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VLN endurance championship project 2010: The night factor

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VLN endurance championship project 2010: Ford Focus RS
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N Usually reports of experiences of this begin Kind of with a: 'It all started so well, but then ...'. At the premiere of the Ford Focus RS used by the FH Köln Motorsport team and actively supported by the factory in this year's 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, it was exactly the other way around. It didn't start well, but ended up in a state of ecstasy.

Not because of the brilliant result: 110th place in the overall ranking and sixth place in the class of turbo-fueled special vehicles with up to 2.6 liters of displacement hardly give reason for this. But probably because of the fact that every single member of the team has outgrown themselves on this long race weekend and, as part of a good whole, contributed to the successful finish on the afternoon of May 16. But always pretty one after the other.

The piece, which in the meantime threatens to mutate into a drama, begins with the premieres in general and with those of the 24h race in particular its own euphoria: It is done. The car is ready, like in the first three VLN races, which were highly successful with two class wins and a third place, it looks like a peel. Under the freshly manicured, that means: freshly taped exterior, hardly anything has remained the same. 24 hours are long, very long. So - so the perfectly legitimate conclusion - the technology should be as fresh as possible. Apart from the drive shafts, which were carefully run in during a test day and provided with additional cooling, and the stripped-down series wiring harness, no stone was left unturned under the sheet metal of the RS: new gearbox, new Drexler lock, new engine. So everything is fine, one would think. But the script provides for something different.

Free practice, Thursday May 13th 2010:

The car has to run before the actual marathon - as much as necessary and as little as possible. After all, a final component test is inevitable after such thorough renovation work. The student team, which is already sufficiently experienced 24 hours a day, decides that the white racer should not be expected to do more before the first qualifying in the evening. The route is soaking wet anyway, and the temperatures are very low at just five degrees Celsius. In combination, this results in a comparatively high risk forunwanted slip, especially since the rear tires of the powerful front-wheel drive can hardly be brought to operating temperature under such conditions. Under these circumstances the direction is as follows: Roll two laps to see if everything is in order and slowly get the still virgin engine used to the tasks ahead. Then the Austrian student Daniela Schmid quickly brings the good piece back under cover. The tarpaulin falls, the situation is relaxed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010, 1st timed practice:

The four-man driver crew and the Focus RS are facing their first practical test. The weather has not changed: the thermometer has now reached three degrees Celsius in winter and the drizzle is falling. The conditions are simply terrifying. Stefan Schlesack, the 50-year-old Nordschleife veteran of the team, has the dubious honor of the first time lap under these circumstances. There have to be two compulsory laps per driver - say the regulations. The time itself? No matter. In the 24-hour race, the starting position plays a rather minor role. In addition, the weather forecasters predict improvement for the second qualifying on Friday afternoon. So - just don't fumble. The announcement to the 24-hour rookie and World Rally Championship driver Jari-Matti Latvala is clear: lap times do not matter.

Thursday, May 13, 2010, 9.30 p.m .:

It's getting dark. And it's still cold and wet. Too cold and too wet for the tires of the Audi R8 with starting number 100. The driver brakes too late and hits the right flank of the Focus RS, which has just turned towards the chicane at the end of the start /finish straight. The team watched the collision on screen with horror. Only when Latvala reports from the cockpit that the car feels completely normal and that he will therefore complete his second compulsory lap is it time to take a deep breath. It couldn't have been as bad as expected. A mistake, as it turns out during the later assessment of the damage in the box. Both axles are miraculously intact, but the Audi’s nose left a lasting impression on the right side of the Ford. The team gives advice and calls in a technical inspector. The latter classifies the body damage as serious, but grants permission to start the race due to the undamaged safety cell. And now? Immediately repair it or, better yet, just try to straighten the passenger door, which is no longer properly closing, and complete further mandatory laps? You decide on the latter. The rest sinks into the fog. There is no longer any visibility, the exit from the GP course onto the Nordschleife can hardly be found. The sport auto test boss prefers not to ask herself what she wants there at all if she can't find the way there. Towards the end of the round, the training on the Antonius beech iscanceled. This is how the first act of the 24-hour drama ends.

Friday, May 14, 2010 at noon, 2nd timed practice:

Only one more compulsory lap. There was already one yesterday. The time still doesn't matter - it should dry off later. Then everything is different again anyway. The car is now colored instead of white. Overnight, the students stole the rear side panel of a frog-green car that had been involved in an accident in their Cologne workshop and welded it to the racing car to smooth the banana shape and strengthen the structure. There was no time for the final painting. That has to be made up later. But all outward appearances are trivialities compared to what is now pending: As soon as the editor has passed the mine, the air is out again. The track conditions are much better today. You are already on semi-slicks. Anyway: The RS is out of breath. Back in the box, FH electronics guru Sebastian Henn diagnoses that the boost pressure has been reduced by half. The OBD claims that the driver accelerated and braked at the same time, whereupon the safety electronics, which were still in series, wanted to prevent worse. That's not how it works ... The pilot swears that she has not done anything like that, the Memotec data recording proves her right. Gradually, all parts that could possibly trigger errors are replaced. Ultimately, the brake light switch is identified as a sinner. In the meantime the track is dry too, which allows Stefan Schlesack to do a really brisk lap. Starting position three in the class, the competitors right in front of the nose. So far so good.

Saturday, May 15, 2010, 3 p.m .:

The race is picking up speed, as is the Focus RS. Daniela Schmid, the chick in the team, is at the wheel. And - it runs, the car. When Stefan Schlesack did not have any electronic arbitrariness and the team was in first place in the class and 65th overall, the mood rose: The brake light switch - so it did. Then the setback in the third stint: first a renewed loss of boost pressure, then the V-belt of the alternator breaks. The former is quick, the latter fixed within around 18 minutes. And now the bad news: Latvala reports loss of performance. The pit team is back on the electronics. But it gets worse: Foreign objects flying around destroyed the cover of the toothed belt drive, penetrated the housing and caused it to jump over - death. A new engine is needed. It is the old one from the previous VLN races. The students swap the aggregate in the party atmosphere in the tent. If there are no reasons to celebrate, you just have to create some. When the car is ready to go again, the team is missing another 4.19 hours. On the result monitors, the lowest point was reached with overall rank 164. From now on things are going uphill. Not steep, the service life was too long for that, but at least. 155, 153, 149- the crew feels reminded of the movie 'Das Boot'. After 24 hours and another unscheduled pit stop due to a damaged pressure hose, the Ford of the FH Köln Motorsport team, piloted by Jari-Matti Latvala, crossed the finish line first. Not in the overall ranking, of course - that ultimately marks 110th place for the student focus - but felt. Both for the Finnish rally driver, who later reported with a wink to a journalist: 'For a brief moment I thought I had won the race after all', and for the team. After the photo finish, which was underlined by countless Ford flags, there was a shower with water instead of champagne, but the team agreed on one thing: 'We achieved our first goal, arriving, right from the start. We still have to do the rest the VLN. ' In order to rule out further electronics problems, a modified control unit has now been created at the Ford Powertrain development center in Dunton, UK. It is based on the calibration of the limited special model RS 500 and should offer more performance. At the same time, the safety functions necessary for road use were deactivated in Dunton. The fixed idea that the driver would use the brake and accelerator at the same time should no longer be a problem for the system.

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