Back in action at the Nurburgring

Apprenticeship at thyssenkrupp | Automotive-sector | People at thyssenkrupp | Saturday morning, just after 8 o’clock at the legendary Nurburgring race track. Once again, the weather in the Eifel shows its typical side: Again and again it rains; fog hangs over the asphalt of the race track.

Somewhere on the horizon you can try schematically to detect the sun. But today, “Green Hell” likes it grey. The paddock and the pits are busy. In just a few minutes, at 8.30 a.m., the timed practice for the seventh race of the VLN Endurance Championship season is scheduled to begin at the Nurburgring track. In Box 11 the pilots get ready, putting on their helmets and boarding their cockpits. The teams waited until the last minute to decide whether to go out on slicks or rain tyres. The boxes are just as hectic: Mechanics rush around with tyres, making final changes. Right in the middle of it: Dennis Wenzel and Tilman Bormki, apprentices at our Ennepetal site since the 1st of September. Both had applied to the employee offer of becoming members of the FAST Racing Team. Dennis and Tilman can watch the race today directly in the pits.

In the middle of it all

The two can’t believe their luck; that they’re in the middle of it all instead of on the side-lines. “We’ve only been with thyssenkrupp Bilstein for four weeks now and are allowed to take part in such a race directly. That’s anything but normal”, says the pleased 16-year-old Tilman. He and 18-year-old Dennis have the chance to get a taste of motorsport air in Jürgen Freiburg’s team. Our colleague Jürgen, Head of Health and Safety at thyssenkrupp Bilstein, is known with his car all over the place: the safety specialist drives the “Pioneer Corrado”, one of the absolute favourites of the public at Nurburgring. Jürgen starts in the H2 class of historical vehicles with a maximum capacity of 2 litres.

The VW Corrado is not the only fan favourite in Box 11. Suddenly another old acquaintance is pushed into the box: “Here comes the Manta! This is so awesome – that car is a legend,” Tilman raves. And he is right: Olaf Beckmann’s Opel Manta has been racing at Nurburgring for a quarter of a century now.

Unlike most other teams, FAST Racing is relatively relaxed. After two breakdowns this season, Jürgen wants to take it easy today and by all means reach the finish line. He therefore leaves the time-training in this rainy weather to the others. “I’m not going to have all this fuss now, we really want to turn up today,” Jürgen reveals. Lucky for the apprentices from Ennepetal; now Jürgen can spend more time with the boys. He takes them through the pits, into the paddock and explains a lot, which is not that easy, since Jürgen has to shake hands over and over again and say “hello” to people.

By coach through the green hell

Before the race starts, Dennis and Tilman get an impression of what the drivers can expect in the race: When the rain starts again, the two of them take a coach (!) over the Nurburgring track– a cruise of a slightly different variety. Dennis, who had already been here at Nurburgring several times before and has even driven a lap on the track himself, is thrilled: “Nurburgring is so spectacular. I’ve always wanted to be close and involved. I’m generally pretty interested in motorsport, which is why I applied to thyssenkrupp Bilstein,” says the man from Gevelsberg.

Before the start of the race, these future industrial mechanics get the chance to stroll through the grid and get a good look at the 153 cars that make up the field. They then make their pilgrimage up to the BILSTEIN grandstand to watch the start in the typically moody Eifel weather.

Hghlight in the paddock

Soon after, both are needed in the box again. Jürgen, whose VW Corrado runs like Swiss clockwork, comes in for the scheduled pit stop. The team changes the tyres, fills up the cult coupé and checks the car to the extent possible. Our apprentices are right in the middle of it, even if they are not allowed to get too involved for safety reasons. Everything is going according to plan, Jürgen can continue.

Shortly afterwards, the next highlight awaits the young employees in the paddock. We take a quick step on our way through the paddock. “That’s our truck,” Tilman says as we head for the white truck of the thyssenkrupp Bilstein racing service. They carefully dry their wet shoes on the doormat and are awestruck. Motorsport engineer Christian Moldenhauer takes his time and gives the inquisitive junior technicians a mini crash course in race shock absorbers, explaining his responsibilities and showing them the equipment. Above all, Dennis’ eyes are shining with joy: The 18-year-old can hardly wait to get to know the motorsport department in Ennepetal during his training.

Conclusion of an eventful day

When the race ends shortly after 4 pm, Dennis and Tilman have already spent 12 hours on their feet – but show no sign of being tired. Now it’s time to celebrate. After all, Jürgen not only crossed the finish line, but also moved up from 11th place at the start in his class to 6th place! Jürgen is overjoyed: “We got through without any problems. It was a great team effort today that we delivered. Everyone did a great job, including our apprentices Dennis and Tilman!”

And what is the conclusion of the two apprentices? “It was great that we could be so close”, Dennis is pleased after an eventful day. “These are feelings you don’t normally get. I really felt like I belonged to the team. And Tilman can’t help but grin: “I still can’t believe we’re here today. It was an absolutely awesome day”.

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