The sun has tempered the air of Eifel up to a pleasant 18 degrees centigrade. Today, the dry asphalt of the terrible Nürburgring Nordschleife has a lot of grip. Mathieu jaminet, official pilot Porsche, you have warmed up the tires on your Porsche 911 GT3 R.. Your track engineer looks at the GPS data: on the next lap there will be little traffic and perfect conditions to set a good time in the Green Hell. He communicates it by radio: "Press on this lap!" Jaminet is delighted to do so. The Frenchman selects an engine map to obtain the maximum performance of the four-liter boxer and more than 500 horses, located at the rear of the GT3. He checks the balance of the brakes, the traction control settings, and drives off. They await you 25,378 kilometers full of adrenaline.
“When I hear those words on the radio, I can't help but smile inside the helmet because all pilots love to receive that message. Then comes the moment of total concentration; driver, vehicle and track must be all one "says Jaminet, describing what he feels when he enters "Maximum attack mode".
The 26-year-old heads to his fast lap with excitement, suspense and a healthy respect for the convoluted and sometimes narrow Nordschleife (north ring), with its more than 70 curves. “Around Hatzenbach, we rush the pianos as much as possible, and then comes a long stretch that I like a lot: we thoroughly take Hocheichen, Quiddelbacher Höhe and Flugplatz to Schwedenkreuz, almost as if we were flying in a trance. The sector from Pflanzgarten 1, via Sprunghügel and S Stefan Bellof to Schwalbenschwanz is just as exciting. We riders only experience that feeling on the Nordschleife. "
TOWARDS THE PERFECT TURN
Everything has to fit together for a perfect lap on the combination of the Grand Prix circuit and the Nordschleife, 25,378 kilometers in total. Approaching the eight minute mark is only possible with a correct set-up. The Eifel circuit requires special solutions. The rear wing of the Porsche 911 GT3 R can only be 180 centimeters wide, ten less than the normal track version. When standing still, the minimum ground clearance must be 70 millimeters. A double spoiler at the front of the GT3 helps stabilize its aerodynamic balance.
“On conventional circuits, the Porsche 911 GT3 R generates most of its downforce through the front splitter. However, the effect of this component is highly dependent on ground clearance and that varies enormously on the Nordschleife with all its jumps and compressions. ", Explain Patrick Arkenau.
The experienced engineer on the team Manthey racing sits in the so-called Porsche Battle Room during the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. There, data is collected from all customer 911 GT3 Rs. Arkenau and his colleagues analyze the information and advise how to optimize performance or strategy.
THE DETAILS IN THE SEARCH FOR THE BENEFITS
"The so-called double deflector on the front flanks guarantees a more stable aerodynamic balance because it generates downward force in its upper part and, therefore, acts independently of the ground clearance", Explain. For the drivers it is very important that the car is constantly predictable. On the Nordschleife, drivability takes precedence over top performance, at least most of the time.
“Of course, we adapted the car to do really fast laps, for example in qualifying. We changed the stiffness of the springs, we modified the characteristics of the shock absorbers, we varied the adjustment of the toe and the stiffness of the stabilizer bar, we optimized the angle of the spoiler and the inclination of the car "says Arkenau, listing variables in search of speed.
For a perfect lap, you need maximum downforce to push yourself to the limit through the many fast and semi-fast corners. “Due to the higher downforce and the consequent higher drag, the rider loses a lot of time on long straights, such as Döttinger Höhe or from Bergwerk to the so-called Mutkurve or Curve del Valor. To compensate for this loss of speed on the straights, you must have maximum downforce when cornering, for example in Hatzenbach and around Hohe Acht, Wippermann, Brünnchen and Pflanzgarten. In several of these areas, the drivers can climb higher on the pianos, but in many other places it is impossible to do so, even during a fast qualifying lap ”Arkenau emphasizes. And Jaminet adds: “Sometimes we are really brutal on pianos. Now everyone does. Today's cars can handle it without any problems. It saves a lot of time, and that's what it's all about ”.
According to Sebastian golz, there are two decisive sectors: "Look at the Bergwerk section, one of the slowest corners on the track", explains the Project Manager of the Porsche 911 GT3 R. “There it's about getting the wheels straight quickly and maintaining a lot of traction. The pilot has to step on the accelerator very soon because there is a steep climb of about 210 meters to Karussell. If you cannot accelerate very much and soon after leaving Bergwerk, the car will not be able to do the climb well. Those who manage to catch a slipstream on the climb can gain critical meters over their competitors ". The traffic in the laps plays a very important role in the race and in all sessions, apart from the fastest laps of each one.
A VERY EFFICIENT AERODYNAMIC IS VITAL
"As soon as the car accelerates out of Schwalbenschwanz, it is essential that the route to Galgenkopf is clear", states Golz. “Very efficient aerodynamics plays a huge role at this point because Galgenkopf leads the Döttinger Höhe. If you are too close to the car in front in this corner, you will have problems with dirty air, you lose downforce. If the driver has to slow down even slightly at Galgenkopf, the stretch from Döttinger Höhe to Tiergarten will be very tough. For about two kilometers it goes hard, including a left curve that is taken at almost 270 km / h "says Golz. "On the long straight, you can see very quickly if a driver gains or loses ground."
Oddly enough, it is precisely in this section where the cars of the less powerful classes gain an advantage: thanks to their lower downforce, they sometimes reach higher top speeds along the Döttinger Höhe than the GT3s that compete in the race. upper class SP9even if your lap times are slower. "If several cars part the air, the difference can be enormous: the higher maximum speed can give an advantage of eight or nine tenths of a second only at Döttinger Höhe"says Arkenau, estimating the effect of the slipstream on the longest straight on the Nordschleife.
THE LINE OF DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL: THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
Shortly after Döttinger Höhe, Antoniusbuche and the passage through the Tiergarten, the start and finish line arrives, the point where the stopwatch speaks. "The moment of the truth"smiles Jaminet. “But this moment always leaves you with a strange feeling. Have I been quick? Was it really the limit? Often I don't even know it myself. It's unique to the Nordschleife: as a driver, you never have the feeling of having achieved a perfect lap. Personally, I feel empty after a qualifying attack and I have the feeling that I have somehow survived the Nordschleife, with its high stakes and sometimes on the verge of going off the track. First you have to assimilate everything. It always takes me a while to do it. I only regain consciousness after a couple of minutes in the pits ", laughs the French.
“Engineers are always amazed at what drivers are capable of when they know that everything is at stake. What these guys do with the car is incredible. "says Patrick Arkenau, admired for the work of these front-row drivers behind the wheel. The data gives you deep insight into your work.
Do some pilots try too hard? Are the risks too high? Should engineers sometimes protect pilots from potential recklessness and overconfidence? "If you ask five people about these concerns, you will get five different answers"smiles Arkenau. “In my opinion, there is no doubt that the drivers are the only ones who can really assess what is going on. So let's let them do it. From the outside, we have no idea what is happening and how the car feels in every situation. Only those who are behind the wheel know where the limit is at all times ”.