It felt amazing being stuck behind the fence and box directly at the edge where all the cars were passing by. It gave me a huge adrenaline high to hear the loud engines and feel the wind blowing from the speed of the cars! As the drivers were making their 5th round, I decided to abandon my post and head to the rest of the Falken Team. Everyone asked me where I was, because they saw my live blogged video, which was taken directly in front of the cars as they started the race. I gave them a mischievous wink and went to put on the fireproof racing suit.
Since this was my first 24-h race, I was surprised at the length of the pit stops. They averaged about 2-4 minutes with lots of action the entire time – I loved it! The Falken Team was in top form and had everything under control. The pit stops were done fast, because everything was planned in advance due to weather conditions and surprise changes – from very soft, soft to medium tires. The hours passed by quickly and the tension was rising. It was midnight and we decided to go back to the hotel to rest for the big finish tomorrow.
On the way back, our beautiful Falken representative Christina Bien decided to give us a tour of the camping grounds around the racetrack. Here is where the action takes place at night, with everyone drinking and partying. As I was walking around, I tripped on something and fell. Everyone started laughing and I didn’t understand why. I looked down and saw that I tripped on a wooden penis statue! Apparently the men place this beside the fire to attract women to mate with them. This is not a joke, they really placed that wooden penis there! Beside the fire I saw a tiny little motor bike, and as I was about to leave, a Neanderthal-looking man came up to me and said that little bike has lots of power and vibrate really good in the all right places. His friend was grilling huge pieces of meat. He stabbed a knife into the meat, picked it up, started chewing like a barbarian and smiled with one open eye at me. It was time to leave! ;-)
The next morning as we were approaching the track, we saw many G-strings lying on the road beside the camping area. I don’t want to now how many babies were produced that night! Maybe even Neanderthal-Penis-Man got lucky, but somehow I doubt that. I was very happy to know that Team Falken was still in 3rd place after racing the entire night! I threw on the fireproof racing suit and ran back to the pit boxes. As the day progressed, the drivers were coming back into the Falken VIP Lounge, and I had a chance to interview Peter Dumbreck after he drove at night.
I asked him how does it feel to drive at night: He said, “Driving at night is more relaxing. It’s a nicer feeling. There is something special about being awake at night while everyone else is sleeping. However, the downsides are the newer inexperienced drivers at night. They are cautious and don’t drive as fast which makes it difficult to overtake them, therefore we get caught in traffic. There is a bit of an action hero feeling, and you are wired and awake.” Then I asked Peter, “What do you think about when driving at night?” He laughed and said, “I think about random things. Tonight I had many hunger pangs and thought to myself why didn’t I eat that last banana before driving!” He paused with a short smile and said, “Then you force yourself to focus again, because other thoughts can cause mistake and accidents. If you’re in the clear and no pressure from the car behind, then your minds drifts away. I sometimes even look at the scenery, and then force myself to concentrate again. It’s an automatic reaction. The 3 laps before the end is when the traffic is a real nightmare. The drivers are tired and that makes them slow down.”
Claire, Peter’s wife was there too, so I asked her a few questions to get some more personal insight into the driver’s family life. I ask what concerns does she have when he is racing? She said, “I want him to do well. We have been together for 20 years now, and after such a long time I am not worried about crashing anymore. He is an excellent and skilled driver. However one worries about how he feels after the race. If the team manager is happy, then peter is happy and his family is happy.” Claire and Peter met in 1995 at the British Formula 3. She comes from a racing family and they have this shared hobby – which is a blessing to have in a relationship. There is a close community of the driver’s wives, and when accidents happen, they are all impacted by it.
As the race was coming to an end, the last half hour was very nerve wrecking! Team Falken was strong at 3rd place, however with the team behind it coming very close to them! There is a high appeal in racing on the Nordschleife. It is one of the most challenging racetracks in the world with many elevation changes. On an average, 160 cars begin at the 24-h race, and only about 100 cars make it to the end. 30 cars wipe out in the first hour of the race!
The 24 hours ended and Team Falken came in at 3rd place! That was a nice progress from last year, when they finished at 4th place. Everyone in the pit box was cheering and screaming! I have never seen such happy men before in my life! Some threw themselves on the floor and started kissing the used tires, the rest were picking each other up on the shoulders and ran around like wild little children. I ran to the front of the pit lane to make a live video of the drivers celebrating. Amazing results Team Falken! Also amazing for me that I won the bet with my friends. It was a very exciting weekend, which I shall not forget for a long time. I congratulated the Falken Director for their victory and all the drivers for an amazing race. The black Mercedes picked me up and drove me back to my little cosmopolitan city with a big attitude.