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LMES - Nurburgring 1000 Kms - Setting The Nurburgring Scene
© Johannes Gauglica
Ideally we would have posted this item late on Thursday... but here it is, mid-morning Friday.
After much reminiscing about the past of the Nürburgring 1000 Kilometers, the revived 2004 edition, round 2 of the inaugural Le Mans Endurance Series is now underway – and the weather isn’t good.

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When the first dailysportscar reconnaissance party arrived on the scene on Thursday afternoon, just about all of the main protagonists were in situ, and setting up camp in the Nürburgring paddock. While the racecars were being put through the process of scrutineering during the afternoon, the teams themselves seemed to be giving even more attention to their trucks in the paddock. Does the ACO condct sanitation inspections as well, or is there an additional point up for grabs for "Best Presented Team Truck"? Now, we all know that the chance of rain increases exponentially the moment we even think about washing our cars. Indeed, the outlook for the weekend is one of gloom and precipitation, and storm clouds were brewing over the Nürburgring, temperatures way too low for early July. Two very clean cars were presented by Veloqx Audi UK, both its R8s in pristine livery, not a trace of the Le Mans battlescars to be seen. Perhaps the ACO objected to Sam Li's idea?

dailysportscar.comHow about preserving the muck and grime of half a day on the German autobahn for posterity, on a team truck?

Two teams that are not rated among the immediate favourites for success in their respective classes are Renauer (with an ex-FIASCC Tampolli-Alfa in LMP2), and A-Level Engineering (with an all-new Porsche 996 turbo in GTS). While Renauer should be a familiar name to those who have in the past followed the FIA Sports Car Championship, A-Level is a new team. Drivers Manfred Jurasz (Renauer) and Wolfgang Kaufmann (A-Level) are in confident mood, as they explained over a cup of coffee in the Renauer garage.

"We need to just keep going, make it to the finish, then we should have a good result,“ says Manfred Jurasz, "of the eight cars in our class, the Belmondo Courage is the hands-down favourite for the win, this car is uncatchable for the rest of us."

Wolfgang Kaufmann is very happy about his cooperation with A-Level Engineering. "The driving force behind the team is a Russian design bureau, and they are using this project to show what they can do. I am very impressed with their commitment to perfection. They do nothing half-heartedly. They have designed and built all their equipment themselves, and to a very high standard. I have been involved with the project from the start, have driven the car for its first tests, and will drive it in the remaining LMES rounds. Also, with Eric van de Poele I have a team mate who is very experienced, fast, and consistant, and has a no-nonsense personality which is good for a young team. I am happy with this constellation: just two drivers, but both of them 100% committed to the success of the project. Now, if only we had more boost: right now... we are limited to 0.8bar."

Kaufmann also had a tale to tell about the Nürburgring 24 Hours, where he drove two cars. Unfortunately, the combined drive time of both cars did not even add up to 12 hours. The Chrysler Crossfire suffered a problem that in today's racing world seems strangely archaic: a supercharger failure. "This was a brand new 'Kompressor', and from the outside everything seemed fine; but on the inside, the shaft that actually drives the supercharger had simply snapped, and while it seemed to be turning merrily, it was actually standing still, and doing nothing." Both the Chrysler and Kaufmann's other car, the Grohs Porsche 996, succumbed to accident damage. "I returned to the track at 3.30 a.m. to see what was going on, and there was nothing going on anymore."

Both Kaufmann and Jurasz have a wealth of experience on the international endurance racing stage: what is their opinion of the LMES as it presents itself now, and what do they think about its chances of success? "I think the concept is very promising,“ says Kaufmann, but adds that more emphasis should be put on "the show - there are not enough attractive support races. The FIA GT series has a stronger package, with the touring cars. Perhaps the 1000k race itself should be held in two heats, to create more excitement and closer racing. I would like to see a combined weekend where the GTs, tourers, and the 1000k race come together."

Jurasz would like to see more media coverage, and some improvements to the existing coverage especially on television. "The smaller classes aren't getting enough exposure; all you ever see is the first four or five cars. This is perfectly fine when they are dicing for the lead; but generally, every team should be able to guarantee a potential sponsor a certain amount of time on camera." Manfred Jurasz is happy to accept that he is a 'gentleman driver' - "I am in it for the love of driving fast" - and points out that without this media exposure, it is getting increasingly difficult to justify, and account for, the sponsorship money that is needed to buy into a team these days.

"Drives in the FIA GT Championship are now out of reach for a privateer like me. And I'd rather not tell my wife what I have paid for this drive here. A prototype is obviously more exciting to drive" - a sentiment Wolfgang Kaufmann agrees with - "but they are also more expensive in every respect."

Toward the end of the season, a return to Mount Panorama is a possibility for Manfred Jurasz: "We could have won it in 2002, had it not been for the accident (Alan Grice crashed the Porsche late in the race); it was probably the last time a Cup Porsche had a serious chance of winning Bathurst."

Back to now, and this is the Belgian G Force Pilbeam, the former Cirtek / Roy Baker / Jota car, chassis 001, and the WR, which didn't set a time on Friday morning.

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