There was practically no time to despair.
On the first qualifier, the car’s settings were on the mark. The tires were producing more than adequate grip, and the GT-R GT3 was blazing through the Nordschleife at an excellent pace, with other cars looking as if they were standing still. Halfway through the Nürburgring lap where luck plays a huge role in terms of traffic, the GT-R GT3 had been able to come through at a great pace, weaving through the cars just in time, and coming to the long flat out section towards Klostertal I thought to myself, “This is a good lap, it’ll probably wrap up pretty good.” … and that might of made me a bit too bold.
Rushing out of the high speed left hand corner of Klostertal in 5th gear, a car appeared in front of me.
There was a considerable speed difference, and instinctively I moved the GT-R GT3 on a racing line to the left where there was more space. At racing speed your body works before you have time to think. But immediately as I did so, the car wandered to the left, and its brake lights came on all of a sudden.
The 2013 setup was balanced on softer springs that enabled good performance for bumps, that would lower to almost zero height at high speed, increasing down force by its ground effect. And though controllability was so good that you could tell the car was being drawn to the ground at high speeds, looking at the underfloor of the car after the race, the floor bottom was extremely worn, and even if the engine had not blown and taken us out of the race, we probably would have damaged the underfloor to a point that it would been impossible to finish the 24 hours anyway.
This year, the concept of the car was changed a 180 degrees, to make a suspension that doesn’t bounce on the Nordschleife, even with hard springs. The springs used were probably the hardest range you will see on a racing car for the Nürburgring, and the initial vehicle height was lowered as much as possible. Fine tuning of the front and rear aerodynamic balance was done by setting the ride height in millimeter increments.
There are many old myths that the “Nürburgring is special”, but we ignored all preconceptions to see how a setup that precisely follows the fundamentals of pure racing car physics would work here, and it was starting to produce successful results.
The major crash came then.
The car was probably going over 200km/h.
After a few hard jolts to the car, it came to a stop right up on the guard rails.
I saw the right front tire ripped from the car, go bouncing down the track.
I was taken to a hospital in the forests on the outskirts of Adenau in an ambulance. Looking at my innards imaged on the echogram monitor, in a cool, quiet hospital away from the buzz of the race, it sank into me that this too, is a part of the 24 hour race.
The doctor says it will be OK for me to drive in the race final… but what to do about the almost completely destroyed GT-R GT3…?
I returned to the tent after leaving the hospital, just as the sun had gone down. With the remnants of the machine in front of them, an unusual motivation had engulfed the Schulze team.
Tobias, Michael, and Jordan, they all wanted to drive. The mechanics were all ready to go, and no one had given up.
This unnatural motivation that occurs only in these desperate conditions, I think is very human, and I think to myself that this, is what really makes racing worthwhile.
And yes, if we want to drive on, we have to fix it.
Thereafter, people from Nismo, Nissan, RJN, KW, PIAA, Gazoo Racing, and others… all our dear friends moved all at once to help us. The ball was passed from person to person, bouncing back and forth, until everyone had virally “contracted” the same spirit and will. The huge amount of necessary components and parts that seemed impossible to gather overnight miraculously came together at dawn, and the story behind this all was as if the paddocks of the Nürburgring had became a giant pinball machine of feelings and sentiment.
The repairs starting at an incredible pace, the engine coming back to life 15 minutes before the final qualifier, and finishing the 24 hour race 14th overall out of 165 participants … it was like a story straight out of a movie.
I thought to myself once again, that the place called the Nürburgring, is like a giant stage set where the emotions and drama of man are placed in the limelight and allowed to truly shine.
All in all, the frightening moments included, this was a very good experience.
To everyone who gave us their support, thank you so very much.