Brunswick’s Nurburgring 24-Hours
If You Don’t Finish You’re A W***er

Well done Giles Groombridge and all at Brunswick Racing... for finishing the 24 Hours, and getting this throughly enjoyable material to us. You too Johannes. Ed.

For the third year in succession the Brunswick team entered an Alfa Romeo 156 in the famous Nurburgring 24 Hour Race, held on a combination of the modern GP circuit and the fearsome 14 mile long Nordschleife. Unlike previous years, when the team had used a self developed evolution of one of the Dutch Alfa 156 challenge cars, for this year’s race Brunswick had been entrusted with a car sourced in Poland by former England test cricketer and ex-British GT racer David Smith, who would drive the car alongside monoposto racer Steven Griffin and Brunswick team principals Dave Ashford & Giles Groombridge.

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The team took delivery of the car a couple of weeks before the race, but unfortunately, upon closer inspection, the anticipated 190bhp Group N+ power plant turned out to be a 100% standard 2.0 twin spark engine. Moreover the car was extremely heavy and still had luxuries such as electric mirrors, windows, a full heater system and ABS, so at least the drivers would have plenty of gadgets to play with on the long back straight!

However with more entries than grid slots and the consequent threat of non-qualification, it was decided that the best solution given the short time available with the car was to find some more power. As a result a pair of race camshafts were hastily sourced, while Dave Ashford worked some magic on the head. The standard ECU was replaced and a few days prior to leaving for Germany the car showed a healthy 194bhp on the rolling road. The rest of the car was thoroughly serviced, with new CV joints all round and a fresh clutch, and an engine oil cooler was plumbed in as an extra safety precaution.

Arriving in Germany late on Monday evening, the formalities of paperwork and paddock space allocation were on Tuesday’s agenda. A two hour queue at the welcome centre this year was followed by a four hour wait to get our lorry into the circuit…. who was it that said the Germans were efficient? Once safely in the circuit, and having had a day of lounging around in the sun, it was time for the mechanics to do some work: during our limited time with the car it had become apparent that the car’s previous owners in Poland had proved very adept at stripping threads. Given that a slight weep from the gearbox had been spotted, it was decided that a new gearbox casing would be the best option. This job was completed late on Tuesday night meaning Wednesday was to be a leisurely day for the crew, the team just taking to the track in the evening to participate in the driver’s parade on the Nordschleife. Thankfully car and crew survived the numerous burnouts the 200,000 well-lubricated spectators’ force the cars to undertake during the course of this carnival lap. Although the car did feel somewhat underpowered going up the hills - with eight people crammed inside - we reckoned it would be fine for the race. On Thursday the car sailed through scrutineering with no difficulties, and the remainder of the day was spent applying sponsors’ graphics ready for qualifying on Friday.

Friday’s qualifying session was to be divided into a morning session of two hours and an evening one of four hours duration. The brief for the drivers was simply to complete two laps each and not be slowest in class, in order to ensure our participation in the main event. Unlike previous years, where accidents had blighted our qualifying effort, all four drivers safely completed two laps in the first session and David Smith’s best lap of 11 minutes 08 seconds comfortably put us ahead of five cars in class. With the evening session came rain, so the team decided to simply send the car out for an exploratory lap to check the wet set-up: this was reeled off problem free enabling us to leave the circuit for a well earned early night, while many teams were still struggling to qualify their cars on a damp and murky Nordschleife.

Saturday morning bought more rain and the locals were predicting 24 Hours of wet weather: with none of the four drivers having experienced the Nordschleife in the rain before, this was not the news we wanted to hear! David Smith was due to start the race and a damp track meant the team elected for wet weather tyres, following the lead of the vast majority of the 220 cars that lined up to start the race in three separate grids. Having been given the green flag, the Brunswick Alfa was soon moving up the field, and a small burst of sunshine even meant a stop for slicks tyres after three laps…. Alas this was a false dawn and the mechanics had to change tyres shortly after beginning what was to be a tough and laborious day of repeated tyre changes, as the track dried - only to be drenched straight away by yet another Eiffel storm.

After all four drivers had completed their first stints of eight laps (about 1 ¾ hours) the Brunswick 156 had moved up from a starting position of 203rd to a satisfying 128th, a credit to the fine pit work, faultless reliability and careful driving of the team. Unfortunately with night came problems…a difficult stint weather wise for Steven Griffin meant four tyre changes in four laps…however worse was to come when at two am, Dave Ashford managed to hole the sump on the vicious kerbs at Adenauer Forst. Upon seeing the oil pressure alarm light up on the car’s Pi System 2 dash, Dave realised what had happened and did well to limp the car back the remaining 20kms to the pits…although those competitors who found the resultant oil slick on the circuit were probably less impressed!

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Once the mechanics had confirmed the damage, they quickly set upon effecting repairs: the very hot sump was removed and cleaned and it was found that an area the size of a fist had been cracked loose. In times like these you need some help from your friends, and up stepped Erwin Derichs. Erwin is an historic racing car expert, and a Nordschleife veteran, who we had befriended in previous years at the ‘Ring: once again his outfit was sharing our garage. This year his Audi V8 was having a faultless run so he emerged from his bed, did a fine job of welding our sump and then gave everyone a swift glass of Jagermeister to warm us up. Over two hours and fifty places had been lost, but the 156 was still in the race and running well.

The remainder of the race was relatively incident free, although the car developed a nasty judder under braking, which started to rattle the steering wheel loose while Giles Groombridge was driving. The team traced this to a broken front wheel bearing which was swiftly replaced, and David Smith went on to record the car’s fastest lap of 11minutes 07 seconds during the final hour, crossing the line after 24 hours of gruelling racing in 143rd position.

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Naturally we were left thinking what might have been, a top 100 finish was definitely on the cards…but as our good friend Erwin said to us: “Everyone who finishes the race is a winner, all those who don’t are w*nkers…” Having finished three consecutive Nurburgring 24 Hour races, a record we at Brunswick are very proud of, we will definitely be back for more in 2005…only this time with our RX-7.

Useful Links:
www.brunswickracing.co.uk
www.derichs-rennwagen.com
www.24h-rennen.de

 

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