The SpeedHunters' coverage of the ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen 2010 is almost done but before closing the chapter and heading onto the next event I felt it appropriate to look back one last time and pick out some highlights.
The speed of the #1 Manthey Porsche GT3 R elicited comments of both admiration and disgust. Admiration at the amazing level of performance shown. Here is Marcel Tiemann on the opening lap, kilometer 5 post just passed and he has vaulted from 7th on the grid past the phalanx of Audis to have a clear lead at the Schwedenkreuz. The scalding pace continued throughout the race, well as long as it lasted for the Porsche.
In common with most GT competitions these days the VLN try to balance performance of the cars to prevent excessive speeds and budgets. So using data from the first three rounds of the 2010 VLN each car is given a minimum weight, air restrictor size and fuel tank capacity. It is an imperfect science as the teams will sandbag like hell to gain an advantage in the 24 Hours. Manthey appeared to have played the rules better than the others.
This is what werks BMW driver, Jörg Müller, meant when he declared "Obviously, the others make better politics than we do. After all, they suddenly are 10 seconds faster – while we race at the same pace as we did in the previous VLN rounds. Now we will just keep on going as fast as we can while trying to avoid making any mistakes at the same time.”
Nevertheless, the pace of #1 was not a surprise to my German colleagues who felt that the combination of car, drivers, team and special Michelins would prove irresistable. Even a late switch to similar rubber by the Phoenix and Abt Sportsline Audi R8 squads could not close the gap. As the Sun went down on Saturday it appeared that win number five was in prospect for Manthey. It was not to be as the Nordschleife struck back, the Porsche was eliminated as a result of someone else's accident.
Another Porsche, also run by Manthey on behalf of the factory, looked good for a win till about two hours to go. Jorg Bergmeister had been mighty behind the wheel of the 911 GT3 Hybrid comfortably staying ahead of the chasing pair, the #25 BMW and the Farnbacher Ferrari 430 when all of a sudden "I heard a loud noise at the rear of the car and suddenly the power went." This stranded the car at Metzgesfeld and tumbled it out of the race.
Porsche were quick to exonerate the hybrid system, a concept developed by the Williams Grand Prix team. As Porsche put it themselves "The innovative hybrid technology featured in the car has been developed especially for racing, standing out significantly in its configuration and components from conventional hybrid systems. In this case, electrical front axle drive with two electric motors developing 60 kW each supplements the 480-bhp four-litre flat-six at the rear of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. A further significant point is that instead of the usual batteries in a hybrid road car, an electrical flywheel power generator fitted in the interior next to the driver delivers energy to the electric motors.
More Porsche speak…."The flywheel generator itself is an electric motor with its rotor spinning at speeds of up to 40,000 rpm, storing energy mechanically as rotation energy. The flywheel generator is charged whenever the driver applies the brakes, with the two electric motors reversing their function on the front axle and acting themselves as generators. Then, whenever necessary, that is when accelerating out of a bend or when overtaking, the driver is able to call up extra energy from the charged flywheel generator, the flywheel being slowed down electromagnetically in the generator mode and thus supplying up to 120 kW to the two electric motors at the front from its kinetic energy. This additional power is available to the driver after each charge process for approximately 6 – 8 seconds." (Image courtesy of and copyright Porsche AG.)
The Hybrid was 125 kilos heavier than the conventional GT3 R and to help compensate for this handicap it was awarded an extra 20 litres of fuel per tankload, which approximated to two laps longer between stops. Less stops, less time lost in the pits, over 24 hours that is really key. Of course there was also the bursts of power taking peak horsepower to 640…………..handy for punching past traffic on the tight, fast course. It almost succeeded.
The Hybrid was one development at the 2010 Nurburgring 24 Hours, perhaps the most significant, perhaps not. Another theme that ran through most of the factory projects seen was that of running cars based on stuff you could buy in the showrooms. Porsche were at the vanguard of this movement too and in this case they enjoyed considerable success. #11, a white Porsche GT3 RS, was driven to the Nordschleife from the factory at Zuffenhausen, presumably off the assembly line. It then completed 145 laps during the race in the hands of two local pros, Roland Asch and Patrick Simon, supported by two magazine editors, Horst von Saurma and Chris Harris, (Sport Auto and EVO). A trouble free run translated into 13th overall and 4th in the competitive SP7 class.
After all this the 911 was driven back to the factory. The car was fully street legal and had been optimised for the track by the Porsche AG. Team, changing from 19' to 18' wheels would have required some serious intervention but essentially this was a road racer. Race on Sunday, sell on Monday never seemed so clear.
Another factory backed entry that was extolling the virtues of improving the breed through racing was Subaru. Since Subaru withdrew from the World Rally Championship, the Nurburgring 24 Hours has become the main focus of their STI motorsport effort. The theme “Pleasure of Driving” is meant to encapsulate the balance that allows for comfortable, smooth and natural driving without sacrificing performance. This is the STI philosophy as explained to me by Hideharu Tatsumi, Team Director of STI NBR Challenge 2010. I asked what had changed on the car since 2009? The 2010 was more experimental, with big improvements in body stiffness and suspension geometry, which was now lower than the standard production settings. The centre of gravity had been lowered by 40mm largely by repositioning the fuel tank. There had been a weight reduction campaign, in the region of 60kgs, all of which added together would give a significant improvement in performance.
I further asked whether the Nurburgring 24 Hours would remain as the sole outlet for STI's racing programme or would consideration be given to other endurance races such as Dubai 24 Hours or perhaps a revitalised Spa 24 Hours. The answer was unequivocal, only the Nordschleife produced the real world driving conditions that STI wished to prove their cars on.
The STI Subaru effort ran a conservative but sensible pace for the race itself, leaving the accidents and mechanical failures to others.
So the whole team was overjoyed when 3.00pm came round on Sunday and the chequered flag saluted the Subaru. The Impreza WRX STI clocked up 139 laps to finish 24th overall and 4th in the SP 3T class.
The most successful of the Japanese teams in terms of overall performance was the Falken Motorsports Nissan Z33 (Version NISMO Type 380RS-Competition). The Z33 was driven Peter Dumbreck, Dirk Schoysma, Tetsuya Tanaka and Kazuki Hoshino clocked up 145 laps along the way to an impressive 12th place overall and 3rd in SP7 class.
They ran a pretty uneventful race, picking up places on the leader board as faster rivals fell out, the whole team did a really good job and should feel very pleased with the final result.
Another Nissan, that had some works "encouragement" if not outright support was the RJN Motorsport 370Z GT4. Evidence of the was Micheal Krumm's name on the team sheet, as one of the favoured Nissan contracted drivers he would not be in a Nissan without approval from the top. RJN's attempt on the SP 7 class was a character building one. Early in the race the engine expired, so the team replaced it and got the 370Z back onto the track.
Afterwards Bob Neville reflected “The race was as hard as ever it is at the Nurburgring with many cars from major teams not making the flag, our engine change resulted in a battle through from last place but of course we were never going to get a good position having lost the time. The 370Z in VLN spec running with the rear wing and front splitter was praised by the drivers for its handling and posted a fastest lap of 9:31. Without the engine problem the car at that pace would have finished well up the leader board, and all four drivers put in a superb performance”. 115th place at the finish was some kind of reward for all the efforts expended by the guys, take it from me, finishing in a 24 hour race is its own reward.
And what, I hear you ask, of the high profile Lexus team? Well they too were using their third participation at the event to improve and test their forthcoming production car. They even brought along a posse of customers to witness their efforts.
Twp Lexus LF-A supercars were on hand, their V10 engines and dramatic looks making them very popular with the fans, at least the ones paying attention.
There was also a singleton IS F on hand. A largely uneventful race for the crew except a few minor problems of the sort that can be expected while racing at the Nordschleife but they soldiered on to 72nd place recording 127 laps.
The #50 took honours in the SP8 class scoring a decisive win over the much fancied Aston Martin factory V12 Vantage and Rapide entries, finishing 18th overall, covering 142 laps. #51 was limping round at the finish, having spent 11 hours of the race having “a power train related problem” fixed. That carefully crafted PR speak covered a multitude of sins and revealed precisely nothing, job done.
The LF-A pair staged a joint finish across the line but the 67 laps completed failed to give #51 a classified finisher status. After an "Annus Horribilis" for Toyota and its President Akio Toyoda, who was the Ring to support his troops, the class win will have come as a welcome diversion.
Part 2 tomorrow