N24 Qualifying Weekend / RCN race


Seize The Day - Racing - 2014

We are N24 qualified and have an RCN trophy winner!


RPR Racing have bigger 2014 plans than the VLN-based Opel Astra OPC Cup; V3-class "Hungry Hornet" will set the pace in RCN, VLN and Nurburgring 24 Hours!


6 April 2014

An action packed weekend lay ahead, with mostly dry weather conditions, and the lead role played by RPR Racing's V3 Renault Clio "Hungry Hornet". Carpe Diem racers Carsten Ohlinger and Meyrick Cox supported Danny Brink in the 6H qualification race, while newcomer Ole Petersen took on his first RCN race.




The team gathered early on Saturday morning at a rather empty Nürburgring for the N24 Qualifying weekend, which puts together two groups of drivers: those aiming to qualify in the top ten for the main race; and those aiming to qualify as drivers, since they have not got sufficient race experience. One might think that putting the fastest and most aggressive drivers together with the least experienced drivers is a recipe for disaster, but come the 6-hour race, the front-running drivers have done their stuff already; and there is plenty of time for qualifying.

We had two targets for the weekend: firstly for Danny Brink to qualify as a driver for the N24; secondly, it was to be Ole Petersen’s first ever race in an RCN, wanting to graduate from track days at the Ring in his Cayman and intended very much as a stepping stone to trying VLN out later in the year. The Hungry Hornet, RPR’s legendary V3 Clio was the weapon of choice for the weekend. Easy to drive yet hugely rewarding for the committed driver; everyone steps out of HH with a grin on their face. A lot was being asked of HH, with 3 hours on the GP circuit; an RCN race; four hours of free practice and qualifying on the Saturday, followed by an hour of quail 2 and a six-hour race on the Sunday.

We were sharing a garage with two of the other three V3 entrants, the factory Mazda team with their astonishing budget; and the Thai drivers in their GT86; and someone with a clear sense of irony had put Get Speed next door. None of us had ever had so much space in the garage, with only three small cars, and no “big” team. What a luxury! We hardly ever had to queue for the loo.



Scrutineering as usual seemed to take for ever, with the ever-present intense scrutiny on stickers. Finally, at around 1020hrs, HH was cleared and we could get on with shakedown and testing. MC was sent out first as it was his favourite conditions of damp, cold and drizzly (we know he’s a Brit, but actually preferring rain??). He came back after a few laps grinning from ear to ear, saying that the car felt great, and wanting to go straight out again once Julius and the team had checked the car thoroughly. Warm wets, now and you could see MC revelling in the conditions, right up on the exit kerb onto the main straight (aren’t you supposed to stay off kerbs in the rain?) and then past the pits with a rasp to justify Hungry Hornet’s name. Back in and asking for cut slicks, saying that it was easily dry enough as the team looked up, faintly bewildered at the grey skies and continuing drizzle. Sometimes his enthusiasm for HH borders on the unnerving…. Out again and it became quickly apparent that MC was right; and that some of the 235is and even some R8s were holding him up in the corners; but his three allocated laps were soon over and in he came.

Wreathes of smiles and far too much high-speed English. We think he was happy, but all Danny could glean from this boundless enthusiasm was that MC thought it was time for slicks and that he was off to yet another meeting nearby. At 1045 hrs, Danny kicked off sensibly with the now warm cut slicks to reacquaint himself with the car and GP circuit; but within 4-5 laps was quickly back in again for slicks as a dry line was beginning to appear. He also looked pretty committed and the car was sounding magnificent past the pit box, where the team looked on from the new fully-equipped booth on the pit wall. The day continued to brighten; and that was the last hint of rain pretty much all weekend. Carsten completed the session which, by now, was pretty much dry round the entire course.


T&E seemed over all too soon; but the car was feeling perfect and we now knew that the larger 235 section Hankook slicks would fit, so we would use them in FP and Quali 1 in the afternoon. However, now was Ole’s moment and the car needed preparing for the RCN. As the prep was completed, the pit complex reverberated to the squeals and smoke of the drift challenge. Nothing if not a mixed weekend.



Meanwhile at noon, Ole was attending his first ever drivers’ briefing which, in the manner of all the best briefings left him far more confused than before it, with a myriad colour of start groups, initial laps, confirmation laps, breaks and a host of other things to remember: if in doubt, head for the historic paddock to find your car, he thinks. Of course, of HH, there is no sign, presumably still be scrutineered for the correct stickers or some other vital safety point. Julius and the team are, naturally, on top of things and bang on time HH appears with brand new 235 section slicks.


Einar had now arrived, having very kindly volunteered to come along and analyse all the video and data for the time; just how valuable this support is would be become clear later in the weekend: thank you, Einar.


Sit in, buckle up. Get out again and look for the cushions which, MC has jettisoned in interests of lower weight or something. Get back in again, buckle up and watch Julius and the mechanics walk off the grid leaving Ole all alone. Now might seem a good time for a major panic; but Ole settles down with a few moments of meditation, which keep being interrupted with Carsten’s parting words of “Bring the Hornet back in good shape, we still need to qualify Danny”, interspersed with MC’s intoning “power, power, power”. Thankfully, the ever-rising sense of panic is ended with a dose of positive thinking and the race director setting the car off with a tiny interval between them: go…. go….. go….. go….. go and HH is off!


Ole’s sense of reassurance that he was eventually off racing lasted about one corner, full of confidence into the first right - hang on, why are all the other cars turning left now???? Best follow them, although cold slicks, which were something of a novelty to Ole at this point, didn’t quite follow his requests perfectly. Back on track and following the pack through a series of unknown corners on the GP circuit (did anyone mention that this RCN is held on the VLN circuit?) and finally, finally back on the Nordschleife where Ole knew where he was going.


A BMW 3-series drifted past on the way down to Hatzenbach and set the red mist off and a Pavlovian reaction of “throttle, power, power”. Ole started settling in and began to remember the lines through all the corners and to use the considerable grip of the Hungry Hornet. By the time Ole had arrived at the Karrusel, he was beginning to lean on the slicks and enjoy himself; and then, on the exit from Hohe Acht a seminal moment happens: Ole overtakes his first car. Like. In fact. Love. Finally, the first lap is over, although a couple of yellows and a tentative start results in a lowish set time of 12.30 - although, having not reset the timer in the car, Ole didn’t know what the time was, but knew it was time to get properly stuck in to exploiting HH’s not inconsiderable abilities.


The lap times fell as they passed, until on the fourth lap, the light blue Falken Porsche 911 flashes past like a torpedo in the Kleine Karrusel. Unfortunately, torpedoes have a habit of hitting things, and as Ole breasted the crest under Antoniusbuche bridge, the double yellows told a very sorry story of a very badly crashed Falken Porsche. Somewhat chastened, Ole carries on for his confirmation lap, and realised, as he again comes onto Dottinge Hohe that he has no idea what time to aim for. Julius is all over it though, and talks him down the straight from the pits to make sure he is within his 10 second window; and then, into the pits for the break.


The second stint passes in a flash, Ole visibly enjoying himself and getting into a few dog fights with some competitors. Some of the earlier BMWs are easy meat in the curves now, although some have a lot more power in the straighter sections. HH is the perfect tool: easy to drive, very confidence inspiring and super forgiving. Last fast lap, then the chequered flag, and into parc fermé. 3rd place and a cup in his first race: way to go Ole; way to go!!!.

Race over, Ole set to munching nuts, raisins and bananas with a vengeance, before stripping off his “top entry” race suit (just how exactly do Sparco think one is supposed to go to the loo in one of these?); and setting off on a 5-hour drive back to Lake Constance, near where he lives and runs his corporate life balance business. Normal people might want a rest after such a momentous occasion, but Ole is made of sterner stuff.


Free practice


We now moved to using the full 24-hour layout of the circuit, which adds approximately 25 more seconds of the Mullenbachschleife to the VLN circuit. It didn’t feel like the organisers of the weekend had contemplated a car’s being run in the N24 qualifier and the RCN race, so the Hornet was still locked up in parc fermé. Some almost Italian-esque arm waving from Carsten and eventually HH was released, but of course, we still had the RCN stickers on the car, so couldn’t possibly be allowed out again until every N24 sticker was perfectly in place. Let’s just say its a good thing that we had strapped MC in the car whilst the scrutineers did their thing.

Although Ole had completed the RCN, none of the 24-hour drivers had driven HH on the Nordschleife since 2013, so we volunteered MC to go and find out whether it was dry all the way round or not; and to see what the HH felt like on the “big” circuit? Instructions to do a couple of laps of the GP circuit to get everything warm, then one long lap and a short in lap. Gone were all the wet lines; and up went the commitment levels. HH was properly working for a living now and utterly revelling in it. If you could bottle the sound HH makes, we would all be rich. In no time at all seemingly, the calm “box, box, box this lap” call came in and MC passed the line in 10.45. Cooling off round the GP circuit and into the pits. MC (once we had disentangled his radio lead from the seat) was out with good reports. The car felt fantastic on the Nordschleife; flat everywhere, but especially over Flugplatz and Mutkurve. Disbelieving queries were met with a calm and confident “Look at the data logger”, so it was clear that HH was in good form.

Having just squeaked in a lap each (with the right stickers) in free practice, it was time for serious business now. Fresh slicks were cooking in the tyre warmers; Julius and the team swarmed all over the car checking every possible detail time and again; and Danny was strapped in as the most important driver to get through quali. Warm up lap, two timed laps and an in-lap was his brief.


Quali 1

Green, Green, Green….. Even with a two and a half hour session, every one is always keen to get going; and time always seems very tight. Danny is one of the first on the track and zings off onto the Nordschleife: two targets: acclimatisation and flat lining some of the faster sections: his karting skills mean he is always mighty on the GP circuit, so we need to get him quicker on the Nordschleife. Briefed to complete three full laps, Danny is balancing MC’s conviction that some sections are flat, with the need to bring the car home safely from the demanding 25,378km long version of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. His best was a solid 10.44min lap time, which we were all pleased with.

Soon he is in again: car feels terrific, confidence is building and he is remembering the feel of the the Green Hell. While he was out, CO and MC had a quick debate about tactics; and decided to send MC out to bang in a couple of good laps in case tomorrow morning proved to be damp; CO would then do two laps so that the whole team had qualified for the 6-hour race the next day. If time permitted, they would then have a night lap each as well.

Well, bang in a couple of quick laps is just what MC did; with a 10:42 being the faster of the two; putting RPR’s Hungry Hornet second in class. Quite how standard, the class-leading GT-86 is doing sub 10.30 laps remains to be seen, but that’s clearly out of sight. The car feels strong and is handling really well, with the Clio’s legendary turn in, yet remaining stable enough through the faster bits. CO then headed out as darkness fell, to see if he could improve the time. He’s clearly pushing hard; Marcel, RPR’s photographer reports in from Hatzenbach with some lovely shots of HH in the gloaming. But it was not to be. MC’s time is untroubled, but CO is happy with the car; and HH remains in P2. Great outcome.

Time to get some night experience in; so Danny heads out for another couple of laps now full darkness has fallen. No time wasted with warm up laps on the GP circuit. This is about time on the fearsome Nordschleife in the dark; something Danny has not experienced before; with a briefing from MC on places to watch out for; and how to deal with night traffic which just appears as lights behind you; and Danny heads out. A swift pit stop with some excellent work by Julius and the team; and Carsten is out as well. He’s an old hand at the night with a couple of N24s under his belt in the much faster “Croc”, the team’s SP6 Cayman, but not in the Clio, so wants to get a feel for the car in the dark; especially being able to see a bit with the LEDs, after the dismal lighting that he had suffered on the Cayman in 2012. As the team sat in the pit wall box, an idea began to foment. Carsten was due in with rather less than 4 minutes to go before the curfew; but if the crew were super quick and turned the car round quickly, MC might also be able to sneak in a quick lap in the dark.

HH’s distinctive rasp blared past the pits, grabbing 5th gear just before reaching us. Nothing else sounds quite the same. Brake lights flared as Carsten crested the dip down to the tight first chicane and HH disappeared out of view for its short in lap. Less than two minutes and she would be in the pits. The team stood in the pit lane in a state of high readiness, just as everyone else was winding down for the night. The pit lane marshals even queried what was going on, but quickly got the message and stood by as well. It was going to be tight. For the night quail, HH had a very distinctive light pattern, with one super bright LED light for illuminating the left kerbs close up (the other met an unfortunate end in the Croc last year and is still being repaired). Eyes peeled, the team waited for HH to roll down the pit lane. With slick work, MC would get a lap. One fluff and the red light would close the pit lane.


Julius spotted the car first (he is very tall…). Even if we were the only crew in the pit lane, Carsten was still waved in to the position. An inch perfect stop; Carsten had not expected a full race-style pit stop, but instinctively grasped what was going on. Straight out, Julius ripped out the cushions while Carsten debriefed MC: “Track is clear, no yellows, no oil; go for it”. Annie checked all four tyres temperature and pressure, while the screen was cleaned, the car refuelled and Julius on one side and Michael on the other tightened MC’s straps to account for the lack of cushions. Engine started; doors slammed; and Annie waved MC out into the pit lane. There was nothing coming in to hold the HH up thankfully. The exhaust rasped its gleeful note and HH launched off down the pit lane. Just under a minute to go before the pit lane was due to close, but you never know if the official clock agrees with you. Engine note steadied in 2nd gear as MC held HH at just under the pit lane limit of 60 kmh; and then he was gone into the dark with the engine racing happily through the gears right to the limiter; brake lights flared for the hairpin at the first corner; one blip, second blip; and just as the car disappeared out of sight, the pit lane closed. Slick work lads and Annie, slick work. Night laps are a rare and precious commodity and no other team got all three drivers out for fully dark laps.


Unbeknownst to the team, while they were clearing the debris of their excellent pit stop back into the box, another drama was unfolding. Just after MC left the pits, the Bonk M3 passed the pits and set off in hot pursuit of the Hornet. MC has only really got one setting in the dark: flat, and was in no mood to let anyone catch, never mind come past him. The lights remained a constant distance behind him round the GP track; gaining some down the back straight, so the car was clearly more powerful, but losing again through the chicane, so heavier too. Down Hatzenbach Bogen, flat on the throttle and into the switchback of Hatzenbach itself, the lights flashed left and right behind. No closer, no further away. Out of Hocheichen, down over Quiddelbachhohe and the lights started to close. No matter, the Clio is mighty through Flugplatz, MC turned in flat over the crest and carelessly just clipped the rear right on the first apex. It was enough to yaw the back of the car sideways and toward the grass and the now-repaired marshals post. Visions of the SLS' accident there the weekend before must have sprung into the marshals minds, but MC kept HH planted and despite a rear wheel on the grass, HH pulled through onto the rise towards Schweudenkreutz. It had been close, and little momentum had been lost, but the HH was no match for the M3’s engine down towards the super fast Schweidenkreutz, so MC left enough space and let the lights by. An epic lap followed, with the Clio never more than a few 10s of metres behind the much more powerful M3. Every time a gap opened up, the Hornet’s better brakes and grip closed the gap. As the pair tumbled down the hill towards Bergwerk, MC thought that it would be impossible to hold the M3 up the long drag to Steilstrecke: so it should have proved, but a flash of brake lights at Trotterdown had the rampaging Clio back on the M3s tail again, only to watch it drift away again up towards Mutkurve. More than a flash of brake lights this time raised the hope of closing the gap, and HH powered through Mutkurve with not a hint of a lift, to be right back on the M3’s tail again, and pushing to get past at Steilstrecke. The M3 was having none of it, so the game of cat and mouse continued past Hohe Acht, down through Wipperman, with the cars literally nose to tail; the fast section through Pflanzfgarten 2 opened up a small gap again only to be closed in the entry to Schwalbenschwantz, where the Clio braked later, less and carried far more speed into the fast right. Through Kleine Karrusel and into Galgenkopf, where another flash of brake lights from the M3 allowed the Clio to close right onto its tail all the way through onto the main straight. Sadly, any hopes of holding the tow down the straight only lasted until the gantry, at which point the M3’s far superior power told and it eased away into the night, a gap that even the Hornet could not close in the braking into Tiergarten, so the Hornet was the last car to cross the line that night.


Last car into the pits; where the team basked in P2 and the knowledge that the #1 placed Toyota would not be taking part in the 6-hour race the next day, so they should be starting P1 in class, with a near 7-second advantage over the next-placed car. Bernd prepared a super mixed grill as the team opened a beer or two to relax. Meanwhile, Einar had crunched all the numbers; and the drivers sat down to analyse where improvements could be found in each of their performances; and the mechanics set to checking every aspect of the car for the race the next day. Carsten, as usual, set off to feed his hunger for more information from KW, Hankook and any one else he could corner.





Quali 2


Sunday dawned cold and clear. It looked to be a really beautiful spring morning in the Eifel. Having negotiated the parking Mullahs (some aspects of the 24-hour organisation are less welcome than others. Its pretty insulting asking the drivers to pay €5 to park; especially with no shuttle. Come on chaps), the team assembled in the trailer, parked in pole position right outside the back of the box. Fuel was looking marginal and the pattern the team had run the day before hadn’t given clear enough data to allow a judgement on 6 vs 7 race laps. The team decided that more data was needed and not to bother with a further qualifying run, so MC was tasked to run a two-lap stint on the GP circuit; Danny an out lap, a full lap and an in lap; so that Einar could calculate whether there was enough margin or not. Runs completed uneventfully, the data came back very marginal, so MC was tasked with two more GP laps. As he came in; and the team refuelled again, the factory Mazda popped in a lap over 10 seconds faster than anything they had done before. We were down a position in qualifying with no chance to respond. However, we had the fuel data we needed, and when the numbers had been run, were glad we had. 6 laps was safe, but 7 very marginal. All this would change for the 24hr, when the additional tank would take the capacity up to 65, but we had to run with what we had in the car.


The quandary this put the team in was that Danny had a derogation from the organisers that two 7-lap stints (as opposed to two 8-lap stints) would qualify him for the 24hr, which was our primary focus. That meant that Danny had to do three stints; and we would have a poor pit stop strategy for the race. No matter, that was our primary aim, or Danny would not be able to race in the 24-hour itself. He would therefore start the race; MC second, then Danny again at which point we would review based on actual fuel usage of what was possible thereafter. Hankook had assured us that the tyres should be good for the full 6 hours; although the team planned to heat cycle them for durability, and change them at alternate pit stops at least.




The sun blazed down as the cars were pushed out of the garages into the pit lane, before it opened to allow the cars to assemble on the grid. Having only 50 cars on the grid made it a very different race to the VLNs that RPR are used to; and a very pleasant change. Plenty of space to show off HH and for the team to work around it. The car looked resplendent in its black and gold livery; and it contrasted well with the deep red of the Mazda and the white Toyota with which we shared a box. All was well as the cars headed down the pit lane to form up on the grid.


There was only one start group, so unsurprisingly, the V3 group formed the tail end of the grid, which should allow for three or four laps of clean racing before the leaders came to join the party. There was a more relaxed feeling on the grid than the 24hr, although all the usual cues were there, rehearsing for the big day later on. For a 24hr newbie, this would indeed be an excellent introduction. The grid marshals must have been confused by the missing Toyota or something, because HH was shifted from a slot on the left to a gap between the other two V3 cars; what was much less confusing, was the stream of petrol pouring from the back of the Mazda ahead of us. With a scant 5 minutes to go before the formation lap, the Mazda was ushered through a gate back into the pit lane and off the grid. The problem seemed to stem from their additional 15l tank to supplement the meagre 50l standard tank: something in the system wasn’t working; and fuel was pouring out, so the scrutineers would not allow the car to start until the extra tank was removed. It seems as if the entire team descended on the car as the pit box filled with the heady fumes of race fuel; trays of fuel were syphoned out; as the poor Mazda was dissembled. We were caught between wanting them to be able to start; and yet also wanting to beat them. The Chief of the Course came by to monitor and eventually pronounced that they could leave the pit lane when the light and turned green. Wolfgang Kaufman, who had sensibly vacated the driver’s seat, was strapped back in.


Meanwhile, Danny had already set off on the formation lap at the tail of the grid. He’d been nervous while waiting to start the engine, this being his first major race start and he was keen to make a good impression to the RPR team for the 24hr race; he focused on saving fuel throughout the formation lap, staying off the brakes and conserving fuel wherever possible, mindful of how tight the fuel situation could be. You can take a racer out of a race, but you can’t take the race out of the racer; so, well experienced from his karting years, Danny was close to the Cup Clio in front of him when he came along the starting straight. The red mist descended; and it didn’t take him long to get the measure of the Cup Clio ahead, despite its packing an extra 15hp, sequential box and lower kerb weight. Under pressure from Danny, the Cup lost in turns but pulled away uphill with its better power-to-weight ratio. All the while, the Toyota behind came closer and closer, so Danny knew he had to pass the Cup before he came under too much pressure from the Toyota, with its slipper shape. Tumbling down the hill towards Breidscheid, which negated the Cup’s power advantage, Danny made his move and made it well, putting the Cup between him and his next competitor. However, the long uphill section from Bergwerk to Kesselchen followed, and the Cup closed the gap once more, relentlessly as the three cars forged up the hill.

So Danny remembered the words of MC: “flat flaaaat” and he thought that the others would not have the courage to stay flat in Mutkurve. With a deep breath and relying on what Einar’s hugely detailed data analysis had shown the night before, he did just that for the first time, which immediately opened up a 150m gap behind, and gave him enough space to stop following the scenes in the mirror too much. Up to Hohe Achte and his favourite section till Döttinger Höhe, where he had enough space for the Cup not to be able to catch him. But time enough to see he was coming closer. Mindful of how much he had gained through Mutkurve, Danny resolved to try “flat” through Tiergarten and immediately closed up on a BMW 325 so flew by, with the extra speed he was carrying. Lap by lap, his trust in the Hungry Hornet grew and was brave enough to stay flat, like MC, at Flugplatz, Mutkurve and Tiergarten, so he was banging in some impressive times, testing lots of further tips and help from MC.

Back in the pits, having seen Danny’s 10.37, the 10-minute pit crew warning was called, then, as the 5-minute warning was about to sound, the Mazda and the Toyota both came in. They could run even fewer laps than HH could! The team stood aside to give them space and waited for Danny. In rolled the Hornet with a comfortable lead of 1,08min at P1 and the team descended. Danny’s debrief to MC was pretty succinct “fantastic” with a big smile and the thumbs up, so MC was strapped in. As always the fuel took forever to go in; and as the numbers reeled upwards on the fuel pump, the teams prudence was proved out. 7 laps would have been very marginal indeed. Doors slammed, exhaust covers off, mirrors checked and away the Hornet went down the pit lane. The car came out in plenty of clear air, so MC set to driving the times down. It was clear quickly that all was not well for some reason. MC was struggling to match the times he set the day before, never mind about Danny’s times. Was it traffic or something else? He called in complaining of understeer right from the outset and a difficultly in selecting 3rd gear: flat in Flugplatz nearly had him understeering off into the undergrowth and a similar approach in Mutkurve right out on the whole of the concrete rumble strip, which is uncomfortably close to the guard rail. Were the tyres shot; had any of the car’s settings been changed over night? He soldiered on with respectable but dull times albeit with a few yellows and three red/yellows, besting only a 10:41, some 4-5 seconds off what Danny had been able to manage. As his stint came towards an end, the team decided to put fresh tyres on and called the Hankook engineer across.

Another faultless pit stop and Danny was out, and heading straight across the pit lane exit line, resulting in another summons to the Clerk of the Course, but the times were no longer there with the Hornet back in the 11 minute region, albeit with a smattering of yellows. Debriefing with Carsten, the tyres were over pressured by 10-20% and while the Hankooks work really well in their window, it is a much narrower window than the Dunlops that the team is used to; plus the team had checked the dampers the night before and added another 0.75 bar of air pressure, thus stiffening the front dampers somewhat. The two factors conspired to promote understeer so when the engineer arrived and looked at the tyres, the cross section resembled a wave with a dip near the one edge and a peak towards the other. No wonder they wouldn’t grip; having got too hot and descended into a cycle of over pressure leading to understeer, leading to a hotter tyre, and the rubber moving across the surface of the tyre to create the peak. Some careful thought is going to be needed to manage this issue, since temperatures will be significantly higher in the 24hr in June.


Four laps later, the team radio crackled into life. Danny’s microphone wasn’t working too well, but he was clearly intending to come in for an unscheduled stop. MC was readied, and we watched for Danny to come in. The only thing we could pick up from the radio had been battery, so the team prepared for an electrical gremlin of some kind. The car chirruped into the pit lane and ran steadily towards the team, anxiously scanning the car for anything wrong. As the team fuelled the car, Danny was told to stay in; as he had not done enough laps yet; and the problem became clear. The battery light was coming on intermittently; and the car was not pulling cleanly. Fully fuelled, the Hornet was pushed back into the garage. With plenty to space to work around the car, Julius and the team set to work. Quickly a faulty generator was diagnosed, and they set to replacing it. Ironically, RPR had fitted a brand new Bosch VLN-spec generator at three times the cost of a standard one with the 24 hour in mind, but it failed on its first outing. Carsten was livid: I would not like to be the Bosch salesman taking that call on Monday morning.


Forearms were singed on the scorching engine and manifold - the generator being mounted low down at the front of the engine. Annie approached the car wielding a large and dangerous-looking crowbar (always be nervous of girls with large crowbars in hand, I say!); but soon the standard generator had replaced the faulty VLN-spec one. Engine started cleanly; and everyone in the box could hear the cleaner rasp now. Full lock left, full lock right to reset the steering; and Danny left rubber on the garage floor with RPR’s class lead now in danger. As the laps passed, the times started to come again and the team settled down once more; although looking nervously at the timing screens, since both the Mazda and Toyota had found a lot of time in themselves from nowhere. Danny was intended to run a full stint, leaving one and a half stints to do to finish the race. 4 laps, 5 laps and the team started to ready themselves for a pit stop again, when the radio crackled into life again. Again, impossible to decipher, but Danny wanted something, so MC was told to get ready a lap early for the next stint.


The Hornet came down the pit lane once more, again, anxiously scanned by all the team for any signs of issues. Was Danny just tired? Was something broken? Had he touched a barrier or another car? He rolled up to the fuel pump. The debrief wasn’t good: no 4th gear and a huge plume of smoke behind the car in Karussell.. After Danny had left the pits he firstly smelled a trace of smoke at Bergwerk; forging on up the hill from there, on throttle in 5th gear / 7000rpm towards Mutkurve he also felt a little unsure about the car. Little vibrations and noises told him to be careful with nearly 200km/h showing on the speedo and maybe something burning at the rear, although it didn’t smell like oil or rubber and all instruments showed ok. At Karusell the car filled with smoke from the rear, so Danny debated between pulling the fire extinguisher, stopping immediately, or carrying on to the pits. As he ruminated, he realised that there was less smoke when he drove faster. After Hohe Acht, he then also lost 4th gear and realised that all was not well with the gearbox either, so had to carry on with 3rd and 5th gear the way back to the box. Frustratingly, although he tried calling the pits all the way, the microphone in his helmet had failed, so although the team knew he was calling, nothing could be gleaned from the call. The car smelt smokey and hot and was pushed back into the garage.

Its at times like this that a team’s mettle is really tested. We had lost P1 in class and now even a finish was in question. Calm analysis preceded action: the car was jacked up and Annie disappeared underneath (being so small has its virtues); Julius and Michael delved in from above. The prognosis was clear: broken engine mount and broken gear linkage. It was a miracle that Danny had been able to get back. MC was strapped in while the team set to work. Out came the crowbar again and the engine bay was strewn across the box: lucky there wasn’t anyone else in there. 50 hard minutes later, punctuated by barked commands and seriously impressive teamwork - spanners passed from person to person; each person seemed to know instinctively who would do what - the engine mount was replaced and a new gear linkage installed. We had lost three laps, so absent a miracle, we would not be able to get our hoped-for class win.


Nil desperadum, the motto of HMS Dauntless must have been ringing in MC’s classically-trained mind (he was a school friend of Boris Johnson, another lover of the classics) as he set off down the pit lane to nurse the ailing Hornet home, with Carsten’s instructions of gentle on the gearshift and no kerbs at all top of mind. MC has plenty of endurance experience (2014 will be his 20th N24 hr alone), so is well able to coax a car along at pace while being super gentle with it. All those skills turned out to be needed. It was clear that, although one engine mount had been replaced, the engine was still moving around way more than it should be: each clumsy gearshift was met with a clonk; so shifts were minimised and smoothness emphasised. During this Zen-like driving state, MC caught a glimpse of the dark red Mazda entering Steilstrecke just as he exited Klostertal. Rounding that corner, MC flew past the Mazda, which clearly had serious problems as it was going very slowly. Going round the outside of the Karrusel, MC called the team to break the good news; of course, the mobile signal is poor there, so Carsten at first thought that there were further problems with the Hornet; much repetition; very slow speech and the message got through: just bring it home was the reply.


Each gearshift was smoothed as much as possible, but halfway round the next lap, the Hornet was clearly not well. Trying not to despair, MC called in again to ask how long to go in the race and was met with the joyous news that it was finished, so all he had to do was coax the little car the remainder of the lap home. Never had half a lap felt so long as that one; and the team rejoiced as the Hornet buzzed past for the final time that afternoon. Even the cool down lap had to be taken gently, with the Hornet feeling very fragile, but finally, parc fermé was in sight; the car was parked; data logger and camera SD card removed and the day was done.


This race belongs to our mechanics though: it wasn’t the result we wanted, but Danny is now qualified for the 24hr and without their sterling efforts we would neither have finished, nor got Danny to the 24hr. Guys and girl, thank you one and all; we owe you and love you!






Thanks to all track-side photographers for great pictures; watermarks are preserved for identification and rights protection.