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MCMILLEN: Nürburgring Debrief

Nismo’s Nick McMillen files his final Blancpain Endurance Championship column of year…

Photo: Nissan

Photo: Nissan

When it rains it pours seemed to be the theme of the weekend’s affairs at Nurburgring.

I’ve been looking forward to racing at the Nurburgring all year. A dream come true for myself to finally make the trip to Germany and see the track in all its glory.

For me, this felt like the most special race of the year because it was the last race of the season and marks one year since I won GT Academy and started out on this incredible adventure.

I wanted to make the last race of the year a great one and close out the season with a bang. I decided to make some changes in my approach to the race weekend during my time since Spa and it was finally time to see if those changes would pay off.

From the first lap of the Bronze test I pushed the car to try and find the limits early while learning the track at the same time. I got up to speed quickly giving myself a good base to build on going into Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions. I was feeling confident myself and the team could have a strong result.

I awoke to a beautiful and dry Saturday morning, a surprise to the rainy weather that was forecasted.

My teammates and I got on well during practice posting quick improving times throughout sessions. The boys at RJN Motorsport had a great setup on the GT-R and I felt like I couldn’t do anything wrong in the car. The confidence I had was just what I was looking for going into qualifying.

We knew rain was approaching and might spoil the session so we got on as soon as we could. Florian Strauss went out first and put in a quick time for 12th overall in Q1. I was out in Q2 knowing I had the speed to possibly get us up further on the board and was going to give it my all.

On my out lap I got the message over the radio to “Get on with it! There’s rain coming.”

No time for a warm up lap this time. First flyer I caught some traffic but would get a clean second flyer where I shaved off a good chunk from my previous fast lap.

I knew there was more time and pushed hard with rain drops starting to hit the windshield but the Nurburgring would show it’s true colors when the skies opened up going into Turn 8 to cut my lap short. I had done what I could putting us in 12th overall during Q2. I was proud of myself and even more confident going into Sunday’s race.

Sunday was forecasted to be wet and I was mentally prepared to face some tricky conditions. Sure enough, the weather was some of the worst I had seen in a while with visibility at a hundred feet and pouring down rain. All the better for our GT-R though as it loves the rain.

Alex Buncombe started the race and had a few laps to get acquainted with the soggy conditions while under safety car until it pulled in and all hell broke loose! People practically driving blind and cars off everywhere until everyone settled into their pace, but not Alex.

Each lap he seemed to keep finding more and more speed eventually moving his way up into the overall lead. I sat there watching the live onboard from the car for nearly his whole double stint. I figured if Alex was the quickest I could really learn from his lines and braking points before my stint.

After handing the car over to Florian Strauss we ran 4th in class. Eventually he would make up a couple positions putting us in contention for a podium. Things were looking great for us so far.

I was called up to get ready for my first ever double stint and finish the race. I was prepared to fight for a win.

From the 30 seconds I took my eyes off the screen to go put on my helmet and gloves, I turned around to see the No. 80 in the gravel. My stomach dropped. I knew I’d have a fight on my hands when I got in the car; there was still a chance at a good result.

Florian brought the car back and it was go time. I was flat out right out of the box and trying to replicate what I watched on Alex’s onboard. Within three laps I was up to pace. I was catching everyone in front of me which only made me push harder.

The track was starting to dry so I had to focus on keeping the wet tires from overheating, adding another element to the tricky conditions.

Things were going well until I saw a flash from the fuse board on the dash and completely lost the ability to shift. I was stuck in 3rd gear and had to gently make it back to the pits. This would happen twice unfortunately until replacing the part causing a short in the system.

We had lost all of our progress and chance at getting a good result at Nurburgring. I was a bit disappointed but accepted the issue and kept on pushing for my own satisfaction of a job well done.

With the track developing a dry line we made the call to swap on to slicks since we had nothing to lose. A good call as I would find more speed and make some time on those still running wets. Near the end I would catch a Mercedes and have a good battle for a number of laps until the race finish.

It was a great experience at Nurburgring and has been an amazing year.

The season has been a roller coaster but I’ve truly enjoyed every moment. I really have to thank everyone at Nissan, GT Academy, Playstation, RJN Motorsport, SNAIL Spec Racing, and everyone else for being behind me and supporting me to make this all possible.

Looking forward of what’s to come in my future racing career!

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