International top stars and amateurs to battle it out on the longest racetrack of the world
Once a year, the air around the Nürburgring Nordschleife is heavy with the scent of barbecue fires and night is turned into day. This (19th to 22nd June) is the time when the endurance-racing fraternity celebrates the season highlight at the longest and most beautiful racetrack of the world with a huge four-day party: the ADAC Zurich 24h-Race. On the track, this year’s edition of the legendary event once again promises to make for excitement galore. Never before, the huge starting grid featured a bigger number of top-class teams that have got what it takes to win the race. And never before, the teams were offered as much time for preparing meticulously.
The Belgian team finished runner-up, last year, with Maxime Martin causing a particular stir. With quite a series of blinding fast laps he drove a stunning final spurt that thrilled the crowds all around the Nordschleife. Having also won the ADAC qualifying race in early April, the team now definitely must be regarded as one of the top favourites. Following the first Nordschleife races contested in 2014, DTM driver Martin looked ahead. “I think this will be an extremely thrilling race. The lap times in the VLN season opener already proved to be really fast and everybody was quick.” In addition, the team succeeded in signing a new asset: Nordschleife old hand Uwe Alzen. The German was delighted with the fact that the new cooperation was started with the win in the qualifying race: “What a great way to start a partnership. But you have to admit that we had this famous dose of luck, today,” he said after the race.
Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche: four brands at least have got what it takes to win the race.
The favourites will have to face a tough competition as the grid features more potential winners than ever. In the past years, the race was won by BMW (2010), Porsche (2011), Audi (2012) and Mercedes-Benz AMG (2013) – and these brands also dominated the first Nordschleife races of the 2014 season.
Meanwhile, the Manthey team’s Wochenspiegel 911 and the 911 GTR 3 in the livery of tyre manufacturer Falken secured top positions for the Porsche camp in practice sessions and the races. Furthermore, an SLS entered by Team HTP shared the first row of the starting grid for the qualifying race with an R8 LMS ultra of the Audi race experience and BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert secured second and third positions on the podium: so, identifying a clear favourite is definitely impossible. But the race will feature an outstanding top flight. Even more so as the GT3 category also will feature several somewhat exotic vehicles that would love to give the favourites a hard time: Aston Martin, Ferrari, Ford, Lexus, McLaren – and they all succeeded in already securing top-10 results at the Nordschleife, this year.
Baumgartner switches to motor racing: stratosphere jumper on the 24h-race grid
Traditionally, the ADAC Zurich 24h-Race features a fascinating mix of world-class drivers and passionate amateurs that again and again is spiced up by celebrities. One of the arguably most popular VIPs on this year’s grid will be Felix Baumgartner. The extremeskydiver has found a new challenge: the racetrack. And he will meet this challenge together with competitive works drivers at the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS ultra entered by the Audi race experience team. “Thanks to Audi, my dream – to contest car races – comes true at the tender age of 45 years,” the likeable Austrian delightedly said. And he won’t be the only celebrity in the field. Former world-class motorbike racer Alexander Hofmann, for instance, announced to contest the race with a BMW. He already has got several years of Nordschleife experience under his belt. Ex F1 driver Nick Heidfeld will contest the race in a Nissan GT-R.
Fascinating support programme throughout the event
Apart from the action provided by the huge ADAC Zurich 24h-Race field, the programme features numerous other highlights (on track and aloof from the track) that have got what it takes to delight the crowds. As early as on Wednesday, 18th June, the Adenauer Racing Day will entertain those already arrived. In the centre of the town located close to the Nürburgring, competitors and fans will get themselves in the right mood for the things to come with interview rounds, autographing sessions, live music and other on-stage highlights.
In the top-30 qualifying, each of the 30 fastest teams may complete two flying laps and will fight for each fraction of a second. In the evening, event partner Falken invites to the traditionrich drift show at the Müllenbachschleife. Tens of thousands of spectators will admire the skills of the power-slide artists. And on Saturday, prior to the start of the main event (16:00hrs), there will be a multifaceted motor-racing support programme featuring the . ADAC Procar – DTC (Grand Prix circuit) as well as a joint race of the Clio Cup Central Europe and the ‘Spezial Tourenwagen Trophy’ (Nordschleife). And throughout the event, gorgeous classic cars from the founder days of DTM can be admired on the track thanks to the demonstration runs of the ‘Tourenwagen-Revival’ association.
Not only for the teams and drivers, the qualifying race held in early April represented a perfect preparation for the ADAC Zurich 24h-Race in June. At the same time, many media representatives also used the event for getting in the right mood for the season highlight of the Nordschleife season. During the press conference on the Saturday of the qualifying-race weekend, organisers and drivers looked ahead to the event. Please find some of the quotes below.
Peter Geishecker (Head of organisation): “Throughout the event, the visitors will be provided numerous highlights in addition to the race action and so, boredom isn’t on the agenda. We have got, for instance, the revived Adenauer Racing Day. On the Wednesday prior to the 24h-Race, we want to lure the visitors to Adenau. There, they will be provided an atmospheric programme created in cooperation of the race organisers and the town. And don’t forget the Friday evening when the Falken Drift Show traditionally represents a true crowd puller. It’s really impressive to witness more than 10,000 fans cheering at the Müllenbachschleife for the power-slide artists. What a sensational show!”
Walter Hornung (Race Director): “We keep on enhancing the race, in 2014. The time-trial shoot-out, for instance, is contested by 10 cars less than in the previous years. So, it’s the top-30 qualifying, now. Due to the limited gap between the starting times of the cars, in the past, we witnessed cars closing the gaps to the ahead of them – particularly on their second lap. This can cost time and it goes without saying that we want to avoid this kind of incidents. New on the schedule is the warm-up session prior to the race, offering the teams a final possibility for adjustment works. Meanwhile, safety also represents a top priority, for us. So, fireproof overalls and helmets for the pit crews will become obligatory step by step. And on the long term, everybody in the pit-lane – the journalists, too – is supposed to wear this kind of protective gear.”
Lance David Arnold (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3): “I am still waiting for my first overall win in the ADAC Zurich 24h-Race. Twice I came close to making it but in the end, it slipped through my hands. This was really bitter. But the others also don’t sleep. Now, in 2014, I’m going to contest the race with Black Falcon. We made a very good start into the season and have got a great driver line-up – I’m looking forward to the race. Currently, we still are working on the car. Even if the engine isn’t prone to failures we will keep on improving it. Furthermore, we executed an exclusive – and successful – test with Michelin.”
Felix Baumgartner (Audi R8 LMS ultra): “Contesting the 24h Race means a childhood dream come true at the tender age of 45 years: to compete in car races. And whatever I do, I do it with a professional approach. Therefore, a good preparation represents a top priority as such a preparation is the precondition for competing in the most difficult race of the world. I practiced a lot with Sepp Haider and now I’m cooperating with three extremely experienced racing drivers who provide me with tips and advice. Everything here represents entirely virgin soil, for me. For the first time in my life, I am cooperating with the team and am the weakest member of the squad. That’s a lot of pressure as I could destroy the work of an entire team.”
Lucas Luhr (BMW Z4 GT3): “BMW is going to contest the race with four very competitive cars. The competition is as tough as usual. And in the recent past, it got tougher year by year. In earlier years, there were five or six teams that had what it takes to battle it out for the win but today, there are about 20. So, it’s good to have several strings to your bow.”
Olaf Manthey (Team Principal, Porsche 911 GT3 R): “We focus on three customer entries, in this year’s 24h race: the Wochenspiegel-RSR, a GT3 R and a Cup Porsche for long-term customers. There won’t be a car that will solely be raced by works drivers. They are going to race for other teams, this year. It was a difficult decision but due to our involvement in the Sports Car World Championship, too many of our employees are too busy for enabling us to enter our yellow and green flagship.”
Maxime Martin (BMW Z4 GT3): “The VLN lap times proved to be rather fast, this year. This will make for a lot of excitement, in the 24h race – particularly in the night. I’m also contesting the DTM season for BMW, this year – and that car is something completely different than the Z4 GT3 we race here. Just think about the carbon brakes.”
Frank Stippler (Audi R8 LMS ultra): “The first VLN race with the race win for our team and a lap time of 8:08 minutes was a good season kick-off. I’m really happy about these achievements. Nonetheless, we still have got a lot of work to do, prior to the 24h race. There haven’t been any changes since last year and so, the pace of our Audi’s is well-known. Therefore, we can’t bluff. And in addition, the spectators attending the races prior to the 24h race also deserve to be provided good motor racing.”