PIT STOP

Race Day
Posted by | July 22, 2014

The grid walk before the start is really a huge crowd. “Crowded” is an understatement really. I don’t think there is a grid walk in any other race in the world with such a high population density. But the operation of the organizers is very good, as they swiftly move this many spectators according to schedule.

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The formation lap will start soon, but since there are so many cars in the Nürburgring 24 hour race, the formation lap is divided into 3 groups before the start.

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The top group started with McLaren in the lead. They have a good record in sprint racing, and they leave the crowd behind for a clear pole position shot.

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The second group is lead by the group of TT-RS that have been converted to front wheel drive, together with the Subaru that aims to take them down.

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And the third group seems to have the most number of aggressive drivers: The one make class of BMW M235i Racing that was added this year continually changes rankings, and are rubbing fenders right from the start.

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In that group are also the living legend of the Nürburgring, the Opel Manta, and the 86 of Gazoo Racing. What surprised me here was the number of fans for the Open Manta. As soon as the Manta passed by on the first lap, the thunderous cheers from the crowd proved to me just how loved this car is on the Nürburgring.

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After taking photo’s of the first lap, I returned to the lounge. Yamauchi san is training on Gran Turismo. On the documentary movie ” KAZ: Pushing The Virtual Divide“, it was said that Yamauchi san gets nervous before a race, but he seemed very relaxed now. According to the Polyphony crew, “its no use to get nervous until its just before your own stint”.

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We moved back out to the field again, and the Flugplatz was full of media camera crew.

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The close distance to the course surprises me every time. Even when you’re not in the media area, you’re this close to the race.

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This is a normal road, but cars are going by at racing speed right next to the guardrail just in front. If there’s an accident, you’re in for a shower of car parts.

But of course if you’re in an area where you’re not supposed to be, the course marshal will come flying even during the race. Here, the marshal is telling a photographer on the inside of the exit at the Flugplatz to get out.

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This is something else that is special to the Nürburgring, but cars of marshals and loader trucks drive on the circuit even during the race. Drivers going at racing speed must fight with this fear of what is ahead.

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I started realizing there was this gap between what I’d imagined a few hours into the race. With nearly 200 cars in the race, I figured there would be cars going by constantly, but because of the sheer size of the Nürburgring, you get a lot of breaks in between. There were times when I would be like “There’s the Manta!! What’s next??” and then not a single car would go by for a full minute.

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When GT3 cars go by, you see and feel this speed and vibration that is clearly on a different level, and that’s exciting. But I also had a fear that because my left eye is my good eye, if I focus too much on the viewfinder of the camera I would not notice a car involved in an accident hurtling towards me.

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Most of the pictures were taken from the media area, but there were many camera holes for amateur photographers in fences of the general public area.
On Japanese circuits there really aren’t any camera holes for amateur photographers, so unless you own a 500mm class lens its difficult to photograph nice shots. At the Nürburgring however I felt that you don’t need a 500mm lens. You’re so close to your target that you need a wider lens.

But in the virtual world, there are players that use this obstructive fence to their advantage. They take shots from an angle that includes the fence to raise the level of realism. One attractive point of Gran Turismo is being able to take pictures from locations where people can’t enter the track, but I think finding the same limits you would come across in reality is another part of the fun.

The sun has dropped to a point where you can identify the faces of the drivers. The Schulze GT-R and Lexus LFA Code X meet up for a rendezvous.

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Yamauchi san’s stint is coming up, but how has the crash in qualifying affected him or has it?

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After the first stint, Yamauchi san said that “If there’s a slow car in a hard to pass spot, I can’t get myself to make the move and pass them like I would have before.” But to survive an endurance race, that level of care is necessary.

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But teams going for the overall win can’t stop there, and they must weave through the slower cars even with a certain amount of risk. Unless you do, you’ve got no right to win at the Nürburgring 24 hour race that has become a high speed endurance race.

This year, there are yellow flag sections that are called double yellows, with double yellow flags. In these sections you must press the pit road button and slow down, but there were many accidents that was caused by the sudden deceleration. On the Nürburgring with its many blind corners, it’s a safety control method that is a double sided blade.

A mysterious man appeared in the Gran Turismo lounge; Actually he’s the catering guy who refills our stomachs.

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With the sun completely down, the night session starts. The cars continue to go by like bullets.

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The condition of the car is shared every time the driver returns. They are matching results with the real time telemetry system that Polyphony Digital is using.

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The pit crew is at the peak of their fatigue. They must be exhausted having done major repairs all night long the night before.

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The Nürburgring is beautiful at night.

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But I fell asleep on the floor of the lounge myself before I knew it, from the accumulated fatigue. People who’ve watched endurance races know, that scene where mechanics fall asleep on the pit floor. Never thought I’d be one of them.

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PIT STOP

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