A nail-biting climax to a hard-fought 24-hour race saw the Milltek Sport team ascend the Nürburgring 24-hour podium on Sunday. Their Toyota GT86 Cup car took third place out of 15 starters in the highly competitive SP3 class for 2-litre modified sportscars. Pitted against factory-backed teams from around the world. The SP3 class is the second biggest class at the N24, with only the multi-million-budget GT3 class boasting more starters.
This rollercoaster of a race started very well for the Milltek Sport team, and after two great stints by drivers Lucian Gavris and Werner Gusenbauer, the GT86 Cup car was building a solid lead at the end of the third 2-hour stint. Then disaster struck at 10pm on Saturday night, and the GT86 rolled to a stop, just in front of the pitlane. And an estimated 2 million livestream viewers.
But despite the problem being a broken drive shaft, the team performed a mechanical miracle and ejected the car back into the race only minutes later, still in 6th place overall. A great team strategy and a solid overnight stint from each of the drivers saw the car rising back up the leader boards, despite suffering two collisions. By morning the little Toyota was back up to 2nd position for a brief period. Then more problems struck; another driveshaft failed and the collisions of the night before began to show through with pitstops for wheel bearings, steering arms and one more driveshaft.
“After so many stops, some other teams might thrown the towel in,” said Team Boss Steve Pound. “But all of our team were pushing hard, working relentlessly. In the pitlane and out on the track.”
Indeed Werner Gusenbauer would set the fastest lap of any GT86 on Sunday morning, clocking a stunning 10m15s lap of the extra-long Nürburgring 24-hour circuit in a car that was nursing several small problems. With only two hours until the chequered flag, the Milltek car pitted for one final technical repair and left the pitlane in fourth position with the last driver, Dale Lomas.
“I was absolutely amazed at the ability of our team to keep the car near the front despite multiple pitstops,” exclaimed Lomas. “To be given a car that still felt good after 22 hours of racing, and then be told that a podium position is only four minutes further up the road was inspiring. With clear communication to the boss, I was told to push as hard as I could.”
Unfortunately with only 20 minutes to the end, Lomas was still nearly 2 minutes behind the podium position and the rollercoaster was looking like it might stop at a low point. But then the rain came:
“We’d talked about this scenario already, and we trusted Dale’s confidence to keep the car on slicks and make the most of those chaotic two laps,” explained Pound. “While the Clio pitted for the ‘safe’ option of racing wets, Dale did his thing, and in those last few minutes the whole team’s effort was repaid with a very dramatic third place in the SP3 class and the honour of being the first and fastest GT86 Cup car over the line. It was the culmination of a whole week of hard work and never-say-die attitude from a team who don’t accept anything less than 100% commitment.”
Ultimately the Milltek Sport GT86 Cup finished 87th out of 160 starters, and third out of 15 starters in the SP3 class.
The TMG GT86 Cup is a spec-series running inside the VLN framework, with all teams running identical GT86 racing cars supplied and built by Toyota Motorsports GmbH. Milltek Sport is a technical partner to the series, and is also leading the 2017 GT86 Cup Championship.
The next round of the VLN Championship will be held at the Nürburgring on Saturday June 24th and you can watch live video with English commentary at www.radiolemans.com
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More VLN info at http://vln.de