32nd ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours – Thursday
Essential German, Lesson 1: The Weather

"Niederschläge". precipitation
"Gewitter": thunderstorm
"Sonnenschein": sunshine
"Hitze": heat
"Wechselhaft": changeable
"Schlecht": bad
"Schlechter": worse
"Eifelwetter": all of the above

...and we have already had a taster of "Eifel weather" today. The teams, officials and especially the tyre suppliers will be monitoring the sky closely over the course of the next few days.

There was not much on-track action today as far as the 24 Hours is concerned; several one-make series are sharing the track with the German production car series and the vintage racers for a joint "intermarque" qualifying session.

Some 24 Hours competitors used the Castrol Haugg Cup (CHC) time trial for a few additional installation laps around the combination of Nordschleife and shortened Grand Prix track. The Alzen Porsche was among these, Uwe Alzen flogging the black and turquoise 996 turbo to a time of 8:15:9, only six tenths adrift of his official race record.

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Most 24 Hours teams are sending their cars through scrutineering, and getting ready for the parade of racecars that will lead them around the Nordschleife and on into the town of Adenau - a welcome opportunity for the fans comfortably located in the campsites all around this vast track to get up close with the drivers and their vehicles. Said campsites have been packed since Wednesday, the barbecues are in running order, and personal sound systems are cranking out selections of light popular music, or the all-important Ring Radio that will accompany us all through the coming weekend. The two qualifying sessions for the 24 Hours will commence tomorrow, Friday, at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. respectively; over a total of four hours, each driver will have to complete two laps around the 24.4k strip of tarmac to qualify for the race itself. What may at first seem an easy task has proved the source of much drama for more than one unfortunate driver.

So this is a good time to look at another facet of the automotive microcosm that is the Nürburgring. Name any major automobile manufacturer and it is represented in the area, be it with permanent installations or on a temporary basis, using the opportunity to do test and development work during the sixteen weekends when the Nordschleife is reserved for the industry. For instance, the Galladé complex frequently hosts the General Motors Performance Division during its visits to the Eifel.

"I came here to get away from motor racing", says Thomas Raquet. It seems an unusual reason to take a job at the Nürburgring; and judging by the many racing paraphernalia that surround him in his work space, he has failed. But he also does not seem to mind at all. Thomas Raquet works for the Galladé Technology Centre, located in an industrial complex on the outskirts of the Nürburgring, in a veritable "automotive cluster" that is busy year-round with development and testing work.

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The Galladé group is a successful supplier to the automotive industry; what makes its Nürburgring branch unique is its "symbiosis" with one of the most renowned local racing teams, Manthey Racing. The workshop is looking rather empty this week though, above.

dailysportscar.comThe links between the two businesses are manifold. When long-time touring car and endurance racer, Olaf Manthey set up his own team following his time with Mercedes-Benz in the pre-1996 DTM, and began campaigning his self-prepared Porsche 911 derivates internationally; industrialist Ulrich Galladé was among his first customers. This partnership has over the years evolved into a business partnership, even though Galladé himself no longer drives Manthey’s Porsches these days.

If you own a Porsche 996 RSR competition car you also own a piece of Galladé engineering - in fact, you own four of them. The wheel fastening system on the 996 RSR is a Galladé development that has been picked up by the factory. Developed with help from RWS in 2002, the system became a part of the Porsche package in FIA GT competition last year, and is also legal under the ACO regulations for this year. Older models can also be retrofitted with the system which saves its users vital seconds per tyre change, and eliminates the need for a safety pin, “an inelegant solution I wanted to do away with”, says Raquet who came up with the concept, and saw it through to its present stage as a successful product.

He heads the small R&D team at the Galladé Nürburgring site. The company's main business is in the automobile powertrain sector; the Nürburgring team takes care of the company's motorsport-related projects as well as some prototyping for other branches of the company, and "glam" projects such as a re-engineered suspension for a McLaren F1 GTR road car. Among their preferred customers are of course Olaf Manthey's performance enhancement farm for roadgoing Porsches, Manthey Motors, and the multiple Nordschleife winners, Manthey Racing.

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In the midst of the second deluge of the day, Olaf Manthey found time for a quick conversation. He is outspoken about his objective for this event: “We want to be on the podium, like last year.” More if possible, but certainly no less – with a fraction of the budget available to the works teams of Audi, BMW, and Opel, and only a single car at their disposal. “The works cars will certainly make the pace; but we will try and stay within striking distance. The two car teams may decide to sacrifice one car, and still have another to do the damage. We cannot afford to let them out of our sight.”

All these considerations may literally go down the drain in the event of a wet race. Not that they are praying for foul weather, but it may well play into their hands as it will all but erase any power advantage other cars may have. “With this engine”, the 3.9l normally aspirated Flat Six used in the current 996 GT3-MR, “we did not go for top end power, but rather for a broad rev band with good torque throughout, and good ‘driveability’”.

dailysportscar.comJust what a driver needs on a rainy track. Speaking of drivers, Manthey himself will not drive his car in the race. “I will do my statutory two laps to qualify, and otherwise only get in the car if a relief driver is needed.” Marc Duez will also not drive for the team, so Messr. Bernhard, Klasen, and Luhr have the 996 Special all to themselves for the whole weekend, and hopefully benefit from the better fuel economy that will enable them to do up to two laps more per stint than the turbo 996. Reliability-wise, "this is the type of engine that we did a whole season with two years ago", says Manthey, "and we have had such engines running on the dyno for up to 80 hours, so reliability should not be an issue." The turbo project is now completely a thing of the past: "We have sold the car to Belgium, and continue to provide assistance for it, but we are not doing any development work on it anymore."

For a team that has been involved in various forms of international racing, Manthey Racing’s 2004 programme seems somewhat low-key at first glance, with no DTM effort - “we are not into racing used cars”, and a year-old DTM car is all a privateer will get in the series these days - and no involvement in the various Porsche Cups.

“The budgets required to be competitive in the Supercup or the (German) Carrera Cup being what they are, we decided not to do things half-heartedly, but to focus on the Nordschleife endurance racing.”

Still, Olaf Manthey and his team are not exactly idling away the season. How many cars are you taking care of right now? “All the various club series included, it adds up to, what, fifteen, twenty?” So yes, they are doing fine in national racing. But that does not mean they are not thinking of going international again, ideally with a Porsche product, and ideally not in N-GT. "If Porsche does decide to get involved in the bigger (GT) class again, we would certainly be interested to run such a car." As for the Spa 24 Hours, "we definitely won't be there this year, but in the future it may become an option."

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Meanwhile in the Honda camp, a relaxed and carefully optimistic Robin Liddell - "no I have not driven the car yet" - was found trading racing banter over a non-alcoholic beverage with team mates Robert Lechner and Markus Oestreich.

"The whole thing just came together at a very late point in time but all the ingredients for success are there. The various parties involved - GS Motorsport, Honda, (engine builder) Toda Racing, the drivers - haven't really gelled into a team yet; but we are getting there."

Friday's qualifying will give them, and us, an indication where they stand.
Johannes Gauglica

(we’ll fit in ‘Ring coverage as best we can during the next hectic three days in France)

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