Only last year did I discover Blancpain and I am already hooked. So much so that I went back to the Nürburgring (second visit this year) to see the Endurance Cup finale.
If you follow this series you will know there is a very large number of cars on track. There is huge variation in cars and the action never stops. Additionally, the races are never predictable. Anything can happen and will happen, often in the last minutes.
I have a habit of arriving early at the track, but usually not before all the action starts. This time I had a hotel a few minutes walking away from the track, which meant I got there around 8 in the morning. I never realised the marshalls have practice time!
The safety car, medical car, etc. all head out on track while the marshalls go through all the options: yellow flag, safety car, red flag, etc.
During this weekend I also heard that the marshalls should be able to see to the marshall station before and after them. Due to very heavy fog on Sunday they most certainly could not. As a result Q1 and Q2 for Blancpain were cancelled. At times the fog was so heavy I could not see the track at all from stand T4 (which is at the end of the pit straight). Quite a contrast with Saturday when we had lovely weather.
There are several supporting races during a Blancpain weekend. One of those is Formula Renault 2.0 NEC. They did manage to race on Sunday morning, but initially the cars almost completely disappeared in the mist. I believe the race was shortened due to the weather. It really was a strange weekend with sun, fog, overnight rain and a lot of wind. Of course that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it all less…
Another supporting race which I have mentioned before is the Lamborghini Super Trofeo. Like Blancpain this series has a large grid. There were 40 cars in total. That’s 40 Lamborghini Huracans. That’s a lot of horsepower!
The Huracan just looks great as a race car and it’s mighty fast. With a field that large you’re guaranteed to have a lot to look at. I watched the Lamborghinis from T3 (which is along the pit straight) and saw a lot of very close racing. Roughly translated that means the drivers tried to fit as many cars through that one hairpin as they possibly could (or couldn’t, as the case may be).
Just imagine a number of Huracans speeding down the pit straight as fast as they can, then braking hard trying to prepare for that sharp corner, but then four or five simultaneously. It just doesn’t fit and some had to pick something other than the ideal racing line.
Being at the track for the entire weekend means I could admire all that horsepower, regardless which series they appeared in, for two full days. Unfortunately I also saw the #7 Bentley crash at the end of the pit straight during practice. It was a sickening, very loud thud. The moment the marshalls started to cover the scene your heart sinks. Thankfully Steven Kane, who was driving at the time, was declared fit shortly after. Even better: Bentley had been running some tests in Spain and “commandeered” a car which arrived on time to race on Sunday.
Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention Aston Martin.
There is only one participating in Blancpain this year – Oman Racing. After putting the car on 6th position (overall, first in class) during qualifying they were unceremoniously pushed off track shortly after the start (that damned hairpin again!) and spent the rest of the race trying to catch up. It was a tall order and they never got close to a class podium. But hey, that’s racing!
I still thoroughly enjoyed watching the Aston chasing the other cars in its class. I was lucky enough to see a few beautiful overtakes (not only by the Aston, mind you), so there was enough to keep me happy.
Like the previous races, whether I was there at the track or watching them on television, this race had it all: close racing, some scraps, cars breaking down, teams having to catch up. Non-stop excitement for three hours. Unfortunately that was it for this year. Rest assured, I will be back to witness another year of Blancpain Endurance in 2017.