Volkswagen Golf pack successful in qualifying
After two qualifying sessions on Thursday and Friday in the typical Eifel weather mix of rain and sunshine all five race cars from Volkswagen Motorsport qualified at the front of the field for the 39th edition of the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. The three 450-hp Golf24 positioned themselves in 27th (car number 135), 28th (35) and 54th (235) place. The two bio gas powered Scirocco GT24-CNG cars will start from positions 61 (117) and 66 (116) tomorrow. Stand-up comedian Mario Barth, who visited the Volkswagen crew, was keeping his fingers crossed for them alongside the 25.378-kilometre track.
The quickest car was the Golf24 designated as number 135, which Thomas Mutsch had pushed to set the fastest time of 8m 38.598s in good ambient conditions in the Eifel as early as on Thursday, making him the fastest contender in the AT class. His team mates Fredrik Ekblom, Patrick Simon and DTM racer Edoardo Mortara got into the rhythm for the endurance classic on their lap as well. Also among the top 30 in qualifying was the number 35 Golf24 driven by Peter Terting, Nicki Thiim, Franck Mailleux and René Rast in 8m 39.383s.
“Having two cars in the top 30 is an advantage in a 24-hour race particularly at night because all cars have a blue signal lamp installed which is reserved to the fastest 30 in the field and causes slower vehicles to get out of the way faster,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. The Golf pack of three four-wheel drive performance cars from Wolfsburg is completed by car number 235 driven by the former Formula 1 racers Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell plus Patrick Bernhard and René Rast, who will be at the wheel of two cars.
The two blue bio gas powered Scirocco GT24-CNG that were victorious in their class last year finished both qualifying sessions without any problems. Car number 117 is driven by the three Dakar winners Nasser Al-Attiyah (2011), Carlos Sainz (2010) and Giniel de Villiers (2009) and the former touring car ace and current N-TV commentator Klaus Niedzwiedz. The second Scirocco is entering the race with the cockpit crew of Vanina Ickx, Bernd Ostmann, Peter Wyss and Klaus Niedzwiedz, who like Rast is driving two cars.
Kris Nissen, Volkswagen Motorsport Director: “Our realistic goal was the top 30, which we have achieved with two cars – in any event it has been a good showing by the anniversary Golf. We want to drive a clever race to advance as much as possible. If we manage to avoid on-track incidents, perform solid pit stops and choose a good strategy, then we’ll be able to make it into the top ten.”
Thomas Mutsch, Volkswagen Golf24 (No. 135): “The set-up worked out perfectly in every respect. The car is very, very good to drive, in dry conditions but particularly on a wet track. That gives us good reason to hope that we’ll be able to clearly make up some more places in the race.”
Franck Mailleux, Volkswagen Golf24 (No. 35): “We’re on grid position 28 and have the blue light on board which is a big advantage for us. We’re more than pleased with this because we hadn’t really expected our car to be so far at the front. I’m very confident that we’ll be able to achieve a really good result in the race. I’m particularly looking forward to the stints at night when you can see the camp fires alongside the whole track – the Nordschleife also provides a unique atmosphere for the drivers.”
Edoardo Mortara, Volkswagen Golf24 (No. 135): “Thomas has done a great job and set a superb qualifying time. For me personally it was tremendous experience. I’ve never driven here before; everything is new to me – the extremely demanding track plus 200 cars on the grid. That’s not easy but it’s huge fun.”
Mark Blundell, Volkswagen Golf24 (No. 235): “For me it was important to become more familiar with the car and the track today. It wasn’t easy because I was only able to do two laps – one on a dry and the other on a wet track. I’m still in a learning phase, and probably will be in the race as well – on the Nordschleife experience is far more important than on any other track I know. But lap by lap I’m gathering more experience.”
The set-up worked out perfectly in every respect.
Klaus Niedzwiedz, Volkswagen Scirocco GT24-CNG (No.116): “I set my fastest lap on the second lap. Afterwards we took it a little easier on the car because I knew that I’d done an almost perfect lap. There are no technical issues, the cars are running very reliably and are quick. I’m driving both cars; 117 has a different differential, with somewhat more aggressive handling. For the race I’m extremely confident and relaxed; I’ll definitely be sleeping well tonight. I’m hoping though that the weather will not be as changeable in the race as it has been in the past two days because the constant tyre changes are a little nerve-racking.”