24-hour race: Stay safe. Never give up!
Automotive-sector | Spectacular comeback at the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring 2020.
The 24-hour race at the Nürburgring is probably not comparable with any other race in the world. No race track is more challenging than the “Green Hell”. Nowhere else do as many vehicles start as here. Nowhere else can you find such extreme weather events as here in the Vulkaneifel region. And no other race in the world writes as many stories as the legendary Eifel race. They are stories of boundless passion and absolute dedication. They are stories like this.
Crash at Schwedenkreuz
Retrospect: Thursday evening, September 24th 2020, qualifying 2 for the 2020 24-hour race. The night qualifying is almost two and a half hours old when at 10.49 pm the news of a crashed Mercedes of the newly formed Haupt Racing Team (HRT) makes the rounds; in the television pictures, it can be quickly seen that a blue-yellow racecar is standing at the end of many crash components. It is the car sponsored by thyssenkrupp’s suspension specialist BILSTEIN with the number 2 – whose spe
cial foil reflects and glows in the headlights of the approaching vehicles. It is in exactly this light that driver Nico Bastian drove the fastest lap ever before. But as it is: in motor sports, joy and sorrow are close together. His team mate Yelmer Buurman lost control on a wet track just in the area of the Schwedenkreuz, one of the fastest sections on the Nordschleife, and crashed into the guard rail. Now, the GT3 with the striking BILSTEIN foil is waiting for the tow truck.
After it turns out that nothing has happened to the Dutchman, there is an initial sense of relief, but this quickly turns into disillusion: should the months of preparation suddenly be worth nothing?
Stunned and with tears in their eyes, the team sits in front of the command post, the BILSTEIN team members on site also have a big lump in their throat. The possible options turn out to be manageable: Give up or fight. The entire paddock agrees: the 24-hour race has its first prominent victim…
A little later at 2 am, the phone rings at an advertising company in Waiblingen. At the other end: Our colleagues from thyssenkrupp BILSTEIN. With an order at short notice. A new foil was needed for the vehicle, to be delivered by overnight express to HRT in Meuspath. At the same time, the motorsport guys around Daniel Pitsch have beads of sweat on their foreheads: Which nuances still have to be adjusted so that the technology is again two seconds faster on the Nordschleife than the competition and what has possibly broken down and needs to be repaired? The surprise: Despite the crash at over 200km/h, only one BILSTEIN EVO RT has conked out. For Daniel Pitsch, Head of Motorsports Road Racing Engineering at thyssenkrupp BILSTEIN, this is not too much of a surprise: “Our new BILSTEIN EVO R shock absorbers have very high strength, making them very stable. And this despite the fact that we placed great emphasis on weight optimisation during development”. When it comes to performance, the installed, brand new EVO RT shock absorbers of BILSTEIN are beyond reproach anyway: “Hydraulically and technically, we are also using the proven BILSTEIN principle for our new 5-way system: Large areas and low pressures for maximum performance,” explains Daniel Pitsch. So in the BILSTEIN motor sport truck, our technicians quickly build new shock absorbers for the GT3 with the eye-catching mask design.
On the other side of the street in Meuspath, the phones are also running hot and the tools are used at the speed of light, because a new chassis from Affalterbach was organised and brought to the workshop by “night jump”. In record time, the still usable components of the accident vehicle are installed and the foil is affixed on the vehicle with many helping hands during the following day. It is a night in which technology partner BILSTEIN and racing team HRT become one unit. A team that has not yet surrendered to the Green Hell.
A legendary Comeback
Indeed: on Friday afternoon, shortly after 3 pm and after 14 hours of tireless teamwork, the teams of the more than 100 vehicles are dropping their jaws. The blue-yellow Mercedes-AMG GT3 is pushed back into the pit. Nobody thought this was possible. Quickly, the TV teams from all over the world gather at the HRT pit to report on the resurrection.
Shortly afterwards, Nico Bastian is already back in the car: in the first top qualifying session, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 with the number 2 completes its first functional test and Nico Bastian does important set-up work. The reward: 20th place in qualifying despite missing important runs. Not bad for someone who had already been written off. And there is more to it than that. Hubert Haupt, HRT team owner and, alongside Nico Bastian, Yelmer Buurman and Phillip Ellis, one of the drivers looks ahead – and to the top spots: “You could see that the Mercedes-AMG GT3 are very fast in these changing conditions. If everything is ok, a top place could be possible.
After the HRT mechanics had fought so sacrificially for their comeback, it was up to the drivers on the race day to do the same and make up ground. And they did so in an impressive way: Already in the first third of the race, they conquered place after place, but an interruption of the race in the night from Saturday to Sunday due to bad weather stopped the steam hammer. In the morning, the Mercedes-AMG in BILSTEIN colours resumed the race in eleventh place. By the end of the race, the team had fought its way into the top 10 and finished the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring 2020 in ninth place.
A comeback that will probably be talked about “on the ring” for many years to come.