One race I am on the podium, and the next just hoping to finish somewhere above last place. This was my 24 hours of Oschersleben held last weekend in Germany. Despite the best plans and efforts, in racing it’s impossible to know how a race is going to end.
I arrived in historic Berlin, Germany for a few days of rest before driving to Oschersleben, the first of two races in a three-week expedition.
Staying on plan of keeping my wife happy by bribing her with travel to great places, we are visiting Poland and the Czech Republic before finishing the International Endurance Championship (IES) season at the 12 hours of BRNO October 9 – 11.
In last weekend’s race at the challenging Motorsport Arena of Oschersleben, I drove the No. 75 Drink Florida Orange Juice BMW 120D for Cor Euser Racing with co-drivers Jim Briody (USA), Dirk Schultz (GER) and David Hannewijk (NED).
Located in the former East Germany, this track was funded by the government after the unification of 1990 to help develop and support local economic development. It has a challenging, safe and well-designed layout with excellent fan viewing areas.
The race is sponsored by Dutch National Racing Team (DNRT) and the primary event targets low power two-liter engine cars typically found in the BMW 1 series and similar designs.
Drivers came from a mixture of professional and non-professional levels. A total of 36 teams qualified and cars were divided into four classes depending on lap times and race modifications.
The DNRT was founded more than 35 years ago by driver Huub Vermeulen. They are one of Europe’s most successful and leading race organizers. The events have simple, no-nonsense rules. Their focus is competitive and affordable racing which is key to developing and supporting our sport.
DNRT organizes about 35 events per year for more then 800 drivers in 25 different classes. Huub is credited with creating the “Code 60” procedure commonly used at world-wide racing events to allow safe recovery of cars under double-yellow conditions.
Many famous drivers such as Jeroen Bleekemolen, Yelmer Buurman, Tom Coronel and Cor Euser began their careers or can be found racing at DNRT events. Fans are welcome, viewing is typically without cost and teams and drivers are readily accessible.
Successful endurance racing is all about adapting to ever changing challenges and never surrendering.
In testing and qualifying the hose for the power steering failed resulting in our drivers having to learn the track in the dark night session.
Jim started the race. Not short of experience at 71 and with 40-plus years of racing, he likely holds the world record for driving the most endurance races. This was his 79th 24-hour event with 22 wins and 44 podiums.
After qualifying P2, we lost the engine due to a piston failure on Jim’s second lap. It appears we had undetected damage resulting from our last race. The team changed the engine and after five hours we were running again starting to begin a long climb from the bottom.
The race was fairly uneventful. Jim, David and I competed against each other trying to set the fastest lap. At the end we were fighting each other within a 4/10ths of a second window.
Honors went to David and shows the value of learning to master the art of driving low power cars. This was his first 24-hour race, at night and in a diesel. His experience has been racing Mazda Miatas. They are a great car to polish skills in braking, handling and holding inertia because they lack horsepower that can hide or offset these important fundamental driver abilities.
After 530 laps, we finished sixth in class, 28th overall or nine positions from the bottom.
When in this area of the world, make time to explore new places and take in the history. Study, books and movies provide knowledge but nothing compares to seeing and the feeling we receive from a personal experience.
We visited Krakow, Poland, nearby concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau, underground salt mine in Wieliczka and my wife’s mother side family home town of Kolbuszowa. She is Polish and Italian.
I received many spouse points for doing this and hope to exchange them for permission to do a few races next year. Next we are on to Warsaw, fly to Prague and drive to Brno for the race.
The IES Driver Championship will be decided by how each of the current top-10 drivers finish. The series has become very popular as there are more 775 drivers from 58 countries trying to win.
After this race the series drops our lowest result of the season. Doing this now, I am second and one point from matching Chantal Kroll, a friend and co-driver in our win at the 24 hours of Dubai.
For the Championship, basically I need to finish second or higher in either of my classes and not tie her. If she or I fail to podium and the drivers just below us win, one of them will be the champion.
Most of us are current or former teammates so, somewhat cruelly, how we finish will decide who will win the Driver Championship.
I will drive two cars, the No. 160 Drink Florida Orange Juice Lotus Evora in the SP3 class and the No. 83 BMW M3 in A5 for Cor Euser Racing. Dutch co-drivers will be Ricardo and Jacky van de Ende, Cor Euser and Danny van Dongen.