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VLN team portrait Rowe Racing: New star in motorsport heaven

Tim Upietz
VLN team portrait Rowe Racing
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E rnie and Bert, Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, Asterix and Obelix - the list of true male friendships could be expanded at will. For example about the names Hans-Peter Naundorf and Florian Rhotert. The team boss and the team manager of the Motorsport Competence Group are buddies and field two Mercedes SLS AMG GT3s under the name Rowe Racing in the endurance championship at the Nürburgring (VLN). Without this friendship, the new MCG might not exist.

At the end of 2010, the boss of Rowe Mineralölwerk, Michael Zehe, asked the former Persson DTM technical director Naundorf about possible uses for a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. The idea arises of founding your own team. The graduate engineer is still looking for support. He calls his buddy Florian Rhotert in Munich and asks him to keep his ears open. Rhotert has a commercial background and knows the motorsport scene. There is nobody to be found. A few days later he calls Florian again. “I'm not doing it because you're not there,” says Naundorf. 'You didn't ask me at all,' his friend replies with a laugh. He takes a day to think it over. Munich vs. Saint Ingbert. Beer gardens vs. a city where everyone sounds like Heinz Becker. Two days later he packs his things and moves to Saarbrücken.

From paper to racing in 60 days

It's the beginning of February 2011. Rhotert and Naundorf stare at it white sheet of paper. 60 days later, a Mercedes SLS AMG from Rowe Racing will be on the VLN starting grid for the first time. Such a bold idea as wanting to circle the Nordschleife on a unicycle. Some say they are crazy. You yourself are determined. “We had a list of 18 pages that we had to tick off,” recalls Naundorf. The first three weeks he works from the couch at home. Rhotert crouches between moving boxes with his laptop.

Your work day consists of shopping. Every woman's dream. A nightmare for both of them. From the smallest screw to the barrier tape, you order everything yourself. “The first step when starting a new team? You switch your mobile phone contract to a flat rate, ”laughs Naundorf. Anteroom with assistant? Nothing. “Flo is my assistant,” jokes the team boss, whom most call HP.

A plot of land for the future team headquarters was already in place at the end of 2010Bought. The hall should be up and running at the end of March 2011. In the meantime, a “larger garage” was her home - the two SLS fit in exactly. The race transporter, which has meanwhile been completed, was converted into an office. Only weeks later did Rhotert find an office in the neighborhood of the screw garage. 'One day the delivery vans from DHL, GLS, UPS and TNT were all in the yard at the same time,' remembers Rhotert. “You can't imagine how complicated it can be to set up a team in such a short time. It starts with the telephone connection, goes through the bank account to the tool that gets stuck at customs in China. ”

The team does it Miracle

Without the solidarity of the team, which knew each other from Persson's times, the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 with Rowe trim would probably not have started on April 2, 2011 at the VLN season opener. In the first race the team was still in the pits, in the second with a second car in their own tent, in the third they took first pole position. “It was only at this point in time that we realized what we had achieved so far,” says Rhotert. “Before that we were in constant stress. In the first few months neither of us had a free weekend. ”

Whether a team is actually a team only becomes apparent in the bad times. After the 24h race at the Nürburgring, the boys start their journey to Saarland with a pile of junk - total loss. The construction of the hall is delayed further and further due to various circumstances and administrative procedures. The delivery of the new body shell is also dragging on. The mechanics Andreas Glomb and Michael Folz only have a week to get the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 to breathe again. They toil day and night.

Team manager and Darth Vader in one

The reward for all the sweat: Alex Roloff, Roland Rehfeld and Michael Zehe take the first overall victory for the young team at the sixth VLN run. Motorsport Competence Group Aktiengesellschaft - that may sound grandiose. But you won't find any boring office dress here. Sometimes team manager Rhotert even turns into Darth Vader. Then he jumps in as a tank man at the pit stop in his fireproof black suit and protective glasses.

The team started from zero to 100. Most of them start on a smaller scale and develop from series to series. Rowe Racing wanted to appear professionally in the VLN from the start. Given the short lead time, the risk for everyone involved of ruining the good reputation was as great as the chance that the jam bread that had fallen down would land on the coated side. You can lose your appetite. Have you ever thought of giving up? 'Never,' says Naundorf and puts on his broadest grin. “But with all the stress, sometimes you can't see the positive side anymore. We have in common withthe whole group learned that the day has 24 hours. ”

From the DTM to the VLN and ...

Sometimes the team leader has to slow down his five permanent employees. All of them worked at a high level in the DTM before and are used to giving more than one hundred percent. You want to keep this level. The philosophy: all or nothing. There are no halves at Naundorf. That is why only the VLN runs and the 24h race are on the calendar. Possibly there will also be a use at the Spa 24 hours. The idea to compete in the ADAC GT Masters, however, burst like a soap bubble.

The hall, which should be ready in March 2011, was only able to move into the team in February of this year. The preparation time for two more Mercedes SLS AMGs would have been too short before the first run in Oschersleben. “The goal for the future is to advance to higher classes. For example, it would be a dream to drive a GT2 at Le Mans. But the DTM would also be possible, ”says Naundorf.

There will soon be an MCG webshop where you can buy everything that the two of them had to laboriously pick up when they started their team. Serving clubsport customers is planned as a second pillar alongside racing. Naundorf and site manager Rhotert are currently taking care of the completion of the hall. The team members now work in an area of ​​around 1,320 square meters. HP only enters one room wistfully - the 'cemetery'. As a reminder of the rigors of the 2011 season, battered bumpers and innards of the SLS are stored here. In addition to the bright workshop area, there are separate rooms with a gearbox, chassis, carbon fiber and machine workshop. A wash hall and an area for wintering oldtimers are also part of the concept - including floor heating for the right climate. The highlight are the chic designer industrial lamps on the ceiling that Rhotert has selected. Naundorf doesn't like them. But real buddies can sometimes have different opinions.

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