“The more I get to know the Nordschleife, the more I love it” - Markus Palttala.
BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS return to the Nordschleife once more this weekend, with the second round of the VLN on Saturday afternoon. It might seem like going back to the same track over and over might get boring, but Finn Markus Palttala debunks that theory.
“The more I get to know the Nordschleife, the more I love it,” he says. Apart from the races he does with Marc VDS, he also races in the series with a Porsche team, a deal he did after he discovered how much fun the track is. “It was amazing when I did it for the first time in ’99 and I didn’t go back for a while but it just gets better every year. It’s a crazy place.”
Obviously, the track itself is a main draw.
“The length of the circuit is unlike anything else out there, twice as long as Le Mans and 10 times more challenging. I was doing set up work at the ADAC Qualifying Race, and went out for a lap at a time, because otherwise it takes too long. If you find you have a slight issue at a certain corner or corner combination, you have to work out what it is immediately. (After all, you’re not going to see if for another eight minutes!) I think, actually, that we see more different corners here on one lap than we did in an entire five-round Blancpain Endurance Series season. That’s the scale here.”
For a driver, it’s a totally different approach, far removed from that taken to a modern GP style track.
“It’s not about the last half a metre on braking and things like that, it’s about finding a rhythm. That really suits my style, because you need to be smooth and drive with your brain. It also suits our BMW, because it’s not an aggressive car but has great aerodynamic performance, which helps around here. But you can’t be too safe – if you’re too safe, you’ll be slow and you might as well stay at home. It’s more strategic over the course of a lap, which makes it so much more interesting than normal tracks.”
Aside from the track itself, there’s an attitude around the Eifel towards the Nordschleife and the racing there that’s largely unparalleled around the world.
“I don’t know how it started, but I think what’s cool is that they’re all around the track. Around the whole track, there’re people everywhere. They have their campers, their tents, and even huge structures. It’s crazy, and it’s awesome. You set up with your friends and have some beers, a barbecue, and watch 200 cars fly by. It’s a pretty good day out! And a day later, you can take your camper and drive it around the track when it’s open for everybody.”
All around the area, the influence of the Nordschleife is very strong.
“Every restaurant, or hotel, or bed and breakfast in the area has racing cues everywhere. There’s memorabilia – everything from posters, to T-shirts and even bits of cars – all over the walls. There’s also a lot of places with signatures on the ceiling, which is something I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else.”
Palttala believes that this culture stems from the fact that there’s always something going on at the Nordschleife.
“However well run your series is, if you only go to a country once a year with your championship, it’s difficult to build a fanbase. But if the series goes back to the same place repeatedly, people can really get involved. The fans here are knowledgeable, and they love talking about the track and the racing. That’s really cool. Most of the time it’s more than just an autograph, it’s a conversation about the racing. That’s fantastic.”
Markus will be driving the #26 BMW Z4 GT3 this weekend with Dirk Adorf, while #25 sees Jörg Müller, Maxime Martin and Uwe Alzen share the duties.
Team Marc VDS