NURBURGRING FIRST 12 HOURS - Sunday 16 May 2010 The weather gods came to the ring today and the clouds departed engulfing the start area and pits with a warm spring sun. Preparation on the big day has been as manic as ever with thousands of race...
NURBURGRING FIRST 12 HOURS - Sunday 16 May 2010
The weather gods came to the ring today and the clouds departed engulfing the start area and pits with a warm spring sun. Preparation on the big day has been as manic as ever with thousands of race fans crowding pit boxes, pit lane and the starting grid. Experienced Kiwi Team Nurburgring drivers were loving the atmosphere, and for the first time drivers, the size of the event was really driven home as a good portion of the 240,000+ spectators flocked towards the pit area.
The race started in spectacular fashion with the crowd roaring to life as the first group of the high powered vehicles thundered towards turn one. The Audi RS4 with Andy Booth behind the wheel at the back of this pack on row 35 had an ideal first few laps with an incredible amount of space to move as the quicker vehicles in front pulled away. 4 Audi R8 LMS vehicles occupied the top 4 placings of the grid, amidst earlier controversy around rule changes to the Porsche cars to restrict their horsepower. To the crowds delight however it took less than one lap for the Manthey Porsche number 1 vehicle to cut through the Audi's to take the lead, and the new Porsche GT3R Hybrid to follow suit.
The 2 Honda's started one in front of the other on the grid and Rod Hicks and Brian McGovern battled each other for the first 2 hours of the race. Both cars experienced contact in the first driver's stints experiencing minor panel damage. The first few hours of the race saw a very close tussle develop between the 2 KTN vehicles, and another Honda Civic Type R being driven by four Norwegian drivers who coincidentally share the same pit bay with Kiwi Team Nurburgring. The Norwegians were making good headway and holding 1st position in the class until they rolled in to the pit garage in a cloud of smoke, and the KTN team were put in to first and second place.
Performance of both the 243 and 244 Honda Civic Type R's has improved from last year and returning drivers have all commented how much of a step up the drive is this year on previous years. Lodge Auto Centre under the watchful eye of Richard Field have improved the handling and performance of the vehicles across the last 12 months with noticeable results. Throughout the night the Honda's have been in a very tight battle, and by 5AM - 14 hours after the start, the 2 cars are only 3 seconds apart, and still holding 1st and 2nd position with a comfortable lead.
The Audi RS4 started got away to a great start and was put in a good rhythm by all drivers and gradually made ground on leading vehicles. Andy Booth experienced a small fire in the cockpit caused by the illuminated signage arcing and igniting, which made him pit with a car full of smoke. The car was refuelled and put back on the track to continue gaining momentum on the field. Lewis Scott had a relatively uneventful first stint in the car, and then Alistair Taylor began experiencing handling similar to having a flat tyre. He pitted on lap 3 to have the tyres checked where they all passed and was sent back out on the track, but by his final lap the handling was so poor when he pitted the car was put up on jacks and was found to have a broken steering arm. Stu Owers was sent out after the repair and the car was back to its regular handling. Like the Honda's, the RS4 was outperforming previous years lap times and the handling in general. Lap times were improved on average about 18 seconds per lap which was giving the drivers a great sense of enjoyment.
The joy of improving to 5th position in class and the anticipation of improving on this was bringing up the level of excitement in the team, but after 12 hours of racing, disaster struck. On a part of the Nordschleife notorious for accidents, and holding the current record for the most deaths, the RS4 came unstuck and pin-balled from side to side on the track barriers before coming to a rest and igniting in a fire. It is unsure at the moment what caused the accident, but it was a race ending outcome and the vehicle will be recovered following the end of the race. Fortunately the driver was not hurt in any way which is the best outcome from what was a very serious incident.
The night has now passed with bitterly cold temperatures and now strong breezes. We are all sleep deprived, weary, cold, but we're all right behind the drivers of the 2 trusty Honda's as they continue to support each other around the track and protect 1st and 2nd places in the class. Thanks for all the well wishes from home, they're all helping the team lift our heads and keep on giving it heaps!
-source: kiwi team