We ended a fantastic season with a third place in the last race. And for me it was a thrilling ending to my best season ever.
I was quite sure before this season that this would be a good year, and now after the last race of the year I can conclude that this has been an amazing racing seaon. It started with two wins and two pole positions this spring. Because of those results I also got two very flattering offers to drive the 24 hour race at the Nürburgring in June, but because of different reasons I couldn’t do the race.
When we came back to the Nürburgring in August we could see that some of our competitors had developed their cars, and that the competition was a bit harder. But we were still fighting for the lead, and actually led the 6 hour race in August when it started to rain like h…, when I was out on slicks. Still we managed a fourth place, or at least that what we should have had. By some reason the organizers didn’t allow us to drive out on the Nordschleife after we pitted on the last lap, but we went out of the pits on a green light, and before the overall leader had crossed the finish line…
The next race was cancelled because of fog, and then I had my big crash in the second to last race of the season. Luckily it was not my fault, and our mechanics did a brilliant job repairing the car. We did although find a problem with the engine on the Friday practice before the last race, so a new engine was brought from Ingolstadt during the night, and the guys did an amazing job getting the car ready for qualifying.
Because of the engine problem I just got one lap on the Nordschleife on Friday. I could smell something burned, and went into the pits, and there we found the problems. The lap on Friday was my first lap since my big crash two weeks earlier, but luckily everything felt fine.
In the qualifying Saturday morning it was raining. It was not too bad during the first laps, but when I got into the car it was raining more. I took it easy, and gave the car to my team mate Kenneth, who qualified fifth after some troubles with traffic, but it was a close qualifying and we were up there.
For the first time this year I didn’t do the start, and it was Kenneth who drove the first laps. He had a fine start, but the race soon got red flagged because of fog. In the restart we were again put down to fifth, and Kenneth did a fine job again. He was fighting for the lead before the first pit stop. Then Håkon took over and drove some good and safe laps before it was my turn. In the pit-stop, however, we experienced some problems with the seat belts and lost around 30 seconds.
To my surprise we were fourth when I drove out of the pits for the last six laps. I could see the second- and third-placed cars in front of me, and decided to give it a go. I was soon right behind the third placed car, the 302-car, but it was difficult to find a way by. This car is a bit faster out of the corners and on the straights, but I have been in this situation before this season, and was thinking of ways to get by.
My plan was to try to pass when we were catching slower cars. Into Brünnchen I got my chance. We were catching an Opel Astra Cup-car, and it looked like the 302 car tried to go on the outside down the hill towards Brünnchen, so that he could be on the inside in the next right hander. I could however see that the 302 car most likely didn’t have the speed to pass the Opel on the outside, so I dived on the inside of the 302 that now had opened a gap for me. What happened next I really don’t know, but it seemed like the 302 was taken by surprise that I suddenly was side by side, and he turned into me down the hill.
But that’s ok in the heat of the moment, and I left him room on the inside in the first right-hander, and was way out on the curbs on the straight, and also left him room on the inside in the right-hander out of Brünnchen, and then I got by the Opel and was in third place before Eiskurve. Man, that felt good.
The race was not over, hovewer, and more than a lap was left. I drove like hell from Eiskurve to Dötinger Höhe, because I knew that the 302 car was faster on the straights. And by the end of both Dötinger Höhe and the start-finish straight I had do defend my position to avoid getting passed again. Out on the last lap I got a few meters down to the 302. I was slowly catching our sister-car from Raeder Motorsport in second place also, but I was not able to catch it and come by on the last lap. Coming on to the Dötinger Höhe on the last lap my gap to the 302-car was so big that I understood that I would finish in third. But the 302 car was again catching me on the straight and the gap over the finish line was just one second.
We cheered like we had won the race after the third place. After the crash two weeks before, the engine change the night before the race and our problems in pit, this was like a victory for us. I think we could have won the last race also if all the details had fallen into place, but it didn’t this time.
Anyway, this has been a great season for us, and actually our best season ever with two wins, one third, one fourth, one crash and a race cancelled due to fog.
For me it has also been my best season ever. Two poles, three great starts, two flattering offers from other teams, good lap times in all the races and some great overtakes during the whole season. And all that in just five races, or four if you count out the one where we crashed on Friday.
I have to thank the team and all our partners after this great season. We are around 25 people from Norway in our team, and we also have a very good partnership with Raeder Motorsport in Germany. Everyone do a brilliant job with all from setting up tents, preparing the car, fixing sound and pictures before the guest presentation, giving all the guests t-shirts, driving the guests around the track, replacing engines during the night, making sure that we always have new tyres, doing all the paper work, driving the car on the world’s most demanding race track etc. etc. To be a part of a great team like this is a big pleasure.
Photos: Pål Henning Berg