Yesterday was a hugely enjoyable day of racing for me – one that I’d been looking forward to for nearly a month. The Raceway-Park club in Siegburg was host for the 2014 NSR GT3 Club Series Deutschland Final – and they put on a great event. Excellent organisation, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere – plus, some of the closest racing I’ve ever been part of! As a bonus, I also got to meet Racing Streethawk – he’s something of a local celebrity, having competed in many national and international events for over a decade – thanks for the warm welcome, Ralf!
Although Raceway-Park put on a number of pre-race testing days leading up to the event, prior work commitments saw to it that Saturday morning, only hours before the race began, was the first time I even laid eyes on their circuit – and, it’s quite a circuit! It boasts a huge main straight, two thirds of which is completely obscured by the more technical section that is suspended above. This split-level design, combined with it being such a wide layout, meant that there were many blind bends and braking points hidden by the various undulations. Further, that upper level featured some great compound curves, kinks and chicanes – enough to upset even the best of car set-ups. Rumours of 8.8s laps during the testing days began emerging on the German forums – so, looking at the mass of Carrera-bahn in front of me, I could see that putting in a good performance here wasn’t going to be an easy task.
One example of how thoughtfully well-organised this event was was illustrated during the pre-race practise session. The clubs I normally attend have a simple system – drivers queue up at the driver rostrum and wait their turn to do a timed session on the first lane, then the second, and so on. If you de-slot, you’re in for a quick jog to retrieve your car. At Siegburg, the queue started at the opposite end of the circuit, and was directed around the whole layout – this way, each driver acted as marshal on each curve while waiting in turn to reach the rostrum to take their turn at the controls. Nice idea, guys – consider it stolen! 😉
The Group A race was brilliant – as the race drew to a close and I started doing the mental arithmatic, it become clear that Group B leader Stephan was in with a shot at the podium… and it was Ralf and Danny who eventually, almost neck and neck, joined him there. Those two battled relentlessly, swapping positions over and over in their final five minutes, but it was Danny who took the win – the closest I’ve seen – by just 0.07 of a lap!
Danny, Ralf and Stephan each received an appropriately-decaled Gold, Silver or Bronze NSR ASV GT3 from Mark Eicker, the German Distributor for NSR. After the presentation, I managed to get a few minutes of his time to ask a couple of pertinent questions… and the answers were that we can expect to see the BMW Z4 GT3 on our shelves in April, but the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 is still delayed indefinitely because “…licensing issues” – so, you can read into that what you will.
Back to the results, I’m pretty chuffed with that 12th place finish; I’d accomplished the personal goal I set myself – to qualify in the top half of the grid – then bettered it with some consistent, error-free driving… and, I had an absolute blast doing it! Looking at the results posted online today by Raceway-Park, it seems they gave every driver a little signature nick-name to be remembered by… mine was “mit Mütze, und ohne Abflüge” which, roughly translated, means “with hat, and without departures” – I kinda like it!
And, looking closely at the numbers in those results again, it’s impressive to note that there were less than 10 laps (that’s 6% race-distance!) separating the top 16 finishers… another half a lap would’ve seen me in the top 10! Ah, well – there’s always next year… “Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin”, as they say over here. 😉