Marino Franchitti: The classic 24 Hours of the Nurburgring on the historic 24kms Nordschleife circuit.
Marino Franchitti was racing a 2003 Porsche GT3RS belonging to and prepared by Wolfgang Land, himself a long time Porsche stalwart having been Porsche Carrera Champion twice in his 15 year Porsche racing career. Marino's co-drivers were former Porsche works' driver Marc Bessang, Franz Konrad and Patrick Simon.
For any driver the track is a daunting one, 24kms in length, with more than 120 corners, and track conditions constantly varying as it twists and winds its way through the small villages and forests of the Eifel. Whilst in Indianapolis recently Marino had been given tips by both Mario Andretti and Jody Scheckter who were both keen to reminisce and share their experiences of this incredible track, but nevertheless it remained a huge challenge to Marino when he drove it for the first time in earnest on Thursday morning. The team had entered him into a short challenge race just to give him the opportunity to learn the track, because there was only one practice session followed by 2 qualifying sessions in the light and in the dark before the 225 car entry made it's get-away at 3.00pm on Saturday afternoon.
"It's a truly daunting experience" said a deep thinking Marino after his drive on Thursday morning, "it's easy to see why this circuit will always remain deeply rooted in the annuls of motor racing history and why it makes such an impression on any driver who races on it" he said.
By Friday evening the team had qualified the car a very respectable 14th overall, and were looking forward to the race start. "The car is good" said Marino, "and the team has gelled well in the short time it's been together, I'm really very happy".
Before the race could get underway on Saturday afternoon, the heavens opened leaving a lot of deep water in various parts of the track, but the rain had stopped falling as the race began, but conditions were constantly changing so much so that the No. 38 car made 3 pit stops in the space of the first 3 laps changing from one tyre to another in an attempt to try to find the best option. Marino was to get into the car at the 3rd stint driving from the light into the darkness, "it was very wet in some places and dry in others, and the wierdest experience as I drove round the track with the level of light changing according to the weather conditions." said Marino, "I was aquaplaning at 190mph in places not being able to see more than 20 yards in front of me as cars suddenly appeared out of the spray". When Marino exited the car it was up to 6th overall and 2nd in class.
Conditions remained changeable throughout the race with Marino experiencing heavy rain each time he drove the car. Everything was going well until the 22nd hour when the clutch gave out. The car came into the pit where it remained for almost 2 hours, but the team determined to get a classification sent the car back out for the final lap. They were to finish 10th in class and 25th overall, "it was so disappointing, everyone had worked so hard in such rotten weather conditions" said Marino, "the whole team deserved better. But what an awesome experience".