The finale of the GT4 European series northern cup was held at one of the most historic and challenging circuits in the world – Germany’s Nürburgring. The GP circuit would host the final two races of the season in support of Blancpain’s Sprint cup race, bringing together the GT3 and GT4 circuses for the final time in 2017. The Eifel region of Germany is well known for its unpredictable weather, and the race weekend would be no different with some sun, rain and even hail possible across the three days of action.
Thursday was set up day and in true Eifel fashion, the mid September day was a wet one. Rain poured down all day, with temperatures reaching as low as 4 degrees Celsius in the evening, the weekend’s weather was looking like being a big factor for the races to come.
Friday dawned, mercifully it was dry but very cold as fog formed over the forests that hid the famous Nordschleife circuit to the north of the GP track – known as the green hell. Drivers Laura Kraihamer and Cedric Freiburghaus were looking forward to their final weekend of the season in the KTM X-BOW GT4 that had shown real promise throughout the season with strong points finishes and a podium at the RedBull Ring in Austria.
FP1 was run in cold and damp conditions with the race director declaring the session officially wet, meaning wet tyres were permitted and rain lights were mandatory. In spite of the session being declared wet, all cars went out for the session on slick tyres, as the track was only damp and with some running became drier throughout the session. Sporadic fine rain showers passed over the circuit, making some laps trickier than others. Laura and Cedric put in some good laps, finding the best lines through all 16 corners on the GP circuit. Practice pitstops to gather tyre data and calculate pit stop release times were performed, as well as a practice driver change. At the end of the session the #74 True Racing KTM was P17 from a massive field of 37 cars. The data and experience gained from the session would be vital for the coming on track action.
FP2 followed later in the afternoon on the Friday, and this time the session was a dry one. All the KTMs were struggling with straight line speed due to extra weight, added due to a lower air pressure value in the cold Eifel climate, specified in the balance of performance. The aim for the session was to gain more experience and fine tune the car ready for qualifying the next morning, however issues with tyre temperatures caused the car to slide and fast laps were not easy to come by. At the end of the session True Racing were P22 and looking for some big improvements going into qualifying.
After spending Friday evening fine tuning the car and collecting some fresh rubber from Pirelli, the team were hopeful of a more competitive session in Saturday morning’s qualifying session. Austrian Laura Kraihamer took the wheel for Q1 and on fresh rubber was immediately 2 seconds faster than her best FP2 time. Laura drove tactically, trying to avoid traffic and get a clean lap on the board. At the end of the 15 minute session and 5 flying laps, Laura qualified P18, with some teams early hiding performance in Friday’s free practice sessions.
In the 10 minute break between Q1 and Q2, Swiss driver Cedric Freiburghaus jumped into the car and another new set of tyres was fitted to the #74. Engineer Kai Störling held the car in the pitlane to give Cedric the best chance of a clear lap. After exiting the pits, Cedric was also 2 seconds faster than in practice and with his clear track put in some fast laps. At the end of the session the #74 was the fastest of all the KTMs and would start race 2 from P11 on the grid.
Race one would see Laura starting the #74 from 18th on the grid, in late afternoon sunshine. The aim being, to show off what the KTM is capable of on the german circuit, hopefully displaying some impressive overtaking manoeuvres along the way. Laura made a fantastic start, avoiding any first corner dramas that claimed several victims. She then set about hounding the cars in front of her, making some good overtakes utilising the X-BOW’s superior cornering ability. The weather looked like it was staying dry as the pit window approached. The drivers had been practising driver changes in the paddock to make the process as fluid as possible, and at the stop Laura handed over to Cedric in a little over 30 seconds, giving the Swiss driver time to compose himself before heading out onto the german tarmac. Cedric picked up where Laura had left off catching slower cars ahead and dispatching them with ease. No major drama’s befell the #74 and at the chequered flag True racing finished in 13th place. A respectable result having started 18th. All that was left to do, was to replicate that performance in race 2, and a good points haul would be on the cards.
Race two began on Sunday morning, in cold but dry conditions. The teams were lucky all weekend as the rain only ever seemed to arrive when the GT4 cars were not out on track. Cedric started the race and made a brilliant start jumping a couple of cars off the line and the proceeded to hunt the cars in front. A safety car period helped to bunch the field together and afterwards Cedric picked off cars one by one until he found himself P4, proclaiming on the radio ‘Guys this car feels amazing!’. Unable to match the speed of the Ekris BMW out front and with less straight line speed than two Aston martins in 2nd and 3rd, it would be down to a clean pitstop to try and jump the Astons. Again, the driver change was perfect, faster even than the race one stop. A clear pitlane allowed for a fast stop, just what was required to try and beat the Astons. Laura came out of the pits, and not wanting to be shown up by Cedric put in a fantastic overtake on one of the Mclarens around the final corner, putting one of the Aston Martin’s firmly in her sights. She closed the gap and used the KTMs weight advantage to breeze past the Aston on the technical section of the circuit. After starting P11 and with 15 minutes of the race to go, the #74 was in third place overall. Laura kept up the pace, sometimes lapping faster than the BMW in first place. All she had to do was maintain the gap to the car in 4th. That car was the ART Porsche Cayman and was consistently lapping faster than everyone else in the field. As the mechanics and Team manager watched the TV feed from inside the garage and the engineers on the pitfall willed Laura on, the time seemed to pass by ever so slowly. Eventually with 6 minutes remaining the inevitable happened, the Porsche managed to pass Laura going into the last corner. She did not give up the place easily however, using a cutback to pass the Porsche coming out of the corner and set up a drag race down into true one. The Porsche was faster in a straight line though, and despite a defensive line from the Austrian driver, the #74 was down to 4th. There was still a fight on though, as the ART Porsche was in a different class to the #74, and therefore True Racing was still on the Silver cup podium. Laura drove some superb final laps to maintain the gap to the Equipe Veschuur Mclaren in 4th and brought the car home for a Podium finish to the season.
A fantastic end to the season with a podium finish meant that RYS Team True Racing finished the GT4 season 7th in the silver cup teams championship. Laura and Cedric finished joint 9th in the Silver cup drivers championship and Cedric finished his Pirelli Junior cup championship in a respectable 5th place.
The season began with a weekend of learning at Misano, learning that paid off with a podium in Austria at the RedBull Ring. At the Slovakiaring the #74 just missed out on a podium and was hampered by off track controversy. Zandvoort brought wet weather and a crowded track but some solid top 10 finishes and the final round at Nürburgring ended with a podium finish to cap the season off in style.
There are so many people to thank for a fantastic season, not least you, the fans who have supported us through this year, so thank you for being the driving force behind the team and long may it continue. Thank you to everyone at Reiter Engineering for running the RYS program, preparing (and fixing) the KTM X-BOW GT4, and for giving a unique opportunity to young drivers, engineers and team managers that you would not get elsewhere.
Once again thank you to the fans, we hope you have enjoyed this session in the GT4 European series northern cup, keep up your fantastic support and hopefully we will see you next year for another exciting racing season!
Thank you from all at Team True Racing – see you next year!