There was a qualifying session last night between 7.30pm and 11.30pm, and it rained. The temperature dropped and, after the balmy morning, it was just another bout of changeable Nurburgring 24 weather.
Now we have a very powerful rear-driven car, and a wet Nurburgring is not the friendliest place for such a machine. And all of the believable sources of weather information have been saying the race will be dry, so there was nothing to be gained going out and finding a wet set-up.
This is one of the key frustrations of the Nurburgring 24 – the event is so mechanically punishing you want to keep the running time to a minimum in testing and quali, but your inner car-nut says ‘this is 4 hrs of track time, get in there!’ We resisted the urge to pound out unnecessary laps, did a few loops of the GP circuit (you can do this in qualifying) to try and make our speed limiter work better, and then Peter Cate went out very late as the track dried and posted a 9min 42sec lap, putting us a provisional 47th on the grid.
Each driver has to complete two timed laps of the entire circuit to qualify for the race, so this morning in the two hour session, myself and my other teammates trundled around as the track dried and the fog cleared, before we bolted local Nurburgring ace Andy Guelden in, added hot, fresh slicks and watched him bag a 9min 02sec lap. It was good enough for 42nd place on the grid, from around 150 starters.
The sheer number of GT3 cars entered in the Nurburgring 24 is humbling this year: I think 31 have qualified for the race, which makes Andy’s time all the more impressive because we’re way down on performance in every area, save absolute top speed – which we can’t use because of the speed limits!
And how are those speed limits? Just as stultifying as they were in the VLN race I did the other week. Aston has, at short notice, developed a speed limit system that will trigger in the required zones, but it needs some fine-tuning, and I’m finding it quite difficult to use. I’ve always had huge respect for pro-racers and their ability to play with switches and buttons as they drive flat-out, that respect has increased after my speed-limiter experiments earlier today. Race control is taking an absolutely zero-tolerance policy towards speeding, and the time penalties are very strict.
The weather looks good. We’re the top qualifier in class SP8, and now we just have to make it to the finish having spent as little time in the pits as possible. I’m far too superstitious to try and state a finishing position we’re aiming for, but history shows that even if you lack the pace of the big-boys, if you can keep your nose clean you can climb well up the leader board.