A small sensation

Møller Bil Motorsport’s race win on Saturday was labeled “a small sensation” by German press.

This weekend’s VLN-race at the Nürburgring was almost perfect for Møller Bil Motorsport, and we won the SP3T-class by a lap, and finished 14th overall among the 193 cars – where at least 50 are faster than our Audi TT – in theory at least…

PREPARATION:
After the test in March, where I set some record-braking lap times, I was optimistic before this weekend’s race. But then the tragic accident happened at the first VLN race in March (where we didn’t drive), and suddenly we had to face the uncertainty of speed limits at the Nordschleife.

We tried to learn how to handle the speed limits while testing on Friday, and it went fine. On Saturday morning it was raining, and it was obvious that the qualifying was going to be difficult.

QUALIFYING:
I was first out, and chose slicks, despite the rain. The rain made it difficult, and already on the GP-track I had to slow down to 60 kph because of a “double yellow”, because someone had crashed. I chose to take another lap on the GP-track, before heading out on the Nordschleife, but again it was a double yellow. It was difficult to know what to do. It was raining more and more, but with a double yellow already at the GP-track, you know that it wont be a good lap. At my third attempt it was no double yellow at the GP-track, and I headed out on the Nordschleife.

vln2_15_3

It was raining all the time, but luckily I had some temperature in my tyres and therefore also some grip. It’s not easy to know how much grip you have, however, but I got a really good feeling in the car. I was flying and it seemed like I was in one of the fastest cars out there. But then two double yellows ruined my lap.

But now I felt unstoppable, and I went for another lap. It was quite a lot of traffic, and the rain forced me to take it a bit easy some places, but it all felt really good. But that was until I came to Hohe Acht, where it was a double yellow again, and I had to slow down to 60 kph for quite some time. I have checked the data, and I lost more than 12 seconds on this. The rest of the lap was with a lot of traffic, and I was really surprised when the display showed 9.04. This was enough for pole position, and with the difficult circumstances I think it must have been one of my best laps ever. The car was just fantastic in these conditions and I owe a big thank you to our mechanics that gave me such a great car.

After my run, my team mates Håkon and Kenneth went for a run, but the rain was now too heavy.

RACE:
I was going to start the race, and like all other cars we opted to start on rain tyres. It was raining some places around the track, but not everywhere. I have been working a lot mentally over the winter to improve my starts, and this time it all clicked. I had a perfect start, and was leading with three seconds when we headed out in the “woods”.

You can see the start here:

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The track became drier and drier, even though it was still raining at some parts. In these conditions it’s really difficult to know that to do. You have to take a chance. Either go in and change to slicks, or to stay out and hope the rain will increase. I opted for the last alternative, but it was a mistake. On my third lap it was almost completely dry, and my rain tyres were finished. And when a lap is almost 25 km, a mistake like this cost a lot of time. I lost more than 40 seconds and drove to the pits to change to slicks. When I got out on the track again, I was suddenly in third position, behind two cars that had gone in for slicks earlier.

Then the chase started, and after a few laps I was back in the lead. It was still difficult conditions with some rain, a lot of trafic and accidents, but I was quite much faster than my competitors. I also set the fastest lap of the race in our class in one of the laps.

I was also following the SP4T 2,5 liter Rotek-TT for some laps. I think their driver at the time was former F1-driver and WTCC World Champion Gabriele Tarquini. To be able to follow a legend like Tarquini at the world’s most demanding race track, when he is driving a faster car than me, is quite rewarding. Now I don’t know if this car had some trouble or anything, but I have seen many examples over the years that we, the “Norwegian amateurs”, are just as fast as most professional drivers.

When I handed over the car to Håkon, we were in the lead, and my team mate went out on new slicks. It soon started to rain again, however, but Håkon drove like a god. He was so much faster than anyone else at the track and increased our lead. He got just three laps before he had to go in for rain tyres. We also changed drivers at this pit stop, and Kenneth jumped in the car. Kenneth is a master in difficult conditions. He increased our lead lap by lap with some stunning driving, and he could cross the finish line one lap before our nearest competitor!

vln2_15_5

DEBRIEF:
This was probably our best race ever, where almost everything turned out perfect. All the drivers did a great job, the mechanics did some perfect pit stops and the car was perfectly prepared by our technical partner Raeder Motorsport.

After the race, the VLN-organization called our result a “small sensation”. We won our class by one lap, and we finished a strong 14th overall among the 193 cars that started the race. We actually thought we had finished 15th, but I guess someone got a penalty or something. After the race I also realized that the factory Subaru-team, that competes in our class, never came to the start. I saw the car on track during qualifying, but they didn’t set a time. But factory team or not – no one could have done anything about our superior victory on Saturday.

The fact is that we did a really strong race, and I think that’s why the VLN-organizers called the result a sensation. There have been SP3T-teams with better overall results earlier, but maybe not with the same strong competiton that we had on Saturday with 24 GT3 cars, and a lot of other very fast cars at the start. And it’s not every day that you finish one lap ahead of your nearest competitor.

The result generated a lot of media coverage in Norway. We were mentioned by VG Nett, Norway’s biggest online newspaper, and other media like Finansavisen, Hamar Arbeiderblad, Østlendingen, Bilnorge etc.

After the race we celebrated together with our 15 person strong team, the people at Raeder Motorsport and our 50+ guests from Møller Bil. Then I drove to the airport, flew home to my family and a few hours after the victory I was laying in my own bed…

There it really started to sink in what we had achieved this day. I have been thinking of this race every single day for the last six months. I have been through every scenario, driven the race over and over again in my head, running, skiing, lifting weights and prepared myself mentally. And then, when everything goes to plan, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Most people have goals. For some, it’s winning the national ice hockey championship and for others, it’s winning the 24 hour race at Le Mans. Like the pro-Nissan-driver Lucas Ordonez, that we shared the pit box with on Saturday. After the VLN-race he travelled straight to Japan to race there. Then he’s going to the USA, and in a while – after racing almost every weekend – he’s ready for Le Mans. For me it’s quite different, and Saturday’s VLN-race, the so-called “40. DMW 4-STUNDEN RENNEN”, was my Le Mans. This is the only race we will do this spring, and it was my big goal between October 2014 and August 2015. And we did it! We won!

The next race for Møller Bil Motorsport is in August. Then it will be a busy fall with five races in three months. Maybe I will do a race before August also, but more on that later if every bit falls into place.

But for now I want to thank all my team mates for a fantastic weekend. And thank you for all the congratulations.

See you later!

Atle

Photos: Speed2Pic

 

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