Our latest addition to the Racing.GT correspondents team Rory Butcher will be making his VLN debut this weekend in a Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW 325i Racing Cup, the first step towards gaining the prestigious ‘A’ license which allows participants to race in the GT3 class. In his first blog, the ELMS race-winner provides an exclusive insight into his preparations for racing at the iconic Nürburgring Nordschleife.
I first became aware of the Nordschleife back in 2011 when I took part in the Porsche World Cup, which was a one-hour race supporting the Nürburgring 24. It was a round of the British, the Italian, the French and the Scandinavian Carrera Cups, as well as the German Carrera Cup and the Supercup. We had a dry practice and then the race itself was monsoon rain – visibility was absolutely terrible. The surface has got lots of graffiti on it, which made it really hard to judge the grip levels on the different parts of the track, but we got on the podium and took the fastest lap out of the Brits, so it was an amazing experience.
Words can’t describe what it’s like to take a pukka racing car around there. You can go round in road cars or trackday cars all you want, but as soon as you step into a car like that Porsche Carrera Cup around the Nürburgring, it wakes you up quite quickly and it’s been an attraction for me ever since.
I’m sure that experience is going to hold me in good stead, because it taught me namely to give the track respect. Of course it’s important to go there with some ambition, but you’ve got to understand that at any point something could happen. Most of the racing I’ve done this year has not been in the top class – both in the European Le Mans Series and at the Dubai 24 where I was racing in the GT4 class – but the Nordschleife is not like Dubai, or any normal track for that matter. It’s narrow, the kerbs are unforgiving, it’s very bumpy, so you don’t want to be offline and the runoff areas are so small that it can really catch you out. It’s going to be very tricky to manage the traffic, but it was reassuring that when I went over to do my training course in a road car, it all came back to me very quickly.
I’ve got a reasonable-specced up sim in the house and the iRacing model of the Nürburgring is pretty good, so I’ve been doing quite a bit of training on it. Probably in the last two or three weeks, I’ve gone over ten hours on the sim just on the Nürburgring, which it definitely helps focus yourself to make sure that you’re completely comfortable. But at the same time it’s not real life, so it will be important just to respect the track and take your time.
I’ve not driven the car yet – my first time in it is going to be on Friday afternoon, but in my head I’m telling myself it’s going to be similar to the Aston Martin GT4 car that I drove in Dubai. It’s a front-engine, rear-wheel drive, basically no aero, so it’s going to move around a little bit more and have a little bit less power.
The main objective for this weekend is just to do a professional job. I obviously want to put on a good performance pace-wise and make no mistakes, feel a little more comfortable on the circuit and to meet some new people in the paddock, but really it’s about gaining as much experience as possible.
Click here to see the full entry list for VLN 6.