The Nürburgring 12H weekend (September 9-11, 2022) was the inaugural 12H race. Part of the NLS series, it was broken into two days of racing with six hours each day and parc ferme conditions Saturday night to ensure Sunday's restart was exactly as Saturday ended.
Our race week started Friday with practice and in very mixed conditions. While mostly wet, as typical on the Nordschleife, conditions varied. My first lap out was nothing short of intense with a giant slide and half spin in Mutkurve. I managed to fight enough to keep the car on the pavement. How? I don't know. Ironically, the direct translation of mutkurve to English is "courage curve."
Without sounding cocky, I typically don't make mistakes like that on my own, I start cautious, feel the conditions, and build speed. I can count on one hand the number of spins I've had on my own in the almost twenty years I've been driving cars on track. The car snapped (on rain tires) at speed and immediately my confidence level dropped. The track is very slippery when wet, even off the racing line. As explained to me by others a lot of this is from the Touristfahren sessions where street cars of all types and conditions are on track. Simply put the track has rubber of mixed types and possibly even additional oils that come up when wet.
So I swallowed my pride and continued on with the practice, just working to find where the grip was and wasn't. I felt a little more confident at the end but spent most of the night in the hotel writing notes and mentally demanding answers as to why my wet driving, which I typically love and do frequently, was so sketchy.
Saturday came which was race day but also official qualifying. We would all get two laps in the car during that session. I felt much more confident in the morning session, even while damp, and was able to build more confidence as speed rose and I found where the grip was. I was starting to learn the Nordschleife in the wet is simply not like any other race track in the wet. So while a lot of wet driving knowledge crosses over, some of it is entirely unique to the circuit and due to the length of the circuit, every lap changes.
We qualified 6th in class for the race. The cars went back into the garage for their final race prep and the pre-race ceremonies began.
My co-drivers for the event were Michael Flehmer, Bernhard Wagner, and Niklas Bendfeldt. All experienced at the 'Ring and even a former VLN champion. We decided to put Michael in first since he had the most experience. He had an amazing start (on slicks) and quickly was able to move into 2nd place. We knew the gamble was whether to stay on slicks or go to rain tires as the rain was imminent. With a fifteen-mile-long race track, the conditions can vary greatly between different sections and due to the fact that it's in the Eifel mountains, the elevation also plays an impact.
Eventually, Flehmer stopped for rain tires once conditions got too bad. The next driver in would be Niklas. Conditions were once again changing prompting us to go to slick tires. His stint was quick and consistent.
Next up was yours truly, again on slicks but knowing the conditions were starting to change again as the rain was moving in. On my first lap out, I tried to find where the circuit was ok and not as ok. The Grand Prix section was entirely fine so I could push there, onto the Nordschleife things were good until Fuchsrohre and Adenauer Forst where the rain was picking up harder and I could feel a loss of grip. Especially on the entry into Adenauer Forst. The heavy drops turned light again until I got to Wipperman where heavier drops fell and track conditions definitely changed. Enough that the surface flags and a finger to the sky from the amazing marshals were shown which tells drivers the track has changed and it's from the weather.
The rest of my stint was tricky and I simply made the wrong call. Every lap one section would be improving then another seemed worst. It was a true mix of conditions. I was asked if I wanted to come swap to rains but I thought the right move would be to stay out because it's time-consuming for a stop, and if the circuit dried enough to need slicks again then we would waste time. The downside to that is my lap times would be slower so we would lose time either way but I just couldn't tell which made more sense. In the end, the rains would have been better because I was having to truly tip-toe through some of the sections to keep the car on the road. It made for a very stressful stint and I was simply mad and disappointed at myself for making that call.
For the final stint, Bernhard took the wheel, this time on slicks as the track did start to dry quite nicely towards the end of my stint. This stint would also lead into full darkness. He drove good consistent lap times and towards the end of his stint, he said raindrops started to fall again in sections. Luckily the checkered flag for the first half came out and he was able to manage to stay out on slicks.
So at the end of the first day, we remained sixth after being in second for a while, fifth for a long time, and falling back in the last moments. Knowing Sunday was a new day (and supposedly dry) we were all happy to still have the car in one piece, with zero damage, and zero mechanical concerns. We were able to enjoy a nice evening and a small party.
Day two came and I woke to a text from one of the team owners with a weather image. No real threat of rain was seen. I looked outside to some sunshine and was excited to get the day started. Anything would feel good after yesterday's embarrassing stint. My only takeaway from that decision is I kept the car on the road and kept it in fifth place.
I arrived at the circuit, got suited up, and was ready to go. We decided to keep the same driving order as Saturday which meant I would go the third stint. We started off well and eventually took back fifth place. It was a very close back-and-forth run though, usually depending on pit stop time but they had a couple of drivers with great pace so we had to do whatever we could.
My stint was much better. The conditions were good, there was a lot of dirt and junk offline which is common at this point in an endurance race so you really had to be aggressive where you let the faster cars by. I was able to keep us in fifth and really enjoyed the stint.
Bernhard drove last again for us and while his stint was solid and consistent, pit stop strategy and lap times from the other car put us back into the sixth position. As the checkered flag flew, finishing in our starting spot wasn't so bad especially given the conditions on Saturday and my learning curve of a wet Nordschleife. It's also worth noting after twelve hours of racing we didn't have a single scratch on the car and not a single mechanical issue. Another solid run from the boys and girls at Sorg Rennsport.
I want to also say a special congratulations to the team as a whole. Sorg Rennsport brought six cars to the race. They finished first in the V6 class with a Porsche Cayman, in our class (VT2 R+4WD) they ran three cars with the finishing positions of 2nd, 5th, and 6th. Then in the ultra-competitive Cup 3 class which is part of the Porsche Endurance Trophy Nürburgring, one of their GT4 Porsche Cayman finished second. The other unfortunately experienced a very rare failure and was unable to finish.
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