Axis brings you racing from the inside. Our Bolognese friend Sergio Negroni is a veteran of the ADAC 24 Hour Rennen at the Nürburgring, Italian GT racing, VLN and is the current Blancpain Endurance Series GT3 Champion but really, just another tracktard like you and I.
Delighted he agreed to share the story of his sixth Green Hell 24 hour challenge with us and carry the Axis colors on the car. (All photos by Jochen Van Cauwenberge/Frozenspeed courtesy of Sergio Negroni)
The 2012 edition of the ADAC 24H Rennen was my sixth time at the Nürburgring classic.
The original plan for this year was to field my own 2011 Porsche GT3 Cup, but last minute logistical issues let us to a last minute change to an Aston Martin Vantage GT4. The Vantage was impeccably prepared by Hamburg's Team HRT. HRT is an official Aston Martin Racing team with vast experience in endurance races like the N24 and the Dubai 24.
HRT entered three Vantage GT4. In number 55 along with me, my VLN and 2011 24H mate Jochen Hudelmeier, Gerrman Carrera Cup driver Dieter Speves and Porsche Supercup and Megane Euro Championship's Oliver Freymuth. We all had prepared in VLN with 911's so some quick recalibration was needed. We all agreed the Aston was fast, easy to drive, direct and most important, reliable.
Fresh off my first place in the 2011 Blancpain Endurance Series GT3 Cup championship and many good results on the Nordschleife, I felt quite confident: strong team mates and a car prepared to a fanatical German standard.
The banzai, take no prisoner driving in the top SP9/GT3 class wasted no time claiming illustrious victims.
Just a few laps into the race rear right tires begin to fail on a number of top cars (ed: notably on Bleekemolen's SLS) this because of debris on the track but also from aggressive camber settings needed for fast laps times.
On lap 2 I found the Gamballa Mclaren of Klaus Ludwig, destroyed at Flugplatz, then a completely destroyed Audi R8 at Wehrseifen, a third crash at the Karussell and so on and so forth. All these accidents, I believe, were caused by GT3 cars attacking the 24 hour race as if it was a single make, 30 minute race with 20 cars entered.
In years past, an overtaking car would make its presence known at night with a quick flash of the high beams. Now it's high beams on all the time and get out of my way.
In a race where speed differences are enormous and open to "Gentleman drivers" some with very limited experience, it's no surprise many of the accidents involved a fast and a slow car.
Bodywork and alignment fixed I hop in for my second stint of what would be the nine longest laps of my career!
After a few laps I find myself alone at Flugplatz, with just my own headlights to illuminate the black asphalt. Right as I upshift to 5th in the first kink the car suddenly oversteers. a quick correction but the front loses grip as well and I see the guard rail looming. I catch it with two wheel on the grass, a close call. I can't figure out what happened, it's not raining. Maybe someone dropped fluids and marshals had not noticed in the darkness, not a good thing on a fifth gear full throttle turn!
The car is still loose as I get up the hill and right as I crest yellow flags are waving frantically and a totally destroyed Audi is in the middle of the track. I figured he must have dropped the oil, slap it in third gear and shoot down towards Aremberg where I find a GT3R heavily damaged after hitting the bridge before the Fuchsroere, oh great....
I finish my stint around 4 AM and get some rest, my next turn would be around 8 AM. As I wake I'm greeted by an SMS saying that on a damp track, running slicks one of my mates had written off the car. Game Over.
That's the way it is in endurance but I'll be back, plans for the 2013 Nürburgring 24 H are already starting!