It’s getting closer. Next Saturday I’ll be lining up somewhere near the back of a 220-car grid for the Nurburgring 24-hour race. In a Fiat 500 with 120bhp. Am I scared? Oh yes… But you know what, I’m bloody excited, too. The Marangoni-entered 500 looks like a proper little racecar and despite the fact that the fastest cars will be circulating probably 3- or 4-minutes a lap faster I’ll be a small part of one of the greatest races in the world. I can’t tell you how cool it is to know I’ll be sharing a track with Carlos Sainz – one of my heroes – and H-H Frentzen. That’s proper racing.
There’s a lot to get through before the lights go green, though. I’m travelling out to the ‘Ring in the DR M3 on Monday and start the training course on Tuesday. If you’re a VLN virgin you have to complete the course before you can race and it’s a mixture of theory and fast lapping. Dickie did it a couple of years ago and almost had an enormous accident (not his fault!), so it’s not just a few gentle laps to prove you can actually operate a steering wheel and gearbox. You have to do it in a road car so the M3 seemed like the obvious choice. It’s a bit weird doing the training in a car with 300bhp more than my racer will have to be honest…
There are two theories about doing the race in the slowest class. I reckon it’s a great introduction to the race because I’ll be so much slower than the big boys that they’ll be able to get past very easily and I shouldn’t have to worry about cars diving into braking zones desperately trying to nail a slightly slower car. However, my colleagues aren’t so sure. Dickie reckons the serious Porsches will be doing 190+mph down the straight and I’ll be doing about 110mph – which I have to admit is pretty terrifying. Chris was more succinct – ‘no amount of money in the world could make me get in a Fiat 500 for that race.’ Nice.
I suppose the reality is that the 500 will be great fun, but despite being relatively slow it’ll need pedalling hard because momentum will be everything. A lift at an inappropriate time could have a bloody huge effect on your average lap time. And then there’s the quick corners: I’ve been reliably informed that Schwedenkreuz will be flat on slicks in the 500. Think I’ll build up to that one… Of course the real battle will be getting the thing to the end. It’s a ridiculously tough track and this is the Marangoni tyres 500’s first race. It’s been brilliantly prepared by Engstler Motorsport but it only turned a wheel for the first time last week – and that was on the new circuit. Qualifying next Friday will be the first time it’s rolled onto the Nordschleife and the first time that I’ll have had any seat time at all. Oh f**k, do you think it’s too late to cancel?