Leonard is one of the drivers entered.

“Honestly it’s not comfortable when you know the GT3 cars are coming, but I try and anticipate from very early on, indicate and just get out of the way,” Leonard told Sportscar365.  “Hyundai’s key goal is they want to finish, so keeping the car safe is their priority.”

***The cars are prepared by Vincent Vosse’s WRT team, although Vosse confirmed to Sportscar365 that the deal would not extend to running Hyundai’s TCR program next year.

***Alessio Picariello has confirmed that he will complete the Blancpain GT Series Asia season with Absolute Racing. The Belgian, who qualified on pole in Buriram on his first appearance in the championship last weekend, was due to make his first appearance in the 24 Hours in a second Prosport Performance Porsche, but the car has been withdrawn from the event after mechanical gremlins struck.

James Newbold (@James_Newbold) is a UK-based freelance motorsport journalist. A graduate of Politics and International Relations, James is also the editor of Autosport Performance.


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