How you can survive the Nurburgring 24 Hours

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Second of Europe’s best-known endurance races takes place this weekend
Racer Peter Dumbreck discusses the perils of a crowded monitor and getting used to lapping the Inexperienced Hell in anger

From Le Mans focus switches straight to the Nürburgring this weekend for the second of Europe’s ‘Massive three’ 24-hour races, the opposite being at Spa later in the summertime. The fearsome twists and undulations of the 12.17-mile Nordschleife contrasts starkly to the flat-out blasts and sweeps of the eight.Four-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. Every has its personal calls for.

Peter Dumbreck is aware of a factor or two about each. Twenty years in the past, the Scot survived one among Le Mans’ most notorious accidents when his Mercedes-Benz CLR took off and flipped over the limitations. He returned and completed third in GTE with Aston Martin in 2013, however it’s the Nordschleife with which he’s now extra synonymous. 

Following his first Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2003, Dumbreck has solely missed one since and is a famend circuit specialist, who till a few weeks in the past held the electrical automotive lap file within the Nio EP9. Since 2007 he has raced for Falken Tyres, for whom he additionally races within the VLN, the sequence devoted solely to the Nordschleife. “I don’t know what number of laps I’ve accomplished round there, however it’s nicely within the hundreds,” says Peter.

So what’s it like having the Nürburgring as your native circuit? “Unusual,” he admits. “It’s one among a sort. It’s laborious to match to Le Mans or wherever else. I haven’t pushed Bathurst, however I believe it’s probably the most difficult circuit on this planet.”

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Famously dubbed ‘The Inexperienced Hell’ by Jackie Stewart, the Nordschleife is hard sufficient with out the excessive quantity of race site visitors Dumbreck and his rivals reside with. “The vehicles are getting faster, the velocity variations between the slowest and us within the quickest GT3s are excessive, and accidents occur,” Peter says. “Within the VLN you’re taking a look at 200 vehicles, and within the 24 Hours 130-150. You hardly ever get a clear lap.”

Just like the Indianapolis 500, the Nürburgring has its personal rookie orientation earlier than drivers can race within the 24 Hours. “It doesn’t matter who you’re,” Peter explains. “You might be Lewis Hamilton, you continue to want a allow and do two VLN races in a decrease powered automotive to be assessed. That’s good, however they don’t differentiate who can apply. 

“Joe Bloggs has accomplished nicely at work and desires to go and race. He solely desires to drive the Nürburgring, he’s by no means pushed wherever else and he’s let unfastened. I’m wondering why he desires to be round us. Why would you wish to put your self in that state of affairs the place you could have a line of GT3 vehicles coming at double your velocity? Terrifying.”

For specialists reminiscent of Dumbreck, circuit information isn’t an issue, however he’s vigilant towards complacency. “You possibly can know each inch and each bump, and I do,” he says. “However the variable you possibly can’t know is the climate, which may change across the circuit on a single lap. Then you possibly can come spherical a nook and be on a path of oil. You lookup and see a flag, however it’s too late and also you’re within the wall. I’ve had that earlier than.

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“Within the cockpit, it’s busy! However like something in life, the extra you do it the better it turns into. Go and stick your highway automotive at 100mph (on the autobahn after all…) and to start with it feels quick, however after some time it doesn’t. Deliver your automotive right down to 70mph and you’re feeling like you’re creeping alongside. It’s that notion. When you get used to it and know what to anticipate and get right into a rhythm, time does decelerate. 

“However you additionally should watch out to not lapse and assume that is all going nicely. You may have all types of ideas within the automotive and it’s a must to preserve your thoughts on the job, as a result of abruptly it could actually chunk you. Trendy-day circuits, you’ve received run-off and might make a mistake. However there, one mistake and the tendency is you’re going into the wall. At finest you’ve received a couple of toes of grass till you hit one thing…”

When Dumbreck first raced within the Nürburgring 24 Hours, in an Opel DTM automotive, it was very a lot the ‘forgotten traditional’ of long-distance racing, little greater than a glorified membership race. That has modified dramatically prior to now 15 years thanks largely to the expansion of GT3. Bragging rights, significantly among the many premium German manufacturers, is now a strong incentive.

Driving for a tyre model like Falken gives its personal challenges. “There are pluses and minuses,” he says. “The large plus is that you just wish to drive for a producer, both of vehicles or tyres, as a result of that’s the way you make a residing. With a tyre make, you benefit from having model new tyres being thrown at you on a regular basis, however it could actually perhaps detract from the automotive set-up. 

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“Our group is concentrated on continually enhancing the tyres. Go to sequence reminiscent of British GT, ADAC GT, Blancpain GT and everyone seems to be on a spec tyre. You don’t have any selection. The VLN is likely one of the few locations left the place the tyres are open, and you’ve got seven or eight tyre producers supplying the grid. It means we’ve a tyre warfare happening, so we drive on confidential tyres providing rather more grip. It’s cool to be concerned in that as a result of your lap occasions are faster and meaning it’s extra enjoyable to drive.”

Come Saturday, Falken’s BMW M6 GT3 will as soon as once more dive into The Inexperienced Hell. As Dumbreck is aware of solely too nicely, something can occur – and doubtless will.

Learn extra

Quickest ever Nurburgring lap occasions – the definitive rundown​

Evaluation: Why 1999 was Mercedes’ final yr at Le Mans​

Toyota wins Le Mans once more regardless of late drama


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