Heidelberg, Germany -- May 26, 2009 -- 24 Hour Racing an Exhilarating Experience for Wirth. On the heels of BMW ALPINA's announcement last week that Andreas Wirth would join their line up, the team packed their tools and whisked their racing machines away to the Nurburgring where the team would field two BMW ALPINA B6 GT3's in the 37th running of the ADAC Zurich 24h race at the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
Nicknamed "The Green Hell" by Jackie Stewart, the Nurburgring Nordschleife is widely considered the toughest, most dangerous and most demanding race track in the world -- what better place for an eager young driver like Wirth to get his feet wet in his very first 24 hour race!
With a starting line up that included 173 sports cars from twelve renowned automakers, Wirth and the ALPINA team proudly made their presence known - a small team among giants. The #26 BMW ALPINA B6 GT3 crew of Franz Engstler, Patrick Bernhardt, Andreas Wirth and ALPINA Team Boss Andreas Bovensiepen qualified their brand new race car with a time of 8minutes 47seconds on the 25.4km long Nordschleife, earning them a well-deserved starting position of 11th place.
Commenting on the weekend, Wirth began, "It was a very exciting weekend! The 24h of the Nurburgring is a huge event -- it's like nothing you'll ever see. The fans are having a lot of fun, and every grandstand is full-full, the straights and fields and corners around the track -- they're all full, and as a driver, that makes the atmosphere even more amazing -- very impressive."
"The Nordschleife is a very challenging track, and I hadn't driven there a lot before this. There are a lot of blind corners, so during my first stint on the first couple of laps I was being really cautious, but then it got fun as I got into a rhythm and flow, and I learned a lot!
Remarking on the 24 hour aspect of the event Wirth said, "It's a totally different experience, but very cool. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but it's really hard. Just knowing when to eat and rest and sleep ... or try to sleep. All these things add a completely different dimension -- it's very different. But most challenging is racing in the dark! Going into those blind corners at night at 200km/hr or more in complete darkness, plus all of the smoke from the race fans camping in the woods around the track with huge campfires, barbecues and fireworks -- you couldn't see a thing! There were a lot of different things to worry about, but it was really cool!"
"Overall my stints went well," concluded Wirth, "We had some bad luck with blown rear tires and a problem with a wheel bearing, but we fought our way back and were doing pretty well again near the end. I managed to make up four positions in my last stint and we were overall 13th and running right behind the favourites. Unfortunately we had problems with the differential and had to pit to change it which took over an hour, leaving us to finish 27th. That's just one of those things though -- it's nobody's fault. For us it wasn't a very lucky race, but we've gained a lot of experience in a lot of things and on the car. I feel bad for our guys because they worked really hard just to have the car ready for the race. The first time the 26 saw a race track was when they rolled it out for practice this weekend -- I think that says a lot for this team and what ALPINA can do. We were pretty disappointed because we came so close to a much better finish -- but this was a huge accomplishment and I'm pretty proud of it."
After an exciting 24 hours of challenging racing the #26 BMW ALPINA B6 GT3 and her sister car crossed the finish line together with feelings of deep emotion and great accomplishment. With 135 laps - 3,429kms behind them, this little team with huge potential was greatly rewarded knowing they endured 24h of the Nurburgring -- no small feat for the #26 on her maiden journey or for Andreas Wirth in his first 24 hour race.
In less than two weeks time, on June 7th, 2009 Andreas will compete in the GT Masters Series at Hockenheim-Ring in Germany.