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Octane126 “Proud” of N24 Pole After New Chassis Scramble

Octane126 pole came after stressful build-up including crashed chassis and setup workaround…

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

Octane126 boss Christian Bertschinger said the team can be “proud” of taking pole at the Nürburgring 24 based on a hectic last couple of weeks to introduce a new Ferrari chassis.

The Swiss outfit lost a chassis when its Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 crashed after contact with a BMW M4 GT3 during the second N24 Qualifier race on the May 7-8 weekend.

This presented it with a race against time to source, prepare, roll out and validate a replacement chassis in time for this weekend’s endurance event at the Nordschleife.

Luca Ludwig then claimed a shock pole for Octane126 by posting a time of 8:09.469 in Friday evening’s Top Qualifying 2 shootout, beating Augusto Farfus in the No. 99 ROWE Racing BMW to the top spot by just over a second.

“It shows the strength of the team,” Bertschinger told Sportscar365.

“I was sitting on my own in a restaurant for lunch on Tuesday [May 10]. I said, OK, that’s it. It was a four-year project. It’s the last chance with the car, because it’s the end of the 488.

“We haven’t had luck in the past. And then, during the afternoon, I was chatting again with some executives of Ferrari. Taking a chassis out of the production run was the only chance we had.

“But this was a high-level decision. In the evening, around six o’clock, the call came: done. We do it.

“And then my chief mechanic jumped into the car, loaded the wreck and we went down to Italy. All the spares were available directly and we didn’t lose time in terms of logistics.”

After a few days of working on the chassis, the team faced a delay in shaking down its car last weekend due to track availability.

On Monday morning this week it rolled the Ferrari out Modena before transporting it to the Zurich team base later that afternoon, and on to the Nürburgring for scrutineering on Wednesday.

Bertschinger said that around 80 percent of the damaged car was saved for the new chassis, although some parts had to be replaced such as the front suspension, sub-frame and intake manifold.

The engine survived, but the original chassis was too damaged to continue due to being cracked and twisted after the accident.

Octane126 then needed to get the car bedded into the 25.3 km Nürburgring combined circuit, however this process took up most of its available practice time.

“We had the experience of the setup,” Bertschinger said.

“But on the other hand, it was an entirely new chassis. It was very stiff and the old one was an old lady.

“We had quite some trouble during all the sessions. We worked back and forth. We did a loop in the setup: we tried everything and came back to the original one that we knew, and finally it worked.”

Team Not Expecting Quali Pace to Translate

Despite Ludwig’s impressive pole run, Bertschinger does not feel as though the Octane126 Ferrari will break away from the field at the start of the N24 tomorrow.

He maintained a stance put forward at the start of the weekend, when the team published a blog post outlining its grievances at the handling of the BoP and traffic situations that led to incidents for the Ferrari at NLS 3 and the N24 Qualifiers.

Bertschinger highlighted a BoP change in 2020 that he claims equated to a 30 hp reduction for his team’s car.

“That is something we’re still suffering from,” he said. “If we have a free lap like today, we can make it. Because overall the handling of the car is good.

“But if you watch the top speed on the Dottinger Hohe, just now we were lacking. In the race, you will see the cars will pass like hell.

“Look at the pictures from yesterday night; how the BMW passed by. It doesn’t have to follow in the tow. It just goes past like on the German autobahn.”

Ludwig, meanwhile, was surprised at how the other manufacturers did not bring a closer challenge to the Ferrari in Top Qualifying 2.

“I think I did the same lap time as two weeks ago,” he told Sportscar365.

“It was exactly the same time as I just saw on the dash, so we didn’t hide anything, just running flat out and it’s the same time.

“But the others were slower than two weeks ago. This was a little bit surprising.

“The Goodyear tire has the performance and has shown the performance on the long-distance [run]. I do not expect any drop in performance so I hope we can stay in front.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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