Nürburgring 24 hour race: An Australian story

Australians at the Nurburgring 24 hour raceBy chance, I recently discovered a connection to Trevor Keene who took part in the 2006 Nürburgring 24 hour race. Naturally, I was eager to learn more about the Sydney-sider’s experience in this demanding event. So after a few brief email exchanges, here is Trevor Keene’s story:

AUSringers: Welcome to the site Trevor and thanks for your time. You participated in the 2006 Nurburgring 24 hour race in a Toyota Corolla, can you tell me how that drive came about?
Trevor Keene: I’ve known Colin Osborne since the mid eighties when we were competing in club motorsport events such as hill climbs and super sprints. We then went on to race together in numerous 6 hour and 24 hour relay events. Colin went on to race in the Australian Production Car Championship (APCC) and I continued at state level. In 2002 with the Bathurst 24 hour race coming up, I joined Colin’s team for the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 24 hour. We followed this up with a class win at Bathurst in 2003. I then joined the team full time for the APCC in 2004. In 2005 we were invited to run with Mal Rose in his Mitsubishi Mirage at the Nuburgring 24 hour race – Colin took up the opportunity but I could not get away from work. After this initial experience Colin was enthusiastic to go back with his own team so we put plans in place to return with the team and our own car.

Ar: Was the whole team from Australia, or did you have the assistance of others when you arrived in Germany?
TK: The whole team was from Australia (with the exception of our former head mechanic who now works for Honda F1).

Ar: How many laps had you completed around the Nordschleife before race day? And was it enough?!
TK: I had done about 20 laps prior to practice – it is never enough.

Ar: How much time did you get behind the wheel during the race?
TK: About 8.5 hours.

Ar: How did your team go, were you happy with your results?
TK: We finished 11th in class (from 36) and 77th Outright (from 220) – but we finished on our first attempt – it was as good as a win.

Ar: What mods were done to the Corolla, how close was it to stock?
TK: The Corolla started life as Leanne Ferrier’s production car from 2004 – it was then stripped and rebuilt to 24 hour special regulations – the engine has been re-sleeved to 2L and extensively reworked for increased performance (now about 250HP), 90 litre FIA fuel tank, revised uprights and bearings, brakes, suspension, HID lighting – pretty much everything has been looked at and revised at some level.

Trevor Keene at the 2006 Nurburgring 24 hour race

Ar: Over 200 cars started the race and while the track is around 25 kilometers long (including GP circuit), that is still a lot of traffic, with faster cars and slower cars to look out for, couple that with the fact the track itself is quite tricky in parts and the potential for hairy moments would have been very high, were there any periods during the race you thought things were about to go pear shaped?
TK: I think all the drivers had some incident or other – I was hit by a BMW in my first stint – the other drivers also had hair raising moments.

Ar: What lap times were you doing (including GP circuit) and given the endurance nature of the event how close to ten tenths were you able to drive?
TK: We lapped in about 11.5–12.5 minutes. For the first couple of hours its just a matter of survival and once you can remember where you’re going you can push on a bit. But, as with any endurance race you can’t push the car at 10/10ths, you settle into a groove and just drive consistently at about 8-9/10ths.

Ar: Can you give an indication to the sort of budget that is required individually to take part in a race like this?
TK: Depending on what else you bring – if you were to walk up and just pay it would be about AU$20-25K.

Ar: If a seat is available, can anyone take part in the race?
TK: You require an international licence (ICC) to participate – but you also have to fit into the team – most team owners need to have some confidence in your abilities before they let you drive their car.

Ar: Since your Nürburgring 24 hour experience what have you been doing to get your racing thrills back in Australia?
TK: I have now built my own car (MINI Cooper S) which we debuted at Bathurst in 2007. We then took it on to win its class in the APCC. At the moment (January 2008) we a preparing it to run at Bathurst again.

Ar: Does anything back home compare to the Ring?
TK: If you joined Bathurst and Phillip island together it might come close – but there is nowhere else on earth the same as the Ring.

Ar: Are there any plans for you to go back to the Nürburgring, either as a competitor or as a tourist?
TK: I’ll be back!!!

Ar: In one or two words, describe your experience in the 2006 Nürburgring 24 hour race…
TK: #$!!&^ AWESOME!

AUSringers wishes Trevor all the best with his future endeavours and looks forward to seeing his MINI achieving further success. And thanks once again for the chat.

In the photo below (click for larger image): Left to right, in front of car; Colin Osborne, Keith Burn, Trevor Keene, Warwick Brooker. Behind car; Andre Lineker, Sue Osborne, Dave Jupp, Neil Trama. Absent; John Tuelan.

Trevor Keene and team in the pits during the 2006 Nurburgring 24 hour raceTrevor Keene at the 2006 Nurburgring 24 hour race

To read about the Osborne Motorsports team at 2007 Nürburgring 24 hour race read driver Bill Sherwood’s account, and also the view from team photographer.