WEDNESDAY 28 APRIL 2010
TWO VLN RACES PREPARE SIMONSEN FOR NüRBURGRING 24 HOUR
If you add up the number of different corners in the Le Mans Series and British GT Championship, you'll find it less than one lap of the notoriously dangerous Nordschleife, or more colloqually known as "Old Nürburgring".

Allan Simonsen has driven virtually all of the great race tracks in the world – Spa and Bathurst immediately come to mind. Certainly, he has contested several LMS events at "New Nürburgring" – a short version which is used for the European F1 GP perched on top of the Eiffel Mountains, but never before has his race car suddenly turned left and wound itself slowly down the sinuey track to the village of Adenau before climbing back up the picturesque hillsides, past Niki Lauda's fateful crash site, through the famously banked Carosel and then on through a myriad of flowing corners, to arrive the very long straight that passes by an old stone castle. Well over 20km. In excess of 200 corners.

To even get a start at the 24 Hour special, a team must complete at least two prequisite races at the daunting track, as part of the VLN Series - a German domestic championship that mimics the 24H, but only much shorter.

And there are still over 150 cars, dispatched in 3 waves, much as the biggie does, in mid May.


As 2010 approached, Team Farnbacher Hankook upped the ante of support, following their success at Okayama, Japan, where Simonsen and Dominik Farnbacher snatched the GT2 title at the eleventh hour. Not only would they compete in the Le Mans Series, but now the N24 as well, following their two VLN effortsover the weekend March 19-20 and April 24-25.

Allan arrived for the very first practice session and the weather was wet. Whilst being a specialist in managing changing conditions you'd really be hoping your first outing, in the almost regular Ferrari 430 GT2, could be dry!

None the less, Simonsen did 2 laps on soft compound tyres. The nature of the track can make it difficult to gain heat into the rubber and so whilst the laps were exploratory, he was dealing with poor traction and little turn in bite - not unusual for a track with such length, cocooned in a forest, that has a habit of depositing oily leaf material into the bitumen. Add low ambients meant that the soft option wasn't soft enough.

The weather did not seem to be improving.

Qualifying forced the team onto intermediates. Allan used the 'new' track to get some tyre heat in before he set off on the 'old' one, only to find that about the 8km mark, grip fell away to once again damage both turn in performance and confidence.

Finally a qualy run that worked, on a dry track, with inters - 2 laps of stability and minimal drop off.

Dominik started the race and handed over to Allan after 8 laps. It was a successful day, with minimal drop off, considering the variability of conditions, coming home 14th and 2nd in class.

Fast forward six weeks and Allan is back at Nürburgring - this time Dominik did practice, evaluating 4 sets of tyres, ranking them for later use.

Allan started Q, but understeer crept in hindering the effort. Marco Fambadouchio, the third driver, then went out but the power steering failed and by the time the repair was effected, Dom could only get in 2 flying laps, setting them on the grid in P13.

It was another day of mechanical woe for Team Farnbacher Hankook, with Dom pitting 2 laps in, whilst in 6th, the gear cable broken. He was sent out to complete his run, handing over to Allan, six laps later.

Things were going from bad to worse, with the radio failing, forcing the team to revert to a pit board. The team was treating the race as a test – better to break something now than at the 24H race.

And then there was the issue of other drivers in over their heads. Lap after lap, the three drivers were confronted with crashed cars and numerous yellow flag sections. Tragically, an Aston Martin driver payed the ultimate price, having been squeezed by a slower car on a section of track past Adenau – his car flipped on the armco barrier, bursting into flames. The race was red flagged and not restarted.

On a positive, both car and drivers are getting better at this track. Grip in the high speed corners has improved and with a bit of luck surrounding weather and power steering failures there is a good chance for a top 10 finish in mid May. But first of all they need to keep out of everyone elses trouble and run a clean race. And don't forget all the works teams running Porsche, BMW and Audi will have been hiding their real potential until the big race.

One week prior to N24, is round 2 of the Le Mans Series, to be held at wonderful Spa, in Belgium. With the GT2 field increasing to 15 cars and the inclusion of Formula Le Mans and no less than 8 diesel LMP1's, signalling the fight between Audi and Peugoet has returned, its going to be a very tough race. Whats it does provide is another opportunity to test rubber and mechanical parts before heading to Nürburgring.