Another report from AUSringers’ man on the scene driver Stu Jones. This one takes us through night practice and the inevitable mechanical gremlins that tend to appear from time to time.
UPDATE: New pics added. Take note of how tight the pit garages are. There’s not a lot of room to move!
N24 trackside report – pt3
Stu Jones: Well night practice has finished and, boy am I glad today is over. After mid day practice the boys got to work doing a general inspection of the car. My feedback from the first session was that the car felt a little loose in the tail. “Maybe rear shocks a little stiff, blah, blah…” I said, trying to provide semi intelligent feedback, while race mechanics look at me strangely. So we left the guys with it to grab some late lunch.
Come back and they had found the reason for the car being a little tail happy. The steering rack was leaking power steering fluid and spraying it on the back tyres. So out with the rack and in with a replacement. This is one of the poor aspects of front wheel drive cars, things like steering racks are not easy to remove without sometimes demolishing large parts of the front of the car. We ended up finishing about an hour into the first qualifying session, but no stress plenty of time available. It’s great to see that the collection of spares we bring is getting used. Although, I did get a bit worried this year when I saw we had spare front and rear bumpers, and two front guards. What are they expecting us to do?!
Just before qualifying it started to rain, not overly heavy but consistent and right across the whole length of the track. Our plan was just to get out and do our required two timed laps and put the car away. Colin went out first and ended up doing about 3-4 laps while we checked and tested a few things and our race engineer Neil looked through the data.
I went out about 10pm and plan was just to do two timed laps and bring the car back in. There were lots of problems with visibility as the headlights were off alignment and was having problems getting high beam to stay on. I just drove nice and steady. It was very hard to see the apexes and the road ahead without full lights. Think I set the cracking pace of around 18min for my first lap out. [Ed: Note, a lap during N24 configuration is the length of the Nordschleife, plus the Grand Prix track, which is a total distance of around 26km.] It was wet, dark and misty, with steam rising off the hot tarmac in some sections. There was also smoke drifting across the track from the camp fires. I can see this being an issue on race night.
One thing that amazed me away was the amount of water and spray the top cars put out from their tyres in the wet. When you consider a Porsche 997 RSR runs something like 310â€™s on the rear, that’s a lot of tyre and grip for driving out water. They were also insanely fast.
Highlight of the night was watching the Audi R8 LMS come blasting down the straight, full noise and a torrent of water out the back. What a glorious sound and great looking car.
Late start tomorrow with 2pm second qualifying session. Our game plan is similar to today’sâ€”run a few clean laps, iron out any last minute bugs and put the car away until the race start on Saturday afternoon.