Getting ready for the end of the Clio Cup season, I took a long trip to Germany and the iconic Nurburgring Nordshcleife where I competed in the 3 hour Eifel classic endurance race – that’s their version of the Silverstone classic, except on a much bigger scale! It was my Triumph TR6 that I was racing with my father Keith, and preparer Steve Hall.
Qualifying was just stupid! 8am in the morning and foggy, it eventually started an hour late, and under the safety car?!? I went out, handed over to Steve after a lap, who was also under safety car, he then handed over to Dad for a lap, who finally wasn’t under safety car, but didn’t have a clue where the track went, in the damp – and he was getting ever more ‘sea sick’ due to the undulations of the track.
And there were 3 races happening at the same time! Race one started at 3.20pm, race 2 at 3.23pm and race 3, and my race at 3.26pm. Each race had a 60 car field, 180 in total on track. We qualified an eventual 40th in our race, out of 60, so not bad at all, and I was to start!
So at 3.26pm my race got underway around the Nurburgring full GP circuit and Nordschleife put together, a full 17 miles and 172 corners per lap!! The track was, however, sunny, warm and dry.
I was on the pace immediately and made up loads of places at the start. Not really knowing where the corners went – apart from when I’ve played on Gran Turismo – I was a bit weary as it was the first time I had driven the car in anger around the track, and only the second time I had seen it for real (the first time in the foggy morning qualifying) BUT I seemed to be flying
At the end of lap 1, remarkably I was in the lead of our race!!? From 40th to 1st in 1 lap!! I then squeezed out a 20 second gap per lap over my 5 lap stint, giving second driver Steve a 1m30s lead at the handover and re-fuel. At this point not only were we leading our race outright, but also somehow up to 22nd overall out of all 180 cars?!?! From 160th to 22nd, I really was flying.
Steve took over and maintained 2nd in our race – the guy who took the lead had a larger fuel tank, and only had to fill up once, rather than our twice, so hadn’t pitted. Steve was also flying, only a mere minute slower around the large track that he had no clue where it went, a really fantastic feat. At the 2nd driver change, Steve gave the car to Dad. We maintained 2nd regardless and Dad put in similar lap times to Steve. Towards the end Dad did back off knowing our 2nd place was safe, and also with brakes that were past it, a 3hour hot engine – and he was getting increasingly ill. We finished the race after 3 hours and 6 minutes and some seconds in 2nd overall in our race, a truly impressive feat for Nurburgring Virgins! Even more impressive we seemed to have finished 29th out of all 180 cars, not that this mattered as much as our Podium finish!!
A great weekend, and a great fun time, with a fantastic result! Surely a Clio Cup win can only be around the corner now? Brands Hatch maybe? Just 4 days to go and we will find out...