Last weekend, British racing driver Adam Christodoulou returned to Germany to take on the challenge of the Nürburgring to compete in the notorious annual 24-hour endurance race.
Arriving on Wednesday, the queues to main entrance were over five miles long, with over 250,000 spectators expected to attend the race which would start on Saturday afternoon. With just short of 250 cars racing at once, the weekend promised non-stop action.
Partnered with Tim Mullen, Phil Quaife and Andreas Montmann in a BMW GT4, Christodoulou began qualifying in rainy conditions, but despite this, managed to post a class-topping lap time of 9:18.4. This also put the team ahead of Darren Turner’s Aston Martin N24, and Guy Smith’s Nissan 370Z, spotted in 56th place overall, and it was decided that due to the good grid position, participating in Qualifying 2 was an unnecessary risk.
The grid was packed for the race start, and with a 25 minute car-push to the end of the pits, the build up to the 4pm start left the atmosphere electric.
For the first time in Christodoulou’s racing experience at Nürburgring, the 25.3Km track was wet and set to be slippery, with a handful of Porsche World Cup cars already having fallen prey to the track surface in the previous race which had taken place just hours earlier.
Starting with full wet tyre options on, Christodoulou put in his first race stint of the day, stopping only to change to more practical intermediate option tyres, but a by-product of this change was a loss of position. At the end of this first two hours the team was 5th place. Now taking the opportunity to rest, Christodoulou took a break and was able to rejoin the race six hours later in an improved fourth place.
As night set in, visibility was much lower but Christodoulou caught the pack of three cars immediately ahead and despite the conditions and yellow-flags, soon battled back into 2nd place.
But the success was short-lived, and while taking one of the fastest corners on the track, the steering suddenly jammed. Taking action quickly he managed to avoid the barriers and grass by slowing the car down just enough to keep it on track.
The power steering had failed, and from this point on things became difficult. Every turn of the wheel required the weight of the driver’s body behind it, and with five long laps ahead until the end of his stint, things were looking bleak.
Despite this disadvantage, Christodoulou powered on past the leading Aston Martin (still gaining around 25 seconds a lap despite the steering problems) before pulling into the pits in the early hours of the morning to handover and take a second well-deserved rest.
The car had been fine apart from the earlier issue, but news soon came of contact on track which had cost the team a few places, and the car had come back into the pits for repairs, with the power steering had been getting progressively worse.
The Bonk Motorsport engineers slaved away for three hours to resuscitate the car, but by this time any chance of salvaging a result was lost entirely, and the decision was made to retire from the event. It was 7am and the team’s race was over.
Commenting on the valiant effort of the team Christodoulou said, « The whole team were great. They put so much effort in getting the car back on track but once it was over we were all gutted. We had the speed and consistency, and had a strong chance of winning the race in out category, but this time it was not to be. The ‘green hell’ – the Nürburgring 24 hours – got the better of the car. »
« Still the weekend has been an eye opener for me. The big manufacturers and names were racing today, and taking part in this event again is something that I plan on doing next year, and for many years to come ».
Asked about his next race event on the calendar, Christodoulou talked about the Le Mans Series, « I’ll be back in the seat of the CRS Racing team’s Ferrari 430 GT2. We’ll be in North east of Italy at Imola in a 6 hour endurance race where I’ll be gunning for a podium result. »
For live updates from and in the lead up to his races, follow Adam’s progress via Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamchristo
The weekend just gone marked our final race before the iconic Nürburgring 24-Hour Race, which takes place in just under two weeks. I was feeling confident that we were going to get a good result.
Testing was a little different than usual as we had a number of passenger rides to give to our team sponsors, but we still had plenty of time to refine the race setup before qualifying on Saturday morning.
Having qualifying and the race on Saturday meant it was due to be a big day already, but it also marked the start of the prestigious Le Mans 24 hours race in France, and I was celebrating my 22nd Birthday too – a day on which any driver would be happy to take a trophy home.
The track looked wet in the morning. Tim Mullen (one of my co-drivers, and who will be joining me in the 24 hour race) was first in the car. He completed a few laps and found that it still damp in a number of places, and the pressure was on me as I was told I would only have enough time to get one flying lap in qualifying.
I went out and pushed as hard as I could but had to remain on the side of caution for quite a few of the corners where the trees cast shadows on the track. I could feel the car sliding around more than I would have liked, but I had an extremely clear run and didn’t have to overtake many cars on my one and only lap.
By the time I had got around to the finish line I had nailed the lap in 8:56.3 seconds, and it meant we’d qualified first in class and 26th overall. I also discovered I’d managed to break the old lap record in our category, which was great news as our main competitor had struggled in the damp conditions.
Andreas Montmann started the race for us. Qualifying so far up the ranking might have been tough as we were starting amongst faster cars once again. Despite this, Andréas held his own, and completed his stint as second-in-class, when he handed over to Phil Quaife.
My turn behind the wheel came an hour and 30 minutes before the end. A full stint with a splash and dash of fuel at the end, I had eaten quite a distance into the gap the leaders had built up. Pushing on every corner and straight, I was having to drive the car to it’s limits. With 30 minutes to go our main rival pitted for their last driver change, but I stayed out for another lap. This left us roughly 20 minutes to go and we stole a quick pit stop.
I made it out of the pits just as it started raining. At this point I had a hundred thoughts running through my head; were we in the lead? Where was the other car in our class? How much distance was there between us? And did I need to pit again for wet tyres? The team radioed in confirming that we were indeed in the lead, and that I should continue onto the Nordschleife.
At this point it was starting to get pretty wet. There was a pack of about ten cars in front of me, and I navigated past them all in the tricky conditions just before the team radioed in again, this time to tell me the race had been cut short due to dangerous conditions. The race was over and we had come home with the biggest trophy – First in Class.
This was a perfect result for my birthday. The team had done a great job on the radio and in the pits. All our stops had been faultless, and together we had executed the race perfectly.
With less than ten days to go before we go back to the Nürburgring for the 24 hour event, we are all hopeful to repeat the result next time. Over 250 cars will be starting on the grid, so it’s guaranteed action and one of my toughest races to date. I’m looking forward to seeing how we get on and I’m confident that we have a good chance of a back-to-back win.
For live updates during the 24 hours follow my progress through www.twitter.com/adamchristo
Arriving to the Nürburgring for the third time this year, we were all hopeful for our most successful race event to date.
Testing began on Friday afternoon and for the main part went very well, but the weather forecast looked grubby for Saturday’s main race event.
As it turned out, Saturday morning was little cold and damp, but a lot better than we had expected. I was in the car for the qualifying stage and the plan was to do one lap on old tyres to make sure the track wasn’t pooling water, then swap out for new tyres and go for a flying lap.
I completed my first lap in 9 minutes and 1 second, but the red flags came out just as I passed the line and ended the session due to a accident involving another car. We still qualified second in our class, and 66th overall.
Phil was first in the car for the race, and he completed eight laps before handing over to me in. We were in 5th place. The changeover pit stop went smoothly except my radio system didn’t connect correctly; I could hear the team but they couldn’t hear me. Luckily we were able to communicate using a bit of ‘morse code’, with me keying in with the radio to confirm, but I was still unable to speak.
I completed my 8 laps, – a full fuel stint – and handed the car over to Andreas in 2nd position to complete the rest of the 4 hour race. We were slowly catching the leaders but just ran out of time as the race came to an end, crossing the line in 2nd position, and 41st overall.
Our next race is the final four hour event before the Nürburgring 24 hours. With every lap of the Nürburgring we get better and better, so were expecting to climb the last step on the podium shortly, and I’m looking forward to taking our first win at the next race on 11th June.