Tag Archives: 2017

Nurburgring 24 Hours

Looking back at the 2017 Nurburgring 24 Hours

What looked like a certain 1-2 finish for Audi in this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, with Land Motorsport crossing the line with a comfortable margin over the chasing WRT R8 LMS, went out the window with two hours of the race to play. Prior to the penultimate round of scheduled stops, the No.29 Land Audi of Markus Winkelhock, Connor Di Phillippi, Kelvin Van der Linde and Chris Mies had led 125 laps, which in Nürburgring 24 Hours terms is pretty much the entire race. But a software glitch caused Van der Linde to slow after the stop, forcing the team to pit him again to reset a faulty sensor. It cost them the lead, and then second, as their hopes of scoring a first win as a team appeared to vanish.

N24But the Nürburgring Nordschleife wouldn’t be the Nürburgring Nordschleife without a surprise change of weather. The forecast all week was bone dry, with mid to high 20s for all the track action. By race day, even with many drivers having competed in VLN 1, VLN 2 and the Qualification Race prior to the N24, nobody had a single lap on rain tyres. Suffice to say, the late-race shower threw a spanner in the works, and with a little over 30 minutes of racing left the race swung back to Land. WRT and the second-place ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 had just pitted when the rain was first reported, but opted to stay on slicks for the final dash to the flag. Then van der Linde came in, and after a fumbled fuel stop, causing the team to lose further time, the decision was made to gamble on wets as a last roll of the dice. With the South African making his way round the GP loop of the ‘Ring, the TV cameras cut to the end of the lap, where cars were seen battling heavy rain, and down to walking pace on the wrong-rubber. It was the perfect storm (pun intended), and the Land crew went from drowning in sorrow, to crowding around the screens willing on their lead car.

N24Van der Linde, predictably, slalomed through the traffic, eventually taking the lead at the start of the final lap with Rene Rast and Nicky Catsburg deciding to pit the WRT Audi and ROWE BMW for wets with just one lap to go as a means of damage limitation. So, after a final tour of the grueling, rain-soaked circuit, Van der Linde crossed the line first. It was a landmark win, with Van der Linde becoming the first ever South African, and in fact, African to win the race, Di Philippi just the second American, and Land the team responsible for Audi’s fourth N24 victory; its fourth in five years too. With WRT’s sole-remaining Audi coming home second, it was also a 1-2 for the Ingolstadt-based brand.

How did the other manufacturers fare? Like many of the front-running teams, the race proved costly despite the good weather, with multiple on-track incidents taking out pre-race contenders. Along with WRT and Land’s second Audis, the lead Manthey and Falken Porsches, Pole-sitting Traum Glickenhaus and top-five running Schnitzer BMW all crashed out. Lamborghini’s single Huracan from Konrad Motorsport also failed to finish, retiring out on circuit after a fire, and the three Bentley’s failed to feature. The ABT-run Continentals, after positive outings in the VLN prior to race-week, had neither front-running pace, or consistency. The Wockenspiegel Team Monshau Ferrari meanwhile, had an impressive run to seventh place, with its Pro-Am lineup driving well throughout the week, keeping the single 488 GT3 entered, in the running.

N24Mercedes was the other big brand in with a shout, and after its 1-2-3-4 finish in 2016, didn’t have the ultimate pace to challenge for the podium after the halfway mark. The AMG-backed AMG GT3s from HTP Motorsport and Black Falcon didn’t lead at any point, the defending champions in the No.1 Black Falcon entry eventually finishing fifth, while HTP’s No.50, which was high up the order the entire race, crashed out on the final lap in the rain.

N24Outside of the top SP9 class, the Kissing Motorsport Opel Manta – which has built a cult following over the past decade or two – unfortunately didn’t see the checkered flag. The car, which usually runs a steady race, spending extended time in the garage after offs and mechanical difficulties, before retiring. The big story of the many fan-favourite entries went to Aston Martin as a result. The Lagonda team’s Vantage GT8 – with WEC drivers Darren Turner and Nicki Thiim driving – climbed the order, as expected, finishing an impressive 21st, and top of the SP8 class standings.

The 2017 Nürburgring didn’t disappoint. It featured a world-class field, which in the end provided drama, and an ending which will be remembered for years to come. But it feels like we always end up saying that? Because it’s a special race, which thrives on un-predictability, producing a thrilling 24-hour encounter every year. The 45th running, was no exception.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

The Travel Destinations trackside campsite was another sell out in 2017. Thanks to everyone who came with us. We will be back again in 2018. The provisional dates for the race are the 10th – 13th May 2018. If you would like to stay with us trackside you can register with us now.

Bathurst 12 Hours

Bathurst 12 Hours Review

The 2017 Liqui-Moly Bathust 12 Hours continued its growth this last weekend, with a record 40,000 spectators glued to the action trackside. Along with the ever growing international audience on TV, radio and the live streaming on the internet, there is no argument that the Bathurst 12 Hours is an event not to be missed. Our man in the stands looks back at the action from this year’s race and picks out his highlights.

The success of the Top 10 shootout
It doesn’t get much better than seeing drivers run flat out in GT3 cars on Mount Panorama. The circuit lends itself well to hot laps with its tight, technical and dangerous nature. That’s why this year’s Top 10 Shootout to decide the front of the grid before the race was such a huge success. In the “new-for-2017” format change, the top 10 cars (after the pair of standard qualifying sessions) each got a single lap to try and score pole position.

Bathurst 12 Hours

What resulted was a dramatic half a hour of action, with ten of the world’s best sportscar/GT/Supercars drivers pushing their cars to the limit; with Maranello Motorsport’s Toni Vilander (more on him later) eventually emerging on top. The format of the Bathurst 12 Hours and its regulations have evolved over the past 10 years, and most definitely for the better. The addition of a Top 10 Shootout only added to the event’s spectacle.

What could have been for Tekno?
Come race time, there were countless storylines, though the big talking point early was the rough weekend for reigning Bathurst champions Tekno Autosports. Tekno Autosports’ fielded a pair of Mclaren 650S GT3s gunning for the win in the Pro class once again. But it didn’t go to plan for the 2016 winner. The No.59 crashed out in Qualifying with McLaren GT’s new Driver Academy young gun Ben Barnicoat at the wheel, and the No.1 had to start the race from the pit lane following an engine change overnight before the race.

McLaren at Bathurst

To make matters worse the No.1’s engine appeared to give out at the start of the second hour as Rob Bell was carving his way through the field. Bell nursed it back to the garage for repairs which cost the car three laps, which left the No.1 trio of Bell, Come Ledogar and Alvaro Parente having to fight their way back into contention for the remaining 10 hours of the race.

In the end, the car – remarkably – finished fifth overall, just one lap off the lead, after climbing as high as fourth in the closing laps. During Parente and Ledogar’s stints in the second half, the 650S GT3 was formidable in terms of pace, and came feet away from getting back on the lead lap and therefore in the running for the win. Had it not had its early issues, the No.1 would surely have been in the fight at the front.

Tough day at the office for van Gisbergen
Bathurst expert Shane van Gisbergen (who let’s not forget holds the circuit’s lap record after breaking it during Qualifying for the 12 Hour in 2016, before going on to win the race) had a weekend to forget this time round. Partnered with fellow Kiwi Craig Baird and Mercedes’ Nurburgring 24 Hours master Maro Engel, Van Gisbergen was in the running for the win for most of the race. The AMG GT3 the trio drove, for Scott Taylor Motorsport, was quick and extremely nimble through the constant flow of traffic, but it all turned sour very quickly in the closing stages.

Bathurst 12 Hours

The team made a bold strategy call at the final pit stop to gain track position over the Maranello Ferrari by staying on old tyres. It left van Gisbergen just under five seconds ahead when he rejoined the race. Shane van Gisbergen pushed as hard as he could, but eventually Jamie Whincup on fresh rubber got the better of him – banging doors and with two wheels on the grass over the crest of the Conrod Straight.

Shortly after, out of sheer desperation, van Gisbergen made an error through the final chicane, pushing a lapped Porsche into the barriers and causing one final safety car period. For that he received a penalty – which would have ended the team’s chances – but moments before the team were set to radio him with the bad news after the restart, van Gisbergen nose-dived the wall at The Dipper before grinding to a halt in the middle of the track on his way back to the pits. It was far from his finest hour.

Engel’s outburst
Shanve van Gisbergen’s mistakes at the end of the race didn’t go down well in the Scott Taylor garage, as you would expect. But van Gisbergen’s teammate Engel emerged as the most frustrated of the bunch. In what turned out to be one of the most eye-opening sequences in recent memory, Engel was seen storming into the team truck, kicking tyres and slamming doors on his way. The German was then pulled aside for a TV interview, where he openly criticized his teammate.

“It’s not motorsport in my book,” he said. “Um, yeah, gotta watch out what I’m saying. All I’ve seen this weekend is a lot of mistakes by Shane. Yeah, it’s a tough one.” It made for an explosive final chapter to what was already an explosive race.

Vilander’s incredible drive
If there’s anyone who shone this year at Bathurst, it was Toni Vilander in the winning Maranello Ferrari. The Finn, who was an architect in the team’s second overall win in the race, ran faultlessly throughout and put in one of the most incredible stints in GT racing history. With the race on the line in his final stint, Vilander was forced to drive economically to reduce the time of the final pit stop, and create a healthy lead to reduce the other cars’ chances of winning.

Vilander

And he did just that, creating a gap to the field with a series of hot laps off the penultimate restart, which in turn prevented Alvaro Parente in the aforementioned Tekno Mclaren getting past and back onto the lead lap. He was visibly quicker than all the other contenders and was both aggressive but controlled through traffic. His performance secured the lead for the team when it mattered most and ultimately forced HTP into making its make-or-break decision on tyres. He, and the entire Maranello team, very much deserved the win.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

If the action at this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hours has whet your appetite then you can join us at Mount Panorama in 2018. Our exclusive package includes hospitality at the circuit, accommodation in Bathurst as well as a hire car to enable you to get around. The Bathurst 12 Hours 2018 will be a book early to avoid disappointment event, so to be one of the first to learn more about our exclusive 2018 offer, please register your interest by emailing us now.

Rolex 24 at Daytona

The 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona will be one to remember

With the 2016 season winding down, it time to start looking ahead to 2017, which promises to be a very big year for sportscar fans. In the first of a series of pieces focusing on 2017’s big events, Dailysportscar.com’s Deputy Editor Stephen Kilbey looks ahead to next January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Sportscar racing for 24 Hours on the iconic banking at Daytona has been a tradition since 1962, yet it still feels like a new and fresh event. The racing rarely disappoints and as a spectator, there are few events like it, with spectacular views and great paddock access. While it may not have the sheer mega-event atmosphere of an event like Le Mans, the Daytona 24 Hours is growing year on year in importance and has replaced Sebring as the ‘first day back at school’ event for traditional endurance machinery. Throughout its history its been a hotbed for some of the best cars and best drivers on the planet, with plenty of IndyCar drivers, WEC drivers and endurance racing legends on the entry list each year.

Rolex 24 at Daytona

So what’s so special about next year?

2017 will mark a new era for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the introduction of DPis at the head of the field. Daytona Prototypes which to put it lightly, weren’t to everyone’s tastes, are no more, replaced with a platform for manufacturers to truly utilize. The concept behind DPi is a pretty simple one, a manufacturer or private team will run brand new LMP2 chassis with an engine of their choice and factory-specific aerodynamics. The cars will be quicker, more agile and promise to look good too. Now, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a huge grid of them in year one, but the list of confirmed teams and manufacturers is getting longer by the month at the moment. If you head to Daytona next year, you’ll get a glimpse of the future of IMSA prototype racing in what promises to be a significant milestone in IMSA history.

Rolex 24 at Daytona

Outside of that, the GT ranks promise to be as spectacular as usual, with a healthy GTLM class, with multiple manufacturers running their GTE examples, and a bumper GTD field of GT3 cars with some of the world’s best drivers behind the wheel. Variety is king as Corvette, Audi, Lamborghini, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche and Ford will all be represented.

But what makes Daytona particularly special is what it offers to fans who make the trip. The speedway owners are still reaping the rewards of their $400 million regeneration project which has improved the facilities massively in the past year. Anyone who sits on the grandstands will get an incredible panorama, which while impressive during a NASCAR race, comes alive during the Rolex 24. Seeing the cars blast down the back straight, round to the paddock area, before darting into the infield and snaking through the camping grounds is a sight to see. You won’t have to camp out at one corner with a limited view, on the Daytona banking you can see it all. Couple that with the sounds echoing off the grandstands and the fireworks displays and you have an incredible nighttime atmosphere too.

Rolex 24 at Daytona

Daytona feels closed off from the world, but far from claustrophobic. There’s plenty of places to venture too in and away from the paddock, and in true endurance racing fashion, fans can get up close and personal with the cars throughout the race week. Anyone planning to go and watch a race stateside should really consider heading to Florida for the Rolex 24 next year, it’s an iconic event, at a mecca of motorsport and 2017 will be a year to remember.

There is currently still some availability to join us for the Rolex 24 at Daytona 2017. Details of our exclusive offer are available here or you can call us on 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place.

Nurburgring 24 Hours

Taking on the Nurburgring 24

What It’s Like To Take On The Nürburgring 24 Hours

This year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours was record breaking, with Mercedes finishing 1, 2, 3 & 4 seeing off all threats from the other manufacturers in the race. There were so many talking points, with adverse weather, a few sizeable incidents and an unusually quiet showing from favourites Audi, but the main one was Maro Engel.

At the end of the race, the leading No.29 HTP Mercedes had a comfortable lead of a little under a minute over the No.4 Black Falcon AMG GT3, but the No.29 had to pit for fuel. The splash at the end created a phenomenal final two laps, with both Christian Hohenadel and Engel fighting it out for the lead. In the end Engel pounced at RTL corner on the final tour of the circuit, diving up the inside of Hohenadel, rubbing doors on his way past to take the win. The Black Falcon team were euphoric, HTP staged a protest against the move, and the fans went wild in the stands. If you like drama, it was the perfect way to end a 24-hour race.

Nurburgring 24 Hours

What’s particularly special about the N24 though, is that further down the order there are hundreds of other tales to tell amongst the runners and riders in the 150+ strong grid. Like the story from the up and coming British driver George Richardson, who co-drove Walkenhorst Motorsport’s No.101 PlayStation SP9 class BMW M6 GT3 with non other Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi, Max Sandritter and Mathias Henkola.

“The Nürburgring 24 Hours this year was an incredible event, and so much went on. I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of it in the top class. However, like so many of the teams out there, it didn’t go quite to plan.”

Nurburgring 24 Hours

Richardson’s car had an off in practice, leaving the team scrambling to rebuild it, just to get it out for Qualifying. This is by no means an odd occurrence at the ‘Green Hell’ 24, which often claims multiple victims in the pre-race sessions. “It delayed everything,” Richardson admits. “It meant the team had to rebuild parts of the car, and for us drivers, we lost a lot of track time.”

Because the lap of the full Nürburgring Nordschliefe is so long, most drivers don’t get many laps in before the race starts anyway, and incredibly, Richardson had zero full laps before getting in mid-race. “Earl Bamber said he had two laps, I can beat that!” He says. “I did just two in and outs because of the problem, and got into the car during the race having to find my feet quickly. The weather at the start of the race was insane, and I felt the end of it, as my first stint was in mixed conditions with a low-hanging fog between Höhe Act and Bergwerk during the night.”

Nurburgring 24 Hours

The rain came down in the first hour of the race so hard that multiple cars went off the circuit, on slick tyres out in the forest. Shortly after, the race was stopped as hail came down and froze, leaving many cars stuck trying to climb the final hill to the pit straight. It was truly the most bizarre sequence in motorsport. The ‘Ring is known for its ability to throw all sorts of weather at its drivers, but even that came as a surprise. “When you’re out there in the pitch black and driving in fog, it’s all about instinct and respecting the circuit. Because we didn’t make it into the Top 30 Qualifying session our car didn’t get a blue flashing light on the front windscreen to help you get through traffic during the race. It meant we really had to hustle our way past the other drivers as many of them couldn’t tell that we were in the top class. But we made it through the night, and to the end of the race, despite having an intermittent problem which the team couldn’t fix. We were losing a lot of power throughout the race, but the BMW M6 held up well, and made it to the finish.”

Nurburgring 24 Hours

“The Nürburgring 24 Hours is the world’s toughest race for a driver,” he states. “So to finish is such an achievement in itself. The fans come in numbers, and after being in the thick of it in one of the quickest cars, I really see why. Driving past the campsites, it’s crazy, there’s fireworks going off and you can smell the food being cooked. Atmosphere-wise, there’s nothing like it.”

Richardson’s car crossed the line 22nd, having completed 121 perilous laps of the circuit, but that’s what’s special about the N24. It’s a rugged event, which puts drivers through a challenge unlike any other in motorsport.

2016 was an incredible race, 2017 promises to be just as good, if not better. You can register now with Travel Destinations to be at the Nurburgring 24 Hours 2017. Call 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place now.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photos by Dailysportscar