Osborne Motorsports – Monday-Thursday update

Osborne Motorsports Toyota Corolla

That row of pics above may look innocent enough, but I can tell you they almost didn’t happen. Since the Osborne Motorsports team arrived in Germany to take part in the Nürburgring 24 hour race I have had a couple of phone calls with driver Stu Jones and the first call went a little something like this:

AUSringers: “G’day Stu, great to hear from you, how is everything going?”

Stu Jones: “There’s good and bad news. The good news is we had our first day of training today and that was really great. The bad news is our car is nowhere to be seen!

That’s right, their shipping container had not been delivered. It was Tuesday morning, the pit complex was now open and all the teams started to claim their spaces and containers were being delivered left, right and centre. At the end of all that chaos our lads were left scratching their heads wondering where on earth their car was. Quite literally.

A few frantic phone calls found that their ship was not far from docking at Hamburg. Joy? Well, not quite. The ship was due in on Thursday, which happened to be a public holiday. No, it’s not what you think, unloading the ship was not the issue. On public holidays trucks are not allowed to use the motorways in Germany! More frantic phone calls to arrange exemptions so that their container could be delivered.

But that still wasn’t the end of the logistical dramas. As you can imagine having a race with 230 cars makes space in the pit complex somewhat of a premium. As such the pits had been locked down and the team would have to unload their container outside the pit complex. Not such an issue for getting the car inside the course, but all the spare parts, tools and other equipment would have to be moved in by hand from a less than ideal location. Still, at this point, all the team had was a revised delivery schedule and no container.

It was now just a matter of waiting and hoping. Hoping that the ship docked on schedule. Hoping that the container cleared customs without any problems. And, then, finally hoping that the container could be delivered to the track in time. So, when I checked my mobile phone this morning and saw the images of the car taken by Stu I think I was probably as relieved as the guys in Germany.

Well, that’s the logistical drams sorted, what else has been going on?

Colin Osborne is now something of a Nürburgring old hand, but the team’s other drivers, Stu and Simon Evans are Ring rookies. First timers are required to undertake a two day training course. I first spoke to Stu on Wednesday morning (German time) and he was looking forward to day two of the training course. On day one most of the training was theory. They took a tour of the track by bus and stopped at several corners and had turn in, braking points and other tips passed on by experienced instructors. While it was great to get the time to see the track in such close detail, even for Colin, who was tagging along, seeing the rise and fall of some parts of the track was daunting. For Stu, he was wondering what in hell he had got himself in for.

One of the issues that was discussed during the theory was the fact there is no safety car for the event. A 25km track doesn’t make a safety car terribly convenient I guess. Equally, such a long track brings with it some unique circumstances, such as repairing broken armco while the race is in full swing. Yes, that’s right, if a section of armco needs repair the marshalls don’t waste any time, they just place a few safety cones around the affected area and get straight on with the job under local yellow flag conditions. Typical German efficiency and pragmatism takes over here. And while people do acknowledge it is quite dangerous to undertake such activity, it seems as though most drivers respect the conditions and repairs can take place with relative safety.

Stu passed on an interesting anecdote of an on-track repair he heard. A year or two back one of the concrete sections in the bowl of the Karussel was breaking up. It was unsafe for racing and needed to be repaired. So the bowl was closed off and the cars were made to drive on the old line on the outside of the corner. Meanwhile, the track was cleared up and repaired with a fast setting resin and the track re-opened three hours later. Amazing!

The can-do flexible attitude of the locals was something Stu had been very impressed with. Apart from the on-track repair example, the other impressive thing was the manner in which the organisers were handling the team’s late delivery of their car and equipment. Rather than having hard and fast rules on scrutineering times and so on, the organisers were seemingly going out of their way to make sure the team was welcome and they had been reassured that the scrutineering could fit in around the team’s movements, rather than the other way around, as is normally the case at such events. If nothing else, this flexibility from the organisers must have given the guys some comfort during the stress of their container’s delivery delays.

Day two of the training course was when the boys could see some on course action. In an Opel Zafira! Mind, having driven the track myself I can tell you that so long as you have a machine with four wheels and a working engine, driving around the Nordschleife will always be something to cherish. You don’t need a track day special to have fun and be astounded by the challenge ahead of you. For these sessions there was a lead car, with instructor at the wheel (in Stu’s case their instructor was British Touring Car driver Willie Moore). Following each instructor was five cars with radio communication between the group. Stu reckoned the 1o laps completed behind the instructor listening to his advice and following his lines was similar to at least 30-40 laps of learning the course on your own accord.

After that there was an open session where Stu and Simon would get out and put all their theory into some solo practice. The instructors, however, were still on course and would follow or lead the guys from time to time still offering advice via two-way radio. Can you imagine how cool this would be!

As noted earlier there are 230 cars entered into the event, but only 220 can take the starting grid. The organisers effectively bank on a minimum of 10 cars suffering some sort of issue that would prevent them starting, be it mechanical failure or simply crashing out during practice or qualifying. Should more than 220 cars make it through to race day, then a system is in place to knock the slowest car out of each class, starting with the class with the most entries and so on. Something to keep in the back of your mind when you have invested a substantial amount of money to follow your dreams all the way from Australia. No pressure Stu!

I last spoke to Stu on Thursday morning (German time) and he was looking forward to a quiet day with the hope of visiting the Toyota F1 factory in Cologne. I’m not sure if they made it as they may have been waiting track side for their container to arrive. The mechanics were looking ahead to a long night to have everything ready for Friday morning’s first qualifying session (which has been completed at the time of writing this article).

The only other news to report is a big tick for the hotel the team are staying in. They’re based at Hotel Blaeu Ecke in Adenau. Stu said the hotel staff have been very friendly and welcoming and has been rapt with their hospitality.

So, it’s great to hear the guys are settled in and having fun. Even better that their car arrived in one piece and in time. This article is being written in between the two Friday qualifying sessions, so please cross your fingers for the guys this weekend and join me in wishing them, and all the Aussies, a safe and successful race.

More news from Stu as it comes to hand.