I I'm scared. In the midst of off-road professionals waiting for my assignment, I wonder why I actually agreed when Michael Podlogar asked at the end of June whether I would like to take part in the 24-hour race of the German Off Road Masters (GORM) - as a driver. One thing is certain, I've accepted and that's why I'm waiting in complete darkness at one in the morning on a former army training ground near Schwerin for a Suzuki Jimny named Jimboy that has been converted into an off-road racing machine to come into the improvised box.
Well, the racing machine may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it differs from the normal house-and-yard Jimny, even when it competes in class T2, production vehicles.
There is, for example, the 1.5-liter DDiS turbodiesel, which drives the small Suzuki over the asphalt in normal condition with 86 hp - with our off-road variant, thanks to control unit optimization and detailed improvements, there are around 130 horses and 320 Nm torque. There is the Suzuki Samurai transfer case with extremely reinforced suspension and differential locks from the Australian off-road outfitter ARB and there is also the specially built and optimized FOX Racing Shocks chassis from Offroad Extrem, which was specially built for the Jimny.
Two rally Suzukis in action
There is also a roll cage, FIA bucket seats, FIA 5-point Seat belt and a sports steering wheel; Airbags and ABS were removed or shut down for this purpose. Unlike me, Jimboy is a real off-road veteran. Used for the first time in the Croatian Trophy in 2007, he tried his hand at the Breslau Rallye in 2008 and in the past three years at the GORM 24-hour race, from which he even emerged as the winner in 2009. On this beautiful August night, he should maneuver me over the slope of the SOREA Park, or rather I maneuver him. Shortly after the start of the race at 7 p.m., it looked as if the endurance run would turn into a short-distance sprint.
The race hangs by a thread
The intense heat and great dryness of the past few days made for such a thing Extreme dust development, so that visibility sank to a few meters within minutes and rally legend Jutta Kleinschmidt was reminded of a sandstorm in the Sahara. Because the dust not only covered the rally site with a gray-brown bell, but also Schwerin and thesurrounding villages in darkness, the race was interrupted after only two hours - continuation uncertain. The dampness of the beginning of the night bound the dust at least a little and the chief of police himself blew to restart. So, apart from my fear, nothing stands in the way of my racing debut.
The task is very simple: four drivers have 24 hours to whip the Suzuki as often as possible over the 17-kilometer circuit without damaging the car and thus provoking long breaks for repairs or even a racing failure . In contrast, there are countless bumps, banked curves, jumping hills, sand and potholes. An obstacle that is overlooked in the dark and is therefore approached without braking can mean the end of the axle and co.
No time to think
Jimboy announces his arrival in the box with a gentle honking and there is nothing left to think about no more time. The two drivers in front of me presented well, and the demands on my racing commitment are correspondingly high: While the Mexican WRC and King of the Hammers guest driver Jose Ponce tells me something about the power of the sharks to cheer me up, the announcement from the teammates is more specific: 'If you need more than 2:15 hours for the four laps, we'll send a search party out.'
GORM 2012: The dusty hell
From the 5-point belt to the With the bucket seat pressed, Markus, my copilot, goes out of the box and into the dusty hell. The terrain is not unknown to me, because my practical test at the wheel had already taken place in the afternoon. In free practice, I first did my laps in the passenger seat to watch the professionals at work, then the places were swapped and I had to work. After a few kilometers, my off-road co-driver nodded and said appreciatively: 'We won't take you as a copilot, we will use you as the driver!'
But now it is dark, the slope is more extended than in the afternoon and the air is full of dust. No matter Our ears dull from the tightness of the helmet and the roar of the engines, we chase through the Schwerin night. After the first lap, which was still hesitant, the excitement subsided and adrenaline rushed into the body. It is fun! Markus helps find the ideal way through the chicanes and after four laps we are back in the civilization of the paddock. Breaded with dust almost beyond recognition, sweaty, exhausted but completely happy. The rest of the team is happy too, because with 32 minutes per lap I am below the target of 2:15.
Axis crooked: the end?
In the early morning the misfortune happens: An overlooked pothole, a Bump of the competition: worn freewheel hub, warped axle -incapable of driving. While the second Jimny - Jimbob - of the Werk 1 Racing Team continues to be driven across the course by team bosses Michael Podlogar and Dennis Meyer as well as Paris-Dakar winner Jutta Kleinschmidt, Jimboy stands in the pits and sadly stretches his front wheel away. But my co-driver turns out to be a savior in an emergency and awakens those who were believed dead to new life. His zeal for work infects the others, the axle is pulled straight under the heat and after a break of several hours, the little Suzuki is back in the race.
I couldn't be more grateful to Markus, because after all, an endurance race is all about one thing: arriving. And little Jimny does that. Thanks to his injured foreleg, he can no longer race through the dust at full speed, but he holds on.
After 24 hours, Jimboy and Jimbob drive together through the finish arch to the cheers of the audience and the team - Jimboy as 26th, Jimbob as 13th in the car classification. And what happened to the dust in the dustiest race in GORM history? A strong wind on the second day blew away the dust and colored the sky over Schwerin blue again.