A LAP OF THE NÃœRBURGRING GP CIRCUIT WITH STEFAN MÃœCKE (DE) Nurburgring, 21 August, 2009. "The Nurburgring circuit is a pleasure to drive, I know the short version really well from my time in DTM and I tested here soon after the Le Mans 24...
A LAP OF THE NÜRBURGRING GP CIRCUIT WITH STEFAN MÜCKE (DE)
Nurburgring, 21 August, 2009. "The Nurburgring circuit is a pleasure to drive, I know the short version really well from my time in DTM and I tested here soon after the Le Mans 24 hour race with the Aston Martin LMP1 car.
"The test in June was very useful. We managed to find a good, well balanced set-up however, one of the things that became clear was that track conditions can change very quickly. Grip levels can change from one hour to the next so although we found a goodset-up at the test it doesn't necessarily mean it will work well in race conditions.
"The track has a good mixture of slow and fast corners, uphill and downhill sections; it's a track that suits prototypes reasonably well because there are several long straights and it is quite wide compared to some of the circuits we visit making it easier to overtake the slower GT traffic.
"It definitely makes a difference for me to be racing in Germany. I think of this as my home race although it is 700km from my home in Berlin so it isn't really local! Lots of my friends and family will be coming to support me so it will be a nice weekend for me.
"One of the interesting and sometimes difficult features of the Nurburgring is the weather. I have seen so many different weather conditions here over the years -- from snow in summer to races being delayed or even stopped due to fog. Thankfully it looks like the weather will be sunny for the race this weekend but anything can happen in the Eifel which is what makes driving at this circuit so unique.
"So, my lap of the circuit starts on the start/finish straight and I am in sixth gear at a speed of around 280kph by the first turn.
"The track has always been quite bumpy in the approach to turn one and now there is an additional bump where the new spectator tunnel goes underneath the track. The track falls away here and the front tyres can lock up. It's a big job to find the right braking and turning point in this corner and it is easy to make a mistake but also easy to overtake here if you get it right. The braking point used to be by the bridge but this has now been taken down so we will have to find a new braking point during the pre-race test sessions. It is always great when you arrive at turn one and see the impressive grandstands filled with spectators. It is important to get a good exit from turn one to set yourself up for the next section of the track.
"Turns two, three and four are like one big corner -- in my mind they are all linked together. I lift a little into turn two and the braking into turn three is difficult as the car is never straight here. For me this section is the most challenging and it is easy to lose time here. It can be difficult to find the right line and also the right set-up for this section of the track. Turn four is a short right hander and it's important to get a good exit to ensure you carry the maximum speed through turn five and on to the straight.
"Turn six is a fast left hand corner taken in third gear which leads nicely into seven or the Ford Kurve which is a 110kph, second gear, right turn. The circuit starts to drop away here and you need a good exit on to the downhill straight which follows. Turns six and seven form a smooth section and for me they are very nice to drive.
"On to turn eight, the Dunlop hairpin which is the lowest part of the circuit and hard on the brakes as it is downhill into the corner. I brake hard, turn the car and try to get a good exit uphill to the fastest corner section of the track -- turns nine and 10 or the 'Michael Schumacher-S' as they are known. Incidentally this is my favourite part of the circuit -- especially during qualifying.
"During qualifying with low fuel I take these corners flat out however it isn't possible to do this during the race. You really need to have confidence in the car and the track to not lift when qualifying. Visibility is quite difficult in the Aston Martin closed cockpit car here and it takes a few practice laps to find the best line.
"On then to the straight before turns 11 and 12 which are similar to turns six and seven in that they are smooth and nice to drive. I reach 270kph by the end of the straight. You really need to have good downforce and aero balance in this section of the track and I try not to go too far over the curb at the exit of 12 as the car can bottom out and become unstable.
"Downhill again on the straight, flat out through turn 13 which is a subtle right hand leading to another straight -- by the end of the second straight I'm at 275kph and in fifth gear, then I brake late for the fast left/right chicane in turns 14 and 15. You have to be careful at the entry to the chicane, there are two configurations of the circuit, the fast version which we are using and the slow version, there is a bump when you cross over the slow configuration.
"Pushing on then to the final corner, turn 16, the Coca-Cola Kurve. This corner can catch you out as grip levels change during the turn. There are two different kinds of tarmac; the grip is good in the middle but not so good at the exit. This is where the Grand Prix circuit meets the famous Nordschliefe circuit. The final corner is crucial for a good lap time and it's important to have a nice clean line with no mistakes as this can set you up on the start/finish straight and enable you to finish your lap well and then prepare to overtake into turn one.
"Thinking ahead to qualifying, it's always nice to be at the front. We need every point we can get for the championship, so the extra point for pole position would be useful but it is a six hour race so as long as we are somewhere near the front we should be ok. I'm really looking forward to the race on Sunday and I hope that we can get another good result and a podium finish."