Pre Event

Nürburgring 24-Hour Race Qualification Race: report

SUBARU competes in the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race Qualification Race

A qualification race for the 24-Hour Race in May took place on Sunday 23, April at Nürburgring with the STI team running the SUBARU WRX STI with this year’s specs (Car Number 90) driven by Carlo van Dam, Marcel Lasée, Tim Schrick and Hideki Yamauchi. After recording the fastest time in the 2 official qualifiers, the team ran the WRX STI in this 6-hour race with the aim of collecting data for the main 24-hour race. Although the WRX STI found good rhythm, a problem hit the car and the team played it safe, ending the race with the car in the pit.

After a shakedown in March, STI conducted several tests on circuits in Japan to address challenges and to get some practice in before transporting the car to Germany. Engineers and some of the mechanics arrived at the garage in Germany on 14 April to thoroughly prepare for this race. Participating in a 6-hour qualification race before the main event is a good opportunity to learn what is necessary to complete a 24-hour race. The second group in the team, including driver Yamauchi, arrived on the 19th and all the drivers tried out the seat to adjust the positioning before the first qualifier held on Saturday 22, April. In the past, it was difficult to get all drivers to participate in such pre-races in the build up to the 24-hour race. However, it was one of the advantages this time around that all drivers were able to familiarize themselves with the new car.

In the second qualifier held on the final day, Van Dam posted the fastest time at 9 minutes 4 seconds, edging to STI’s goal of breaking the 9-minute mark. Van Dam said after the qualifiers, “The initial feeling of the car is very good. I trust the setup finalized by Hideki and the team in Japan. Every time I drive a lap, I can reduce time. I believe we will be able to achieve our goal of breaking the 9-minute mark with this car”. Knowing that he had a very positive feel to the car, the other drivers also looked positive.

In the qualifying race, the SUBARU, driven by Van Dam, started from pole position in its class. It was decided for Van Dam to hand the car over to Yamauchi and then on to Lasée and finally to Schrick before receiving the chequered flag in the second round of the driver sequence on the 6th hour. Although the surface was dry, the air temperature was low at less than 10℃. Under such conditions, Van Dam was in his element showing unconstrained drive to further reduce the fastest time he had recorded in the qualifier by 2 seconds. After Van Dam Yamauchi and Lasée drove lap after lap in good rhythm and concentrated on driving in a way instructed by the engineers to contribute to data collection. The last driver, Schrick, was also running at a good pace but a warning sign of rising temperatures in the exhaust system alerted him just before his stint ended and he came back to the pit. Despite the problem with parts in the exhaust system, it did not seem so bad as to abandon the race. Therefore, the team sent Yamauchi back out in the car instead of Van Dam, who was supposed to be the first driver up in the second round, to run the car and to check some points. However, the symptom did not improve and in fact, there was concern about a secondary problem, so after one lap Yamauchi came back to the pit and the team decided to end the race there.

STI Team Manager Shigeo Sugaya commented after the race, “We think of this qualification race as preparation to complete the 24-hour race just like other teams. Our purpose was to gather data for that and to confirm how much performance we can show under real racing conditions. Drivers especially Carlo who drove in the qualifiers felt good about the car, and we were able to reduce the time to 9 minutes 2 seconds in the race. With that, I believe that we were able to verify the performance of the car. We also instructed Yamauchi, Marcel and Tim to drive in a way that matched different challenges and we were able to collect data for the 24-hour race almost as planned. However, it is also true that we could not receive the chequered flag due to an unexpected problem. This means that we still have a problem and we must thoroughly reflect on it. We should accept this fact seriously and prepare well in the remaining month so that we can win the SP3T class for the 3rd consecutive time”.

In this year’s Nürburgring 24-Hour Race, the practice session will take place on 25 May and the race will get underway in the afternoon on 27 May.