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Nürburgring Endurance

Past N24 Incidents Prompt HRT to Adopt “New Approach”

HRT hoping its third N24 will be a charm after accidents ended early promise the last two years…

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

Haupt Racing Team is taking a “new approach” to this year’s Nürburgring 24 after the Mercedes-AMG squad saw high-flying runs come up short in the last two editions.

HRT claimed pole for its event debut in 2020 through Maro Engel and was Mercedes-AMG’s highest-qualifying team last year, but race incidents nullified its early promise on both occasions.

Two years ago, Manuel Metzger crashed out from the lead in slippery conditions, while last year Engel retired from second place after a collision with the Opel Manta.

CEO Ulrich Fritz told Sportscar365 that HRT is now trying to put less pressure on itself at one of the biggest GT3 races of the year, which takes place on home soil for the team considering its headquarters are in Meuspath, next to the Dottinger Hohe straight.

“I don’t believe in bad luck over the years,” he said.

“This all has a root cause and reasons. We were always in promising positions and lost these positions with unfortunate, avoidable crashes.

“It is always easy to say it’s the driver’s fault, but this is not how I see it. The team has to be one team. Mistakes can always happen, but if the drivers and teams feel too much pressure and if the preparation has not gone smoothly, this doesn’t help.

“We have therefore chosen a completely new approach to it: we just want to enjoy this weekend. Of course, the competition is always there, but we’re not going in and saying that we must win this: just to go and say that we must have a nice event.

“We have the privilege to do the coolest thing on Earth, on the best track on the planet, so let’s embrace it and have fun with it, and the results will come.

“Therefore we are just trying to have good preparation. It did not go smoothly with the accident during the N24 Qualifiers which cost us a car and, most importantly, injured the driver to the point that he cannot drive here. This didn’t help in the preparation.”

Metzger’s accident in the build-up to the qualifying races left the German driver with a broken thoracic vertebra, which he since had surgery on.

Philip Ellis has moved across from the No. 6 HRT lineup to assume Metzger’s seat in the No. 12 alongside Raffaele Marciello and Luca Stolz. Gabriele Piana was then drafted into the No. 6.

With no time to source a complete replacement car from Mercedes-AMG, HRT ordered a new chassis and built up the No. 12 car using intact parts from the crashed model.

The refreshed No. 12 shook down at Bitburg airfield last week and turned its first laps of the Nordschleife during Thursday afternoon’s opening qualifying practice session.

With that pre-event drama out of the way, the team is now settled in for its third N24 attempt with a crew that mixes staff from its DTM and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup projects.

“I think we are a strong team: it is really the strongest group of people we could have brought together here,” said Fritz.

“That is a good feeling to go into the weekend. I think we have fundamentally taken a new approach to this race.

“We have tried to set up things differently now, to avoid the situation [where] people might have felt under pressure, and to ensure we have a smoother operation.

“But this is not a guarantee. Having similar issues [the last two years], you have to think and question yourself. You need to be open to doing things differently.

“Maybe it happens the same way this year, so we know we need to try something else again. Then, of course, this track and the weather are crazy. Everything can happen.”

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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