Tom Coronel 2nd with Zakspeed Viper at Nürburgring
The 35th edition of the ADAC 24 hour race at the Nürburgring, witnessed by 220.000 visitors will go into history as the race that did not last 24 hours. The bad weather, and especially the fog in the early morning, caused the race to be suspended for several hours. Despite that the Zakspeed Dodge Viper crew with Duncan Huisman, Tom Coronel, Patrick Simon and Christophe Bouchut delivered a perfect race. In the overall standings the team finished in second place and took victory in the SP8 class. Overall victory went to the Manthey Porsche team of Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Marcel Tiemann.
Before starting this adventure Tom Coronel already drove some races with the Zakspeed prepared Dodge Viper at the Ring. "I finished second in one of them, which of course boosted our confidence for the race. This race is truly unique in the world. There are over 200 cars in the field, and that alone I have never seen anywhere else in the world. Of course the track is extremely long which makes a startgrid of this size possible. However this also brings a lot of extra risks. The speed differences are quite big sometimes as cars like our Vipers and the Porsches are on the same track as the SEAT Ibizas, Opel Corsas and VW Polos, who are all fighting for a good result in their own class. You cannot take anything for granted as not all drivers are professionals so you have to be aware all the time when passing the backmarkers", Coronel said. Tom was included in the team after a tip by his former teammate in the FIA ETCC Duncan Huisman, who already was in touch with Zakspeed. Bothe Dutchmen were joined by Patrick Simon and Viper-expert Christophe Bouchut
"We arrived at the track on Thursday and did our first practise laps on Friday. The car was always in good shape. We were consistently in the top 5, which indicates that we were looking good for the race", Tom Coronel said.
The engine arrived quite late from the USA, so the team had some last minute work to do. After doing a lap in the evening session they got some more when I decided to have the sequential gearbox replaced for a regular H pattern box, just because I felt more confident with it", Duncan Huisman added. In the end the Zakspeed Dodge Viper team was second quickest in qualifying with a time set by Tom Coronel, just over a second shy of the pole time of the Manthey Porsche.
Duncan Huisman drove the opening stint in the race, which was delayed due to the heavy hail and rain storms. "I had a good start, but quite early in the race I made a mistake. I must have switched off the ABS system by accident. As I was unaware of it I braked as I would do normally. I spun and was in the gravel. Fortunately I was able to continue, but it was a breathtaking moment, not just for me but also for the team", Huisman said.
"Duncan is a quick and experienced guy, you don't expect him to be in the gravel in the opening hour of a 24 hour race. However he recovered well and brought the car back to the pits in second place. I did most of the night driving, long stints of several hours. Initially the weather was quite good considering the drama we had from the start. However after three o'clock it was clear for me why they call this track 'the Green Hell'. The fog became thicker and thicker and it was just impossible to see where you are going. I tried to follow the white lines in order to keep some sort of reference, but there was a big risk of hitting one of the slower cars. Things were getting really dangerous, I never experienced something like this before in a race", Tom Coronel said.
Despite the problems with the visibility Coronel managed to finish his stint safely in order to hand over the car to Huisman. It was not for long however as the race was suspended shortly afterwards. "It was the best thing to do. With no sight and speeds of 300km/h accidents are bound to happen. There was really no other option", Coronel concluded.
The race was suspended for several hours in order to be restarted. Coronel: "We had been in second place for much of the race. Only when Christophe got a stop and go penalty for passing under yellow we dropped back to third for a while. The car never missed a beat so we ended in second place overall and first in our class. A great result for all of us!"