I cannot recall ever attending a race that had a public grid walk that wasn’t total mayhem, but the grid walk at the Nürburgring 24 Hours is a different beast entirely.
Thousands of people turn up to see their favorite cars, take a few photographs and, of course, gather as much free swag as they can. Camille and Julie have been quite busy handing out Speedhunters stickers and Audi flags, so if you’re at the ‘Ring this weekend be sure to say hello to these ladies!
They estimate that over 5,000 fans packed the front straight, fighting tooth and nail to get up close to the cars, and the teams are swamped. When you have a grid with over 170 participants, finding the car you’re looking for in an endless sea of people can be a rather difficult task.
But surely not nearly as tough as it is to get the car out onto the grid through the crowd. Some of the slower cars in the field opt to take a slow lap of the GP circuit to get their cars into place. This luxury simply isn’t possible for vehicles like the Speedhunters WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra at the sharper end of the field.
As chaotic as it can be to get the car into place for the fans, it’s nothing compared to the torture test still ahead of the team. Experts say that one mile on the Nürburgring puts the same stresses on a car as 10 miles on an average road, and that figure jumps up by a factor of 16-18 at race pace.
To ensure a good result here you have to focus on the long run and leave nothing to chance. The famous saying is ‘to finish first, first you must finish’ and the WRT team have been busy examining ever last bolt, quite literally, in preparation for the Green Hell.
So far the event has been fairly kind to the team – at least as fair as this place can ever be. The pace of the car right from the onset means it should be on course for an excellent result this weekend.
Car set-up has been good and the only issue has been determining fuel management for the race strategy. But when the numbers were crunched it appeared everything was working properly and the team should be able to manage nine laps per fuel load.
The next issue was testing different tire compounds to see how they changed over the course of a stint around the Grüne Hölle. Although it looks great to have an incredible flying lap, consistency is what wins races and therefore the tire that is the most neutral will often be favored over that which can provide the fastest single lap.
Since the car set-up was so good early on, the team opted to skip out on yesterday morning’s additional qualifying session to tear down the car and give it a good once-over for the Top 40 Qualifying session on Friday evening.
With Edward Sandström at the helm, the Speedhunters WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra was qualified 11th on the grid – a very good place to be and just four seconds off the pace of the pole-sitting Schubert Motorsport BMW z4. On a track where a fast lap is still over eight minutes, that gap is borderline irrelevant. As he qualified the car, Edward will also be driving the first stint and taking the mass start at 4pm CET.
While our position is certainly at the pointier end of things, there are a lot of things that can happen in a race twice round the clock, and a little bit of luck will go a long way.
With everything double- and triple-checked the team can only cross their fingers that the traffic, the Nordschleife and most of all mother nature are kind to them. Keeping the car in one piece so that it sees the finish line will be the primary goal.
Watching the car making its way towards the grid position the team, including us Speedhunters, were in high spirits. It’s much to early to think about finishing results, and with a field so heavily packed with strong line ups it’s really anyone’s race to lose.
With the start of the race less 15 minutes away the drivers and teams are making last calculations and trying to calm their nerves as much as possible. Keeping calm simply isn’t an option for me as I’ve already consumed two espressos, one latte and an energy drink – the diet of a Speedhunter.
I wish all the teams a great amount of luck and hope all of you Speedhunters out there reading this will follow along! I’m off to the forest…