Oct 2019

VLN 9

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A third place finish was a great way to round off the season after a fight through the field.

The last race of the season came round extremely quickly; I can’t believe the opening race was back in March! After our two previous strong results, we were hoping for another successful weekend to end the season. We tried a couple of new setup changes during the Friday evening test session, and learnt a lot, so with that new knowledge we were feeling good with the car and looking forward to another dry Saturday. As usual, there was a layer of dew on the top of the track surface which made it very slippery, and combined with the low sun and low temperature, it wasn’t drying very quickly despite 170 cars going round the track! We had some minor contact with a Mercedes in qualifying which seemed inconsequential, but it turned out a lower wishbone needed changing at the last minute, and by the time it was sorted, there was only time for 2 qualifying laps; David went out and got us P7 on the grid. The team did an amazing job to get everything sorted and the car ready to go out again, so thanks to them.

I would be starting the race, and luckily this time round there was no question over which tyres to start on! With the low temperature, it was a struggle to get any temperature into my slicks on the warm-up lap, and it took quite a few corners to get them to start working.
I got to the first corner and found that the car didn't want to turn, it was like driving on ice. The tyres were stone cold, so I spent a lot of the first lap bringing them back up to temperature and crossed the line down in P16. I then had to make my way by some slower cars that had got past me at the start, which is never easy on the narrow sections of the Nordschleife and found myself in tandem with Philipp Eng in the Schnitzer BMW M6 who was also making his way through the field. He towed passed me down the long Döttinger Hohe straight and I spent the next few laps glued to his boot lid as we made our way up the field until I pitted from P11 at the end of lap 5 for a driver change. Christian then jumped in and continued the fight back, followed by David who took the car to the end. There was a bit of a tussle towards the end of the race and we ended up crossing the line 4th. Later that evening we found out that one of the cars ahead had been penalised after the race, so we were promoted to 3rd, which isn’t how you want to inherit a podium, but it was a nice way to finish what’s been a good last few rounds. A shame we didn’t get to celebrate it on the actual podium though!

If I’d been told at the beginning of the year that I would be on the podium in 5/9 races, and of the races our car made the finish, we were on the podium 5/7 times, I would definitely have taken it. At VLN2 and 3, I didn’t actually get to drive the car in the race, which was gutting. But it’s been a really strong season apart from that. I would like to thank Walkenhorst Motorsport and my teammates for a really successful year. It’s a shame we couldn’t get that elusive victory, but hopefully we can put that right in the future!

So that’s my racing season done for this year. It’s gone by so fast, and wish it wasn’t ending! Who knows what 2020 holds, but it would be cool to do some more VLN again. The circuit is just amazing, and unlike anywhere else in the world. The multi class racing and traffic management is part of what makes it so fun. I’m definitely going to be getting withdrawal symptoms soon.

VLN 8

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I was very happy to find that, for the first time this year, sunshine greeted me when I woke up Saturday morning. Not a cloud to be seen! However, there had been a heavy dew overnight and the ground was very wet, which wouldn’t make way for dry tarmac until there was 30 minutes left of the qualifying session. We’ve all had a lot of wet running this year at VLN, and it was clear the track would dry up but not with enough time for all of us to get a run, so Christian and I elected to not go out in qualifying. David was sent out at the end to go for a time on slicks, and we ended up on pole position, so it was as good a start to the weekend as we could’ve hoped for!

Christian started the race and made a great getaway only for the race to be red flagged after a multiple car accident shortly after the start. At the second attempt, he repeated the excellent start, lead onto the Nordschleife and appeared in the lead at the end of lap one. At this point he started to struggle as the tyres went off and dropped to fifth at the beginning of lap 4. He held on until the end of lap 5 when he pitted from P5 and I took over down in P11. In a stint littered with Code 60 zones (sometimes 3 different ones in lap!), I passed the #23 Mercedes then caught the sister Walkenhorst car and was ahead by the end of the next lap. After a few laps I was up to P4 and had the second and third place Mercedes' in sight. I made some inroads into them before pitting at the end of lap 13 to hand over to David. He completed a strong stint before handing back to Christian who took the car to the end of the race. The leading Mercedes was a long way ahead, but after all the pit stops shook out, we finished a strong P2, giving us consecutive VLN podiums.

The last round of VLN is on 26 October and it would be nice to end the season on a high.