NATHAN CRACKS FORMULA 1 RED BULL RING IN STYLE
FRIDAY 20 JUNE 2014

This coming weekend marks the return of FIA Formula 1 to Austria after an absence of 11 years. It was last won by Micheal Schumacher, setting a fast time of 1.08.337 in his Ferrari.

Less than two weeks ago, it was our own Australian 'up and coming GT star' Nathan Morcom, who was tearing up the exact same circuit in his Farnbacher Racing Porsche GT3R. Finishing 9th, after starting rear of grid (following a suspension failure in practice) the affable Sydneysider came of age in the world of current high-spec GT racing, following brilliant drive in the Sunday's one hour race.

A bit of history – the Austrian circuit, now called Red Bull Ring, which embodies the Austrian culture, has had several characters during its life. First held in 1963 as a non-championship event, it was won by none other than our own Sir Jack Brabham on the local Zeltweg Airport, which is still used today by the US Military and those who can afford it. In 1964, Formula 1 arrived, won by Lorenzo Bandini, in a Ferrari only for the venue to be abandoned, deemed far to dangerous, being too narrow and bumpy not to mention poor viewing for spectators. Soon, the a new venue would arrive.

It would have been a mistake to travel to Austria without taking time to see some of the spectacular sights. First stop was Neushwanstein Castle, on the edge of The Alps. Built between 1869 and 1886 for King Ludwig, it was never completely finished. The king had been declared a nutcase as was secreted away to a clinic in Bavaria by his doctor. Both would be found the following day, drowned in the lake, clearly in mysterious circumstances.

After an overnight stop in one of the many Innsbruck winter olypmic villages it was off to Murau, the capital of Styria for a train trip adventure.

Despite at first having no interest in old castles, Nathan soon got into the swing of things after visiting Neushwanstein Castle, in which Disneyland draws its character from.


The fourth round of the 2014 ADAC GT Masters Championship was always going to be a favourite for both teams and fans alike, at the newly revamped Red Bull Ring. It is located in one of the most picturesque parts of Austria, known as Styria. Combining the event with great seasonal early summer weather would prove to be a weekend to remember for Farnbacher Racing as the championship heads into its forced mid-season break. Forced, you might ask? Traditionally the months of June and July are propelled by 24 Hour shows. Le Mans. Nürburgring. And Spa. Each event in itself absorbing 10 days of lead up logistics.

Todays Red Bull Ring, previously known as A1 Ring is a shorter version of the classic old Formula One circuit, The Österrichring. Whilst the old track doesn't exist any more, traces of it can be found heading far out into the lush green countryside. Such a pity, as the current track simply isn't a patch on it. Having said that the old track would be even tougher for FBR and its drivers, as this place, in whatever guise is simply a power track. And therein lies the problem. The Porsches simply can't match the performance of the American muscle cars or the BMW Z4. Neither can the Audi and to some extent the Mercedes SLS struggle. Why is this? Simply put the 'balance-of-performance' surrounding this championship is lopsided and needs urgent reassessment, especially with Porsche being represented in large numbers.

Compare the option of racing in the Blancpain Sprint Series – identical format in terms of racing, but longer practice sessions, warm-up on both days but most importantly a 65mm inlet restrictor for the Porsche and Pirelli rubber. That combination gives the GT3R a fighting chance. Ever wonder why there are no Ferrari 458 GT3's running in ADAC GT ?

Murau is the capital of Styria, Austria, with a narrow gauge railway following the river to Tamsweg.


By late Thursday afternoon Nathan had done a track walk of the 4.3km circuit and had some interesting observations.

"It's a lot steeper than I thought it would be. Coming into turn one you're braking hard, uphill before turning in and its tricky because whilst there is a lot of run off area its also covered in astro turf and that stuff can move around and make you change direction suddenly.

"And then you've got to be careful of the track limits itself because there is bitumen on the outside and you're going to get a drive through if you use that."


Quite so. In fact the first practice session revealed every single car receiving a warning for just that infringement, which led to some tut-tutting from the race director in the compulsory drivers briefing.

Practice two was underway at 1pm with Nathan first out. It would be a short session for him, the rear left suspension collapsing at the even steeper turn two right hander. That was real blow since the car could not be retrieved before the end of the session putting Nathan at a distinct disadvantage for qualifying.

That was borne out as expected, netting a lowly 26th grid position.

Nathan locked in battle with a Corvette Z06 GT3 and a Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3


Nathans' regular co-driver, Mario Farnbacher, fresh from a 2nd place GT victory at Detroit's Belle Isle Raceway the previous weekend in the Team Seattle/Alex Job Porsche, started the Saturday race from grid position 15 and moved up to 11th before handing over to Nathan at the 34 minute mark. It was a relatively uneventful race for our hero, who simply put his head down and continued to learn the track, finidhing 13th. Behind him there was a massive charge and that was the task at hand, to keep them behind.

Whilst it might seem that running mid-field is a mediocre achievement one must take the level of drivers into account. Two ex-F1 drivers – Red Bull/Toro Rosso's – Jaime Alguersuari, runner-up to the 1997 champion Micheal Schumacher – Heinz-Harold Frentzen and current WRC Champion – Sebastien Ogier were doing their best to ruin Nathan's day. Directly behind was Nicki Thiim, the Porsche Supercup World Champion, who won the GT-AM class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, only last weekend. Clearly, ADAC GT Masters is the toughest playground there is for GT racing.


The sister team car of Sebastian Asch and Philipp Frommenwiler exits Turn Two, where Nathan's suspension collapsed, seriously impacted his track time. Seb is the 2012 ADAC GT Masters Champion and set the fastest time at this weekends Nürburgring 24 Hours, this morning.


The second race of the weekend, on Sunday at noon, would go down as the best race of the season, not only for Farnbacher Racing but for the entire championship itself and one that delivered the best results of the year.

Nathan had been given the option to pick which race to start and Sunday was his choice. Starting off the back row would normally be a frustrating affair, one that can play unnecessarily with a drivers mind. However, Nathan had a far more pragmatic approach.

"Way back at Oschesleben I started off the back row and there was an almighty shunt on the start line which I missed and managed to bring the car home for 10th, so I'm thinking it may not be such a bad position to be in. I prefer to be the hunter anyway, rather than the other way around especially on a track I have not yet got my head around completely."

The early morning warmup session had delayed proceedings slightly. One of the local Lamborghini GT3's had taken a bit too much kerb on the final corner and had touched the dreaded Astroturf. That duly spat the Gallardo directly into the concrete pit wall with such force to require serious repair. One less on the grid, thought Nathan.

Racing got away right on time – TV schedules must be adhered at all cost – with Nathan making an excellent start. Until now, he'd perhaps been a bit tentative on the opening lap, waiting for the tyres to come on, but today that not the case. With a track ambient around 45C it was evident on the formation lap that all systems were running correctly.

Lap 2, Turn 1. An excellent outside manoevre saw two victims disposed, whilst not overstepping the track limits.

Nathan recounts the situation.

"I've noticed the race director at the last two events wasn't in a hurry to deploy a safety car but I didn't to be the one to test it since this race is under the watchful eye of the guy who ran Oschesleben. Clearly, he was pissed off in the (drivers) briefing about that, so I thought I best play it safe. So did everyone else and I'm really pleased that we could all race hard through T1 and not get pushed out. That's good and fair racing, but I had my doubts at the apex!"

Nathan charged through the field, handing over to Mario under a safety car period, in 17th. He'd elevated himself 10 places in a race that no one gave an inch.



From that point on there was a very positive feeling. Mario used his agression to dispose of those ahead, but in a clever calculated manner. He didn't rush the chance, rather waiting for the opportunity to pounce. It was a strategy that worked. P9, almost P8 – the absolute power of the Corvette put paid to that. Any top ten result is like a win here.

The championship takes an eight week break, resuming at Slovakiaring early August, giving Nathan a dose of home, and his trusty sidekick a week in Le Mans for the 24 Hour, to remember Allan Simonsen, before jetting home to see family and the most famous Sausage Dog in the history of motor sport.

Another glob of history. As mentioned earlier, Nicki Thiim did win Le Mans. But he did so in the all Danish #95 Aston Martin, the same car (not the same chassis) that Allan had lost his life in. Aston Martin dedicated the win to Allan. Subject closed.

So, when you sit down on Sunday evening and watch the Austrian Grand Prix, take a moment to enjoy to think of just how tough F1 competition really is. Its the same in sportscar racing, probably more so, but equally satisfying.


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