【NLS(Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie) Round7 ／ Nürburgring】
Walkenhorst Dominates Round 7 With No.34’s Another Win And No.35’s Second, Back-To-Back Win And One-Two Represents Yokohama’s Successful Weekend
NLS Round 7
|Date||10 September 2023|
With the excitement of the no.34 car’s dramatic win still running high, the seventh round of the 2023 NLS (Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie) was held on the next day, September 10th, Sunday. While the weekend consisted of two back-to-back 6-hour races, this round started much earlier, at noon, so it would end before sunset.
Just as it was the day before, the weather in the Nürburgring area was fine on Sunday. With the green color of the Eifel forest shining under the sun, it was an ideal day to have an outdoor motor racing event. Such weather certainly prompted people to come out and visit the circuit, as was the case 24 hours before; therefore, a vast number of fans were there and filled up the grandstand or spectator’s points around the track. And what they saw was a total domination by Walkenhorst Motorsport and Yokohama Tire.
The qualifying session got underway 30 minutes earlier than that for the sixth round. The previous day’s winner, the no.34 car, set 7’59″216 on its first timed lap by the hands of Jukub Giermaziak, and he improved it to 7’56″523 on the next attempt. Then he handed the car to Christian Krognes, but it was only to let him know its feel, so Giermaziak’s best time placed the car on the sixth grid overall.
Turning to the other two cars run by Walkenhorst Motorsport, the no.36 car in the SP9 Pro-Am class, shared by Peter Posavac, Carrie Schreiner, Charles Weerts, and Christian Bollrath, secured the ninth place. In contrast, the no.35 car in the SP9 Pro class, driven by Niklas Krütten and Dylan Pereira, had to settle for 22nd overall.
The interval between the qualifying and the race was inevitably shorter than the day before, and the starting procedures began at 11:15. The number of cars on the grids was reduced from 116 in the sixth round to 91, but it was still quite a large field. So it was divided into three groups, each of which consisted of multiple classes giving consideration to the cars’ performance level, when they started a formation lap. Of course, the SP9 Pro and the SP9 Pro-Am classes belong to Group 1, which is for the fastest cars in the field, and Walkenhorst’s cars, nos.34, 35, and 36, waited for the start on the 6th, 10th, and 8th grid, respectively.
The 6-hour race began at noon. Giermaziak approached the first corner from the left-hand side grid of the third row, but he had to hit the brake earlier because the cars in front of him jammed up. While this caused him to lose a position, he stayed calm and regained sixth place soon after. Then he started to push the no.11 Mercedes AMG GT3 hard, and the driver of the no.11 car made a mistake and went off the track, probably because of Giermaziak’s heavy pressure. The Mercedes then had to do a premature pit stop to change a damaged tire.
Looking to improve track position further, Giermaziak carried on at an excellent pace. Meanwhile, Krütten, behind the wheel of the no.35 car, also pushed hard and bettered his best time for three consecutive laps. He was already in sixth at the end of Lap 4 and headed to the pit lane after one more lap for their first stop. But there was no driver change during the visit, and Krütten returned to the track for their second stint. The no.34 car also did the first pit stop before the race’s first hour elapsed, with Giermaziak staying in the car for another run.
You may know the two terms often used to describe the legendary German circuit. The first is Nür-weather, which means very unpredictable weather around the area, and the second is Green Hell, expressing how tough and demanding the race track is. There was no concern about the former this weekend, but the latter is always true to the drivers, even when the weather conditions are favorable. And, this time, the no.5 Audi R8 became a victim of it.
The car was running in second, but a tire failure caused it to drop out of contention when an hour and 20 minutes had passed from the start. By this incident, Giermaziak was promoted to second with only the no.19 Ferrari 296 GT3 in the SP9 Pro-Am class ahead of him.
The no.19 car came into the pit box at the end of Lap 13 just before the race entered its second hour. Responding to it, Giermaziak started to push harder to overcut the Ferrari and returned to the pit after gaining some more time gap with the closest rival during the two laps. On Lap 16, Krognes rejoined the race after the stop and extended the lead from 22.956 seconds at the end of Lap 17 to 38.597 seconds one lap later.
On the same Lap 18, Pereira in the no.35 car also overtook the no.19 Ferrari and moved up to second. Thus, two Yokohama-shoed Walkenhorst cars formed a one-two well before the race reached the halfway point of the 6-hour race.
In the race’s second half, Walkenhorst lost the no.36 car due to a crash on Lap 24. But the team’s two cars in the SP9 Pro class kept going consistently and made the one-two formation even firmer. Although the no.35 car’s position was altered a few times because the timing of pit stops differed between the teams, the no.34 car always remained in the top slot as the overall leader since it had a vast time gap with the rest of the field.
With less than one hour to go, no.34 car was still in the lead. The no.35 followed and was about a minute and 30 seconds ahead of the car running in third. So the two Yokohama-shoed Walkenhorst cars totally controlled the race and marched to the moment of glory, as there was no real threat to them.
Toward the end of the long and grueling double 6-hour races, Krognes clocked 7’56″743 in the final minutes, which eventually was the fastest among the finishers, impressing people with the car’s speed once again. And he finished the race first for the second time in two days, followed by the no.35 car. Overall, Yokohama Tire enjoyed a successful weekend in Nürburgring with back-to-back wins and a one-two in these two rounds.
Masaaki Miyoshi [The Yokohama Rubber Co.,LTD. Motorsports Tire Development Dept. No.1 Tire Development Division]
“After the fifth round, we thoroughly sorted out how to make our tire choices under varying situations, based on the data we have collected so far, and shared the information with the team and the drivers. We failed to finish the race in the fifth round due to a technical problem with the car, so we thought if we and everybody in the team would push through what to do in each area, results would follow this weekend.
“We had two races on the same weekend. But we knew those two races would be run under different circumstances because the sixth round would have some twilight to night-time driving, whereas the seventh round would end before sunset. Usually, it feels pretty cool in Nürburgring in September, but the temperatures were higher than anticipated, as the whole weekend was favored by fine weather.
“We would really like to thank the team and the drivers, as the Walkenhorst’s no.34 car won both races, and they even made a one-two finish on Sunday. After each race, everybody in the team, from the drivers to the mechanics, congratulated us, which made us feel like a real part of the team. We are so grateful for it. I believe better information sharing with the team, particularly on how to extract the performance of the car and the tires under those temperature ranges, led to more consistent race pace and, ultimately, these consecutive wins.”