NÜRBURGRING WEATHER DELIVERS UNUSUAL RESULTS
WEDNESDAY 3 SEPTEMBER 2014

Having returned from visiting previously unknown relatives in the northern part of Germany, Nathan Morcom set his sights on a podium result in the sixth round of the ADAC GT Masters Championship. The venue is well known and liked – The Nürburgring – nestled on the top of the Eifel Mountains, however drivers will only brave the sprint format circuit, which is shorter than the Grand Prix track at 3.629KM. Neither use the daunting 20.8KM Nordschliffe, which descends to the quaint town of Adenau before cutting its way, uphill, through the heavy forests to the medieval village of Nürburg.

Rewind ten days and you would find Nathan and Mario Farnbacher testing their Porsche GT3R at almost the same track. Authorities had deemed the sprint circuit out of bounds and so drivers were forced to test on the irrelevant GP loop.

To make matters worse, the Kurzanbindung F1 chicane was replaced with the pointless MotoGP variant. It was enough of a waste of test time that the majority of teams chose to stay home. Yet for Nathan, his lack of seat time meant that it would still be of some value.

The day went well and times fell as he became more accustomed to the track. Typical Eifel weather provided more experience – a dry morning followed by a drenching thunderstorm at 2pm and then a drying track situation. Perfect. That was supplimented with simulator work back at the Farnbacher Racing Secret Headquarters. And so, it was onto Friday practice and qualifying.

Nathan is popular with kids thanks to the generous supply of mini koalas. Sprint track is shown in black.


Friday morning dawned cool and clear. Nathan was first to practice but took it gently, bedding in new brake pads and rear disc rotors, before getting on with it.

As always, the field is highly experienced and Nürburgring undoubtably the most visited circuit since it is used by the VLN Series, all of which take place on the Nordschliffe, but still utilise the GP track to link the two. Within a few laps the leader times were in the 1.29's, several seconds off Nathan's. Time for Mario to practice and he was instantly in the 1:30's and worked his was down to a 1.29 dead, which displaced Jeroen Bleekemolen for the top spot. It was a sign that the engineers had set the car right or at least certainly to Mario's liking. He'd finish the session in P2, Bleekmolen diving into the high 1.28's at the last moment.

But the gap between Mario and Nathan was 3 seconds. How could this be? As explained at Slovakiaring, its not easy to do a direct comparison. Certainly Mario's vast experience in racing the tricky rear engined Porsche had a hand in it, but once again rubber was not of the same calibre, since it was best to give Nathan more opportunity to investigate the track on old rubber and use the better stuff later to hone the times.

Similar results appeared in FP2, with Mario using two sets of new tyres – a left over from his recent test and a fresh set, but this was clearly frustrating for Nathan, who felt he needed to demonstrate what he could do with equal equipment.

As qualifying time approached, so did the weather. Mario was nominated to start the Saturday race and hence was first to qualify. The car was perfect and he looked on track for pole only to make an error when the tyres were at their best. He'd settle for 10th, the pole going to Alon Day in the Zakspeed/Mobil SLS, whilst light rain started to fall. Everyone pitted. Most sat it out, some elected to get a feel for a wet track, as the heavier rain fell.

With only a 10 minute turnaround between Q1 and Q2, it was evident it would be a wet session.

Nathan sat in the car waiting the green light.

Several cars went out, most choosing to stay put, waiting for the sun and a dry line to appear. And it started to about 8 minutes in. This was a real lottery. Each lap would see another car on pole and it dried further. Whilst Nathan enjoys wet conditions, like at Zandvoort, a patchy track is hard to deal with and despite considerable skill and bravely finished in P22, the same as last event whilst Nicki Thiim put his Audi R8 LMS Ultra on pole, no doubt helped by the Allan Simonsen tribute sticker he'd been handed in Slovakia.

It would be a long evening for the FBR drivers, poring over their data, helping Nathan to find that extra speed.

Nathan's father made the journey to watch Nathan race and sample the rubbish summer weather!


Saturday morning revealed clear blue skies. For about an hour. When the hordes of fans strolled down pitlane to meet their heroes, everyone was wearing heavy rain jackets! That did little to dampen the spirit as word had got around that children would get a free mini koala from Nathan, personally clipped to their cap or jacket. Definitely a popular driver in the paddock.

It was however a less than happy race itself, perhaps even the worst of the season, despite it looking so positive early on. Mario had started well but neither gained nor lost position, pitting from the lead of the race, which was effectively P9 due to the confusion of the compulsory pitstop strategy. With the pit window open for 10 minutes from the 25 minute mark in the 1 hour race, its sometimes hard to determine who is where.

Nathan jumped in and was away, despite a momentary stall, picking up the race a few positions down.

Rarely is a driver combination matched such that they can do exactly the same lap times and Nathan found himself in the middle of the pack with the 'A' drivers chasing him. It would be the tricky turn one – an extremely wide 135 degree downhill right-hander – that would be his nemesis, thanks to the quirky behaviour of the Porsche racing ABS system.

Let me explain.

Whilst the Porsche is a brilliant race car, its weakness is the in the front end. With the engine over the rear wheels, it can be hard to get the car to 'turn in' to a corner, simply because there is not enough weight on the front axles. To make it work, one must brake much later than a convential setup, which in turn transfers weight to the front of the car, giving more bite. Typically you can't brake and turn – the car will just plough straight on – but a heavy application to slow the car, transfer the mass and then hold a light amount of trailing brake to steady the vehicle is the method. Easier said than done. Add in the ABS kicking back through the pedal which requires instant modulation and you're earning your stars.

Surfice to say Nathan relinquished three spots during his stint, to finish 22nd, on spent tyres. But tomorrow is another day. And it couldn't have been more different!

Sunday morning warmup went smoothly for Nathan and at 11:15am the cars rolled out of pitlane to take up their grid positions, under darkening skies. For the next 30 minutes the grid was packed with fans, grid girls, celebrities and team personel.

Nürburgring always commands a large crowd and from a distance one could see no difference from the DTM round held two weeks prior.

Around 11:30am, the first light spots of rain appeared. Engineers were frantically consulting their online weather maps, whilst adjusting traction control options with their laptops.

A regular spectator may wonder why so much equipment is taken onto the grid, when they've just left their pitbox. Had they still work to do on the car? No, but weather could dictate a complete change in strategy.

11:35am and Nathan has walked off grid for his pre-race essential moment in the 'room for one', whilst the mechanics had now connected their mobile air supply to the car, raising it on its inbuilt jacks. Slicks were removed and wet tyres were readied.

11:38am. 12 minutes until the grid must clear. The sky is getting darker and in the distance a definite rainstorm is taking place, which is quite easy to detect since the track is located at the highest point of the Eifel Mountains.

11:40am. Wets are installed just as the PA announces it will be a wet race. There is frantic activity as Nathan returns, jumping into the cockpit. He dangles each paw out, behind him, just before entering for someone to wipe the base of his race shoes dry, for fear of having a slippery pedal.

Now ensconced, Nathan gets into the groove, whilst outside, the rain is falling and the marscara is running, but the many grid girls must endure this until the final evacuation siren.

11:46am. The rain eases. Heads turn everywhere, which is more reminicent of a tennis match, as the brainstrust worry if the wet tyre is the right call.

For half the field it appeared to be. Frantic activity as many teams, including both Farnbacher racers revert to dry slicks, just in the nick of time.

Now the stage is set in what will unravel as one of the best races of the year and one that mentally catapults Nathan into a new skilll territory. Oh, did we mention Nathan likes racing in the rain? But what of a wet, but drying track, that is patchy and inconsistent in grip levels?


A tricky moment for co-driver Mario Farnbacher as he assesses the tyre choice.

As the grid clears, so does the rain. The track is still fully soaked as they start their formation lap, for the rolling Indy style start.

12:01pm. Twenty five GT cars tear down the straight, the spray offering little visibility for those in the middle of the pack. It's Danish star Nicki Thiim in the lead out of T1 only for the car to lose power at the very next corner. He parks the car in disgust as his team mate Rene Rast takes over. Behind a Porsche spins forcing the McLaren to take evasive action as Nathan rounds them up. The Porsche recovers only spin again at T4. Nathan puts his head down and gets on with an intense battle with Tomas Enge in the Camaro. Its an even match, the Porsche better at getting the power down than the Rieter Engineering American muscle car. But Enge attacks on the straights only to be unable to pull of the move at the end of them. Eventually he gets past Nathan at T1 and the battle resumes in reverse.

Niki Laud's son Mattius is having a steer in the Mobil/Zakspeed SLS, run by Klaus Ludwig. Another battle takes place, nathan keeping the Mercedes at bay for the rst of his stint.

12:27am Nathan pits for the compulsory driver change. He's done a good job. Mario is in and gone an is immediately caught up in a four way battle. But two laps later, he dives to the pits. A drive through penalty has been applied for not adhering to the minimum pitstop time of 60 second. Its was 0.4 seconds too fast. Mario was on the radio, quick to blame Nathan for not correctly pressing the pit timer button on the steering wheel, but upon further investigation, by way of in car footage, that is not the case. Nathan had done it correctly. This led to some head scratching from the engineers which then decided the timer itself was to blame.

It was an opportunity lost, indeed. A top six finish would have been in order, but 12th was all than could be salvaged.


In extremely challenging and changeable conditions, Nathan didn't put a foot wrong, where many others did. To come off the back of what was looking like a difficult weekend in such a positive way is extremely valuable for a drivers' self confidence. And so, as he and Barry headed south to Mulhouse, France, for a week of secret business, there was a distinctly upbeat mood in the 'Silver Bullet' despite the weather outside continuing to be utter rubbish on the final day of the European summer.

Another three week break is in store before the penultimate round of the championship, at Sachsenring.


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