Aussie to Field Beetle at Nurburgring 24h

BOLD AUSSIE ENTRY FOR 'RING 24 HOURS In defiance of opposition from Volkswagen of Germany, an Australian team is set to race a New Beetle in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring on June 13/14. It will be the first competition outing anywhere in the...


In defiance of opposition from Volkswagen of Germany, an Australian team is set to race a New Beetle in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring on June 13/14.

It will be the first competition outing anywhere in the world for the in-demand New Beetle, which is currently available only in North America.

The classic "coals-to-Newcastle" Volkswagen-to-Germany project is the brain child of Brisbane motor racing enthusiast and businessman Ross Palmer.

Palmer is also the owner of Procar, the organisation behind the wildly-successful Century Batteries Australian GT-Production Car Championship series.

The Nurburgring effort has come together in an amazing five-week period, overseen by Formula Ford and Suzuki Cup racer Damien White, who is also one of the four drivers.

The others are Palmer himself, leading lady racer Melinda Price of the castrol Cougars squad, and production car regular Peter McKay.

Both Palmer and McKay have previous experience of the 'Ring, a confronting track built 71 years ago and long considered too dangerous for Formula One racing but a marvellous challenge for engineers and drivers of touring cars.

More than 140 cars are expected to line-up for the 24 hour grind around the 25.51 km circuit (actually the old Nordschleife and the newer grand prix circuit linked together in one mega loop).

The car - one of three New Beetles purchased by Palmer through regular retail outlets in Illinois - has been prepared by a race workshop in Chicago, AKG Motorsport.

It will be powered by a mildly-modified turbocharged 1.8-litre engine from the VW family.

Palmer estimates it should produce a reliable 180 horsepower.

The bright red HIPPIES RACING New Beetle will be supported by Hippies, an recently-launched new Australian pantyhose brand (hence the inclusion of Price), Castrol, Streetwise Records and Arise Enterprises (an entertainment group which has developed Mars Manics, a fantasy race game set on Mars).

Australian music legend Brian Cadd, the managing director of Streetwise, has organised a concert at the 'Ring on the Saturday night of the race featuring Australian acts Rough Red and Dave Ritter, and Irish duo Halpin and Kaley.

Palmer's Nurburgring campaign comes against the wishes of Volkswagen AG, which has a policy of actively discouraging any importation of the New Beetle from North America.

Hopefully of leasing a turbo diesel engine identical to that used in the endurance racing factory Golfs, Palmer initially approached VW for support, but was turned down.

Germany tuners specialising in VWs have been reluctant to earn VW's displeasure by helping the bold Australian-American project.

The rejection is part of a VW policy to keep any New Beetles out of Europe until its official launch there. US dealers have been threatened with disenfranchisement should they knowingly supply any New Beetles destined for Europe.

The virtual shutout forced Palmer to source the 1.8-litre turbo engine and gearbox in Australia. It is similar to the fitted to the new Passat and Audi A3.

The engine was shipped to the US last week to be fitted to the race car.

The HIPPIES RACING Beetle, complete with aero kit, will be air lifted to Germany within a few days after a shakedown at Blackhawk Raceway.

The concept of taking an untried VW racing package from one part of the world to Germany to contest arguably the toughest race on earth begs the question: why?

Palmer's response is predictable to those who know him well.

"When it was obvious that there was such a resistance to our racing a New Beetle, I suddenly became quite determined to make it happen," Palmer said.

"It would have been way easier and cheaper to simply lease a BMW or whatever for the race.

"But we will have a heightened sense of achievement if we can pull this off," he said.

The racecar will be a showcase of some of the technology of a new company specialising in car performance enhancement formed by Palmer in association with Sir Jack Brabham.

"Obviously there is a risk in rushing a project like this, but I think we have the right people to get a result," said Palmer, whose own entry into motor sport began 20 years ago with Palmer Tube Mills sponsorship of Dick Johnson.

Palmer says he will enter the New Beetle in the other great German endurance race, the Six Hours of Nurburgring on August 15. One driver has already been confirmed. His name: Sir Jack Brabham.

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Series General
Drivers Jack Brabham , Melinda Price , Dick Johnson , Damien White