The following words are the race report sent in from Mal Rose after he and his team made their annual pilgrimage to the NÃ¼rburgring Nordschleife for the 24 hour race. Accompanying the text are some pics and video clips that have been sourced by AUSringers reader Ben. Thanks to Mal and Ben for their input and apologies that it has taken me so long to get this article online. I hope Mal won’t mind, but I’ve also cleaned up the text a little. He writes from the heart and you get a great sense of what it would be like to be trackside during these events, which, it has to be said, went less than spectacularly for the team. This year, for the first time, Mal and his team also had a crack at the Spa 12 hour race. Here’s how they went…
Nurburgring 24hr, 22â€“24 May 22-24 & Spa 12 hour, 5â€“7 June 5-7 2009
Motorsport is full of ups and downs
This trip away had the “highs” of my Mitsubishi Cup cars again winning their class at Spa then the “lows” of the V8 Holden having its first big crash!
Our big trip started on May 18 when the team flew out to Germany to race in the 37th ADAC Zurich 24hr on the famous “Nordschleife” (North Loop).
This year the field was only 170 cars due to the world’s economic problems (down by 50 cars from 2008). Also new regulations now excluded the lesser capacity cars, like my Mitsubishi Cup cars. We took the Mitsubishi cars anyway as we had also planned our debut at the Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
For this trip we also had made major improvements to the ex-GRM VY Supercar, like a new big horsepower engine and many more carbon panels. We also had the shocks rebuilt by our new team member Adam from the 888 Racing Team. The Holinger 6 speed gearbox was also fitted with shift cut electronics, enabling us to flat shift our gear changes.
Our team was again led by Steve Knott, with his wife Virginia looking after the teams catering. We had new recruits of Adam Devereux and Chris Black from the 888 Racing Team. Chris’ girlfriend Sharelle also helped with the catering.
The teams data and video was handled by Ian Pollard (who also did the carbon panels) with our regulars of Mal Brett, Dixon Matthews, Ryan McIlveen and Lachlan Cook.
NÃ¼rburgring practice and qualifying went very well as the car was able to pace over 30sec per lap faster than previous years. We qualified in the 9min 30s, that puts in the top 40 cars (even managed 290km/h with a tall diff and only 6700rpm). Again, due to the track’s 26km length all the drivers only managed a few laps each.
The V8 Holden was driven by Mal Rose, Tony Alford and Peter Leemhuis. Being the owner and preparer of the car I started the race at 4pm Saturday 23 May. Due to the new engine we were only able to get nine laps per tank of fuel, or 1hr 15min (120 litres @ $3.40 per litre).
By mid race we were in the top 30 cars and second in our class (SP8 for 4500cc to 6200cc engines). Then the problems started.
At the start of my second stint going into the Hatzenbach curves (near the beginning of the Nordschleife) I was caught by the SP8 class leader, the Kissling Corvette, only to be crashed out of his way. This meant a 20km drive on three wheels for urgent repairs.
(40 seconds into clip)
On return to the race all was still going well although we had dropped to fifth in class behind the “factory” Lexus LF-A and the Aston Martin.
Peter Leemhuis then had a rear wheel fall off and, again, another long return trip on the disc rotor. This meant some time in the pits and falling further back.
(A brief interview with Peter can be seen on the official race website.)
Then we discovered a small clutch problem that forced us to make a quick decision. Do we keep working on the car OR pack up and prepare for Spa?
We had arrived at NÃ¼rburgring this year with high expectations and the chance of winning our class was fading away. All the cars in our class were factory backed. My car was prepared in my back shed with help from Tim McMurray and had a small budget to do two international races.
We decided that Spa Francorchamps was a NEW track for the team to experience. Therefore we decided to put in a new clutch and only return to the N24 towards the finish of the race, so we could take the chequered flag. Even though we did cross the line, we were not classified as a finisher as we needed to do five more laps to fulfill the regulations. Bugger!
We then packed the container and headed off to Spa.
On the week between these two international races we planned a test day at Spa with a British Track Day company. This was our first ever look at Spa Francorchamps. Peter, Tony and I used the Mitsubishi Cup Cars to learn the track. This was invaluable as the track was FAST and flowing (nothing like any track in Australia).
Being designed for F1 racing meant the track had plenty of runoff areas, with the exception of the famous Eau Rouge corner. The 7km track is in the mountain area of Stavalot / Malmedy, in west Belgium. The rise and fall of the track makes our Bathurst track look like a “go-kart” circuit.
For this event we had all three of our cars competingâ€”two Mitsubishi Cup cars and the V8 Holden.
The race was a round of the Belgian Touring Car Series for 12hrs and the majority of cars were special “Silhouette” race cars with mid engines and transaxles, although there were no Porsches or Ferraris. The race even had ex-F1 champ Jacques Villeneuve in a Seat Leon Supercopa touring car.
We again had limited practice and set up time in the V8. Made even worse because we had a engine problem that required a overnight change. Despite this we managed to qualify 14th overall and first in Class T4.
The Mitsubishis were first and second in their class, although they were towards the rear of the grid. The drivers were Mal and Brett Nialll, with Mark Pilatti in car 101 and Ross Zampatti, Matt Telling and Kevin Burton in car 102. Kevin out qualified all the drivers in car 102 and would start the race with Mal Niall starting car 101.
Again, as the car owner, I started the race in Car 4.
On Saturday 6 June the 12hr race started with a rolling start. There was wet weather and the start and we began with much caution as we had never raced this car in wet conditions, let alone on a fast F1 track.
By the first hour we had made it to the top 10 and were first in class. After 1hour 30 min it was time for fuel. During the stop it was decided that I would continue racing, as we were remapping the car on the run. Our new engine that had been fitted was not running as well as the previous one at low throttle. A double stint is allowed for a max of 3hr 10min.
We then began to have intermittent electrical problems with the front windscreen demister and were forced to stop again after 2hr 35min (still in the class lead). The pit stop went well and we were quickly back on track.
Then, the BIG crash!
On the exit to one of the world’s most famous corner, “Eau Rouge” (or some call it Raidillon), Tony had a 160km/h spin into the wall. Thankfully, these V8 Supercars have all the best engineering and Tony was able to walk away with only a sore neck. Peter missed out on a drive and there goes the saying “That’s motorsport” (don’t you hate this saying!).
The car was brought back to our pit but was unable to be fixed. The team’s focus now shifted to our two class winning Mitsubishi Cup Cars.
On the final lap at 3am the two cars were racing nose to tail/ Finally, car 101, being driven by Mark Pillati, ust beat Ross Zampatti across the line. He finished in 19th outright and first in Class T1, with Ross, 20th outright and second in class.
This means the team can proudly boast a 100% finishing record and many class wins for my Mitsubishi Cup Carsâ€”and many happy customers! As some of you would know, the only way this works is that we all share the costs of transport and crew.
Overall, it was a disappointing end to the debut of our V8 Holden Commodore, the first at Spa since 1986 when Peter Brock and Alan Grice won the Kings Cup in the 24hr race. Many race fans have expressed their love of our “home grown” V8 category and many say this car is THE best sounding car out there! Also, many more race fans are finding our Australian Championships much more exciting to watch than the Touring / GT classes in their own countries.
With the assistance of Stuart of Adrenalin Video, hopefully we can put together an edited highlights (and not so highlights) of these events for you all to enjoy on DVD. Stuart’s efforts have seen our first NÃ¼rburgring film, Mal’s Big Green Hell, and recently the Passport to Dubai film shown on TVS, SBS and Fox sports (you can also find them on YouTube).
I hope you enjoyed this short story and results from our 2009 European racing campaign. Maybe one day a company may sponsor us and we could take more spares and crew to achieve even better results?!
Credit must go to:
GRM / Gypsy “Jeff Marshall”
5 Star CV
AP Leemhuis Building
and all our team supporters