KIWIS BRING IT HOME AT THE RING
New Zealand's Kiwi Team Nurburgring maintained their perfect record of finishing the 24 Hours of Nurburgring at their fourth attempt at the race, in what was the fastest ever running of the 24 hour epic.
The risk stakes were always higher for the team in 2009, with three cars entered for '09 compared with two in 2008.
By race end, all three Kiwi cars were spread less than ten places apart, after problems for the quickest of the three cars, the Audi RS4, early on Sunday morning. Honda Civic number 193 took home second in class and 77th overall, closely followed by the number eleven Audi RS4, also second in class and 80th overall. The sister Honda Civic rounded out the third car for the team, with a result of fourth in class and 85th overall.
Pace in the Group N2 class that the Honda's compete in was raised for 2009, with the FKM team's Civic taking class honours after the Kiwi team had won the Group N2 class for the past three years.
The main difference between the FKM and Kiwi cars were the slick tyres used by the FKM team. Travelling such a long way from New Zealand sees Kiwi Team Nurburgring take a conservative approach to tyre choice, opting for the Dunlop 'DOT rated' road-race tyre. This tyre allows drivers to push on in any conditions, but doesn't deliver the extra pace of slick tyres.
With only slight drops of rain in the night, the increased performance of the slick tyres pushed the advantage away from the New Zealand team, eventually finishing just two laps behind the class winners on 119 laps.
Dean Cockerton, taking part in his first 24 Hours of Nurburgring started the 193 car, and pushed hard early on, setting some impressive lap times. For much of the 24 hours, the lead New Zealand Honda Civic shadowed the FKM car, with the German team only gradually increasing their advantage every lap.
The 193 car saw a faultless performance from drivers and crew, with only routine maintenance being carried out during the race.
The same could not be said for the new addition to the team for 2009 however. The Audi RS4 that was secured for the first time for 2009 struck problems around 6am on Sunday morning, just over half way through the race.
Tim Martin was at the wheel of the Audi for the race start, keeping the car out of trouble and moving up to be inside the top fifty by the close of the first stint. As night fell, the RS4 continued to show impressive pace, with all four drivers running lap times within a few seconds of each other.
Newcomer to the 24 hour race Andy Booth showed he adapted quickly to night time driving, along with rally driving ace Lewis Scott and Porsche regular Stu Owers. All four drivers kept a clean head through the night, while still pushing the impressive RS4 all the time.
By sunrise, the Audi had moved up to 38th overall and second in the class placings, after competitors including both Lexus LFA's encountered technical problems.
However fourteen hours into the race, and with no warning, the engine of the Audi blew in spectacular style, with a massive cloud of white smoke signalling the end of the V8 power-plant. Luckily for the team, the failure happened on the Grand Prix section of the 25km circuit, so Tim Martin, who was at the wheel of the car at the time, was able to coast back to the pit lane.
Checks later of the data-logging system in the car showed no mistakes by team or drivers resulting in the engine failure, the cause being put down to a faulty part in the engine.
In a true showing of their professionalism, the Gotz Motorsport team who were preparing the RS4 in conjunction with the Kiwi team quickly got to work to change the engine, completing the task in a record 2.5 hours. By 9am, there were cheers all around the team's pit garage, as the number eleven Audi RS4 was sent back out on track, this time with Andy Booth at the wheel.
During the time in the pits, the team was caught by two of the Lexus', to drop to fourth in class, but still in sight of these two competitors.
Booth quickly got to work once back on track, setting lap times almost as fast as his Qualifying time, lap after lap. As the laps counted down to the finish, the number eleven car worked forward on the result sheets, managing to jump ahead of the first of the two Lexus'. Then with less than an hour remaining in the race, Lewis Scott jumped the second Lexus, bringing home the RS4 in 80th place overall, with much applause from the combined Kiwi and Gotz teams.
Class winners for the SP8 class was the Aston Martin V12 Vantage team which includes Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez in the driving line-up, significantly ahead with 139 laps completed, compared with 118 laps for the RS4.
Just behind the RS4 was the second of the team's Honda Civics', car 192, coming home in 85th place overall and fourth in class. The 192 car also drove home with total mechanical integrity, the biggest holdup was a faulty radio communication system just before night-fall on Saturday evening.
Interestingly, both Honda's recorded best lap times within two seconds of each other, just over eleven minutes each lap, which was a little over one minute slower than the best time set by the Audi RS4 of 9:57.449.
Early in the morning on Sunday, not even half way through the race, spits of rain did fall for half an hour, however the Dunlop 'DOT rated' tyres on the two Honda Civics came into their own, allowing drivers to push on without holdup. Luckily the rain was isolated to small parts of the circuit, and not sufficient for the Audi to need to pit for wet weather tyres.
The 2009 24 Hours of Nurburgring was won by the Manthey Racing Porsche, the fourth time in a row this team has won the race. Until the final few hours however, there was a tight battle, with up to four cars on the lead lap, including two Audi R8 V10 'GT3 class' race cars.
The Manthey Porsche completed a total of 3933km, or 155 laps of the 25.3km circuit.
Coverage of Kiwi Team Nurburgring at the 2009 24 Hours of Nurburgring race will be shown on TV1's Powerbuilt Tools Motorsport show on 5 July 2009.
Kiwi Team Nurburgring efforts at the 2009 ADAC 24 Hours of Nurburgring is proudly supported by Big Ben Pies, Racetech, Smith & Smith, Carglass, Cosmeticart, One Health, Dunlop, Hellman, Castrol and Oracal.
Driver Line-up 2009:
Car 11 - Andy Booth, Lewis Scott, Stu Owers, Tim Martin
Car 192 - Ali Taylor, Brian McGovern, Dr Greg Taylor, Jeff Lowery
Car 193 - Brent Greer, Dean Cockerton, Mark Corbett, Rod Hicks
Greg Taylor, Team Owner and Driver
"I can't express enough what a fantastic job every member of our team put in over an especially long and demanding race and weekend."
"I'm more than hopeful that we can continue this project for future years, and maintain a Kiwi presence in the world's greatest 24 hour endurance race."
Brian McGovern, Team Manager and Driver
"It's always a challenge when a team grows in scale, but I have to hand it to everyone in the team for a job well done. Even when the pressure was on, everyone kept their cool, which showed with our finishing results at race end."
Andy Booth, Driver
"I'm hooked! That goes down as the most demanding but fun race I've ever driven in. My first experience of 24 hour of racing has left me wanting more."
"The Kiwi team members, plus the Gotz guys all put in an amazing effort over the weekend. Even when we had troubles, everyone did an outstanding job!"
Tim Martin, Driver
"The engine dramas obviously weren't to plan, but second in class was at least a reasonable reward considering the huge efforts so many people put in to make the team's three car project possible."
"It can't be said enough how professional the Gotz Motorsport team was. We hadn't met the team in person until the Monday afternoon before the race, but were constantly impressed with their efforts for a bunch of Kiwi's they'd never met before."
Rod Hicks, Driver
"It was great to be back behind the wheel at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring after such a long break from the race. Having driven some questionable cars in the past, it was reassuring to drive a properly prepared car again."
Mark Corbett, Driver
"At least we had an almost entirely dry race this year! I'm not a huge fan of the 'Ring when it's wet, so the dry weather made most drivers' lives much more easy."