First things first though. To race at the Nurburgring you need an entry: despite the ‘arrive and drive’ business that’s not quite keeping the circuit’s head above water, a team can hardly turn up and compete in an event that’s got over 40 years of heritage behind it.
“There’s a whole set of things you need to do before signing up for the race. Firstly you need to find yourself a realty good team, who can run the car for you and guide you through the weekend. You’re looking for guys who have a lot of experience. Usually they’ll put you through a few races to get you acclimatised before the 24 hours race, so we’ve each done a couple of VLN rounds. Of course you need an international race licence too from the UAE.”
Paperwork issues meant the team’s Nurburgring pilgrimage would not be as a complete team. Pitfalls involved with exporting the car, as well as the financial strain of crating and shipping all the equipment needed to run just one car, meant running under the Lap 57 Racing Team banner was quickly scratched. Instead, Khan and teammates joined forces with the locally based Roadrunner Racing to take on 24 hours at the Green Hell.
“That all came about by word of mouth actually. There are a lot of teams who rent seats or cars and the whole setup, and that’s basically what we did. We found that it’s best to attend the race first as a spectator rather than participate and then go round the garages during the course of the weekend. A lot of information is given out. Nadir actually came to watch last year’s race, and Mohammed stumbled across Roadrunner Racing. We then joined forces with them, rented the car, and decided to sort out the logistics of a four-driver team in Germany.
“The level of competition is quite high in Europe, which is a big bonus because it means the teams are ready for the challenge. They know, after each session, how good a driver is and so can find a setup that works very quickly. Plus we had a lot of really experienced drivers in the sister car” – Roland Botor, Claus Gronning and Peter Jurgen – “and that helped a lot.”
With a new team comes a new car, the Lap57 Honda Integra unable to make the journey across for bureaucratic – as well as humane – reasons: “the cars that we prepare for UAE regional racing are not ready for a challenge like this. It’s so brutal it will just shake them to bits.” The team’s challenger throughout the weekend instead was a Renault Clio Cup car. A far cry from the BMW Z4s, Audi R8s and Mercedes-Benz SLSs whipping around at pace at the sharp end, but capable enough of keeping LapRoadrunner57 in the fight in the SP3 category. Not that winning was on everyone’s mind of course.
“We were just looking to finish, and if anything came our way then that would have been a bonus. The Clio it doesn’t handle particularly well on the GP circuit, but as soon as we were on the Nordschleife you could really tell the difference.
“On the GP layout you’re…you’re not on the limit, but you’re on the track limit. You can’t test the car’s limit. You don’t rest basically, you have to be attentive all the time. You can set your car up for the Nordschliefe or the GP layout, and it’s difficult to find a perfect setup for both. So you choose one where the car’s at it’s best and work hard to find a good balance. So by the time we went into the race the car was handling really well.”