VLN: Team Journal - Ernst Woehr Nurburgring 24
Callaway Competition competed at the grueling 24 Hours of Nurburgring for the first time with their Championship winning Z06.R GT3 Corvette. Director of Callaway Competition Ernst Woehr, shared his perspective of their race weekend:
“This was our first time to race in the top SP GT3 category with one of our Corvettes. One of our modified GT4 Corvettes has raced here several times and finished second in SP8 here last year. For us good and bad things happened, but in the end it was very successful and a positive endeavor for us, as we learned a lot.
The people we met were amazing including all 3 of the GM factory drivers, Richard Westbrook, Jan Magnussen, and Tommy Milner. They are all super guys, very professional, quick and respectful to their team and equipment. It could not have been better for us! Richard and Daniel are Nordschleife experts and so Richards pace from the start was great, but also very safe. As for Daniel, as usual he followed the teams orders and made no mistakes. He drove safely at the speed he was asked to. It was clear that Jan and Tommy did not have the most experience around Nordschleife, but they were quick from the very beginning. As they gained more time in the car they showed in their skills in later stints in the early morning hours. Their performance was top class! It reflected on their skills, including the confidence they gained in the car as they leaned the track. It made them fly!
The entire Haribo Team including their owner Hans Guido Riegel and his wife treated us "Callaway’s" like we were family members. Tom Milner, Tommy Milner’s dad, whom I just met at the track, spent a lot of his time in the pits with our team. He shared with me many of his racing experiences and it was great fun to have him around and get to know him."
"Our own team was perfect. They worked, very hard before the race, as usual to get the car ready for this event in record time. They performed super well. During the race their preparation paid off as they brought the correct parts to effect a perfect repair after the tyre crash. Their pit stops, discipline, appearance, everything was very, very professional, I was very proud of their efforts. Really everybody, from our engineer Mike at the telemetry behind the pit-wall, Moehre in front of the car, Brian our tyre guy and everyone else it was a super performance! No weak link to detect at all!
Our Corvette looked great and it had a very nice finish. The sponsor was very happy with its appearance, which was very important because they were celebrating their 90th Anniversary. The lights on the car were amazing! The competitors knew who was coming when they saw those 6 Xenon’s brightly shining behind them. All they could do was to hold on to their socks! From the edges along the track next to the car, to one km into the distance, it was daylight bright! Our drivers really liked it…not the drivers of other cars!
We did not know the reliability of our drive-train components and how they would perform during a 24 hour race. We have had some bad experiences in the past with the diff cross shafts etc., so the feeling in my stomach was mixed throughout the entire event. However, here is the amazing thing: In the roughly 20 hours that we ran, 114 laps, which equal 2 850 km, we did not remove ONE screw. The only mechanical work we had to perform after our repairs was to replace front brake-discs and pads. So-not too shabby!
Here is how the top 40 Qualifying works: You pull a number like in a lottery and the top 40 cars line up according to these numbers. Every 10 seconds a car goes out for two timed laps. We only could do one lap because the RH rear wheel came loose. It was most likely a mechanics error, which is unusual for our team. They had trained to reach the correct torque with their new air equipment and probably made a mistake. So as the result we were 18th. A realistic second lap would have most likely put us top 10."
"Richard started in the car first. After less than half an hour he had already moved to tenth within 15 sec. to the leader. Suddenly he reported on the radio, we have a puncture! He was a couple km away from pit entry on the Doettinger-Hoehe straight and the car stopped. The tire ripped out parts of the wiring harness incl. the battery harness, which started a small fire. A Marshal cut out the battery and the pulled the car out on to the official entrance to the Nordschleife. Our team member Ruedi drove to the car with the Quad and took an air bottle, wheel and tools plus new battery. He wanted to get the car running so it could return to the pit box. We got there later, because it was difficult to move a car through traffic that had thousands of pedestrians. We finally got there and the Marshals indicated they would let us back onto the track if we could make the car drivable.
Unfortunately the starter did not work so we tried to push start it. Then realized that the clutch was not releasing and we could not get it to run. Ruedi and another guy pulled it back through the town of Nuerburg with the Quad. He made it to the pit sooner than we could by car! The RR quarter panel was missing, most of the wheel arch, part of the rear bumper and so on. The main battery loom had burned, but everybody had started the repair already when we returned! Mr. Riegel asked us if we could fix the car safely, I asked Andre about the electrics and he said he could, so we decided to fix it and continue when it was ready. We had painted and stickered our spare parts, so the repair looked almost original. We also discovered that the clutch was not working. I could not believe, the guys pulled the transaxle and replaced the clutch in just half an hour! So we went back out at 8.00 in the evening thirty laps behind the leader."
"The car ran flawless after the repairs, until a regular pitstop at midnight. It did not restart after the stop. We studied everything and determined that the electrical fire destroyed ECU PCM and another control unit. We replaced everything with no success. Then it would not crank anymore, we replaced starter and battery and still nothing. Finally when we replaced the throttle body, the car started and was able to run. Richard drove out and came right back in, because the PS did not work. This was an easy fix, the fuse was blown and replacing it fixed this problem. From here on, for more than 14.5 hours, the car ran without any issue. The drivers were speeding up and we were always on the same lap times like the leaders. In dawn it started to rain and Magnussen did an incredible double stint in rain and drying condition. Milner continued after that and ran our fasted race lap with an 8min 33, around 9:00 in the morning. There was no possibility of course to catch up with the front, but we made it to 87th coming from 4 hours behind the entire field of 170 cars.
In regards to our finish, this was the sad part. We decided to try finishing 90th, as we were hired for the 90th anniversary of Haribo (that is why we had #90 on the car), Magnussen reported a noise and power loss in the engine. We asked him to the pit, as he still was on the GP circuit 25 minutes before that finish. We found the engine had broken an exhaust valve. WE strongly believe that this comes from the strategy of ignition/injection cut off for shifting, together with high forces of acceleration of the engine. This leaves very little inertia from flywheel/clutch combination. Our engineer Mike Gramke reported that when he was the lead engineer on the C6R Corvette they had a similar problem. They were forced to change to a Magnetti Marelli system in the FIA GT1 World Championship in 2010. At the first race in Abu-Dhabi they lost three engines.
The positives from the weekend were the drivers and Haribo, who were very happy with the efforts of the team and the showing with the car. They all said we shall come back next year and Mr. Riegel wants to hire us for more VLN races. We now have to correct the engine/ECU problem and hopefully will fix it soon. It remains to be seen whether or not our new electronic system from EFI that is called Euro 8, is fully developed. It obviously was a mistake to buy it, but we wanted an electronic throttle for a later paddle shift, plus all the options EFI had promised us to gain. That goal has not been met so we will take corrective action when we return to Leingarten.”