Nurburgring 24 Hours -- What Might Have Been
Marino had barely time to drop his bag following his return from the ALMS event in Salt Lake City, before jumping on a flight to Germany to compete in one of the most gruelling events on the motorsport calendar, the Nurburgring 24 hours. The Nordschleife (the old Nurburgring circuit) set in the heart of the Eifel, is renowned for its bad weather, but as 170 starters got their race underway at 4pm local time here yesterday afternoon the whole of the 24.359kms was bathed in warm sunshine.
Marino was sharing the perfectly prepared #19 Mamerow Porsche GT3 Cup S car with Porsche works' driver Joerg Bergmeister, and Chris Mamerow. It was Chris who qualified the car on Friday in 13th place overall, and 10th in class with a lap time of 8:49.401 which meant Mamerow Racing would be right up the front of the pack when the race began.
Lap after lap, the race was running like clockwork, slowly and steadily the three drivers picked off the cars in front of them. However, there was one difficult moment just approaching midnight when Chris picked up a puncture in the #19 Mamerow car, but he was able to bring the Porsche safely back to the pit, a new set of tyres were mounted and the car continued with virtually no time lost. The driver rotation played through its cycle and by this morning the team were perfectly placed in 6th overall. Marino was back in the car just after 8.30 am and he drove a great stint, overhauling the Alzen Porsche ahead of them and pulling away at about 10 seconds a lap. The team were now up into 5th place overall, 3rd in their SP9-GT class and the leading privateer team in the race. At the end of his 90-minute stint Marino pitted and handed the car to Chris who drove another of his excellent stints retaining the #19 Porsche's 5th place overall. At approximately 11.20am the team decided to put Marino back in the car with just over four-and-a-half hours of the race remaining. He had passed the pit on his out lap, and was into his first flying lap when just exiting Flugplatz he suddenly felt a problem on the right rear, he radioed he was returning to the pit. Closer examination found a broken wheel bearing which took the team almost 80 minutes to repair. The job completed, Chris took the car out for a thorough check, but quickly discovered the ABS had also been damaged. Having now fallen way down the order, and without ABS, it was felt prudent to withdraw the car.
"I was delighted with the car and the way the team and my co-drivers performed" said Marino after the retirement, "But so disappointed because it was looking like we were heading for a class podium as well as being the first placed privateer in the race. To lose it through a wheel bearing failure that has become almost a thing of the past in motor racing made it even more of a disappointment." He continued, "Aside from Chris's puncture during the night, the car didn't have a dent or scratch on it after nearly 20 hours of racing" continued Marino, "The three of us did all we could to keep it clean and out of trouble, but you can't beat a mechanical failure such as we had. Two years in a row I've come so close to podiums, I guess I'll just have to come back next year and try to make it third time lucky!"