This year’s German Nationals took place in Ettlingen, which is quite well known because of the German ENS race. It is one of the best tracks we have, and because of the facilities it is very much suited to camp on the track. My wife Jill and me decided to try it out and stayed on the track in a tent and we didn’t regret it! It was cold in the last two nights but the vibe in the evenings with the fellow racers and campers was just great! Basically we had a small village with tents and campers.
Practice started on Thursday and we had 3 runs before the rain came. I was super happy with my car and pace, third place was good!
Friday the track seemed to be different. For sure I was slower and was looking for a bit more steering. When the controlled practice started, all over sudden we got completely different tires (remember that this race has handout tires, supposed to be 35 rear and 32 front). My car suddenly had no rear end. Of course I checked the tires and discovered that the rears were 42 shore!
For Saturday qualifying I changed my car completely. I was told that the tires will stay that hard, so I changed the set-up to get more rear traction. It took 3 runs to get the car decent, and then for the final 2 runs it was understeering again. Tires went back to 37 shore!
I am a big supporter of hand-out tires and I think small differences are ok. It is part of the deal. We had the same brand at the Euros in Italy, basically without any issues. But now the range was from 30 to 45!
Its just impossible to find a set-up which works with that.
Despite all that trouble I qualified easy into the semi, with Merlin Depta ending on a direct qualifier place! Not too bad at all.
After qualifying the race director informed us that they have checked every single tire and that they found enough tires for a reasonable range. The rears would be around 33 to 37 and the fronts a little bit harder. At least we would have constant tires for Sunday!
Still it was clear that the car would be understeering, so I changed the set-up, but it still was a bit of a guess.
The car then was understeering indeed, in the warm-up I moved the bottom weight all the way to the back and took out some rear toe. I was still confident to go through to the final, I knew I had one pitstop less.
Everything went to plan and I was leading the final until the engine flamed out in the last lap! Still it was enough to go through!
Also Gunther van Staay went through, which made it 3 Serpent Viper in the final! Great job, Gunther.
I then changed more things for the final. But even after these changes I did not have the pace from Thursday. I missed that little bit of extra steering which makes you really fast. With hindsight I should have used the same set-up from Thursday……
I just tried to stay out of trouble and make no mistakes. It went quite ok until I crashed in the pitlane in my penultimate pitstop! What a stupid action! After that I had even less steering in all left-hand corners. I cruised to the end and was actually quite relieved when it was over.
Congratulations to Lars Hoppe for the win and to Merlin Depta for the podium. I am actually quite happy with 4th, but I hoped to have a bit more pace to fight for more.
All in all it was a very, very enjoyable race, we have a lot of cool guys in our team and Ettlingen is a great host. Unfortunately the tires spoiled the whole thing a little bit.
I will post my set-up soon, but it will not be the set-up I ran, but the one I should have run. It just makes more sense to me.
Thanks a lot to Jirka Hassler from 2-speed for the great team night on Saturday, all other guys from the team and especially to my wife and mechanic Jill. Congratulation for the win in the fastest tire change competition and again, for the perfect pitstops!
See you all soon