24 Hours of Nürburgring Qualifying Race:
The RC and C-HR complete their first Nürburgring runs of the season
In March, three machines completed a shakedown at Fuji Speedway, and the issues which came up during testing were resolved and corrected. They then crossed the sea and arrived at the Nürburgring in Germany to participate in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring Qualifying Race, on April 16-17. This was a test for both “cars” and “people” for this year’s 24 Hours of Nürburgring.
The free practice session which took place on the 16th, before the first qualifying session, was TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s first run at the Nürburgring this season. The team therefore took time to check the condition of the three cars and the conditions on track as well. The RC and C-HR encountered some minor issues, but they were resolved before qualifying began. One of the name’s on the drivers line-up for the C-HR was Hiroyuki Koba the chief engineer had chosen of his own accord to participate in racecar tests on the rigorous Nürburgring.
The first qualifying session began at 4.50pm on the 16th. Beset by a combination of hail and rain until just before the start of the session, the track surface was dry in some places and wet in others—typical conditions for the Nürburgring. Both the RC F and the RC performed well, but the C-HR had problems with rear stability, necessitating modifications to the set up after the session had finished. The second qualifying session took place on the morning of the 17th. The circuit was completely wet due to morning rains, and the ambient temperature was just 5˚C, scarcely believable for mid-April. The rains eased off as the session began, however, and first the race line, then the rest of the track, started to dry out. The three racecars finished the session on slick tires and each vehicle recorded faster lap times than during the previous day’s qualifying session. The overall placings were determined by the results of both qualifying sessions: the C-HR placed 64th overall, the RC 42nd, and the RC F 25th.
The Qualifying Race itself started at noon, and was to give every machine an unrelenting initiation to the infamous course. However, even before the race started, the coupler holding the fuel line of the C-HR detached, bringing the racecar to a standstill out on track. While the team were able to resolve the problem, the C-HR was forced to start from the pit lane. The weather was in constant flux after the race commenced, throwing down not only rain but also hail on the racecars. The difficult conditions were characteristic of the Nürburgring, where tire selection presented great difficulties. The three racecars circled the track steadily—but the Nürburgring was not to be so easily conquered.
On the RC F, the wire holding the front underspoiler in place came loose, while on the RC, the underpanel kept grazing the ground. Fortunately, however, the mechanics were able to fix both problems swiftly. Then, two hours into the race, the car running in front of the C-HR suffered engine failure, spilling oil over the track. The C-HR spun, damaging the rear of the vehicle. The racecar managed to make it back to the pits unaided and, after approximately 30 minutes of repairs, was able to rejoin the race. Thereafter, the three cars underwent continual set-up modifications, but were making excellent progress. But with just 45 minutes to go, the RC F was forced to retire due to a drive shaft issue. The RC and C-HR went on to complete the six-hour race.
This was the first taste of the Nürburgring for some of the new mechanics, and they appeared nervous and ill at ease. However, when the racecars encountered problems during the season’s first run, the mechanics were able to experience the importance of swift, assured actions while working in a limited timeframe in a race situation. The senior members of the team commented: “It is not enough to be able to do what you are told. You must also acquire the ability to judge for yourselves what needs to be done.” And yet, compared to the Fuji Speedway shakedown in March, the team appeared to have made significant progress. There is little time until the 24 Hours of Nürburgring begins, and there are many issues that need to be addressed. However, the experience provided by the Qualifying Race has undoubtedly led to an improvement in the team’s abilities.
Hiroyuki Koba, Chief Engineer and C-HR Driver
“I have experience testing mass-production vehicles at the Nürburgring. However, driving in a rigorous race situation allows me to grasp the condition of the vehicle, and understand what needs to be done with the setup. In order to make ever-better cars, it is important to perfect both racing cars and mass-production cars by driving them to their limits.”
Akihiro Osaka, C-HR Chief Mechanic
“The C-HR was involved in a collision during the race. However, our main objective for the race was vehicle development, and we were able to try out various setups. This is a positive outcome for us, as it enables us to see which direction development of the vehicle should take in the future. I feel that the entire team was able to build on its past experiences and resolve issues swiftly.”
Minoru Takagi, RC Chief Mechanic
“While we encountered unexpected troubles, these troubles have enabled us to grow. I believe that our determination to complete the race played a major role in our being able to do so. Various issues have arisen that need to be resolved before the 24 Hours of Nürburgring; however, I feel that we have become stronger as a team.”
Tsutomu Tojo, RC F Engineer
“Problems with the racecar forced us to retire at the very end. However, our times suggest that we were in about 15th place. While minor adjustments will have to be made before the start of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, the car has no major issues. In contrast to other races such as Super GT, the Nürburgring imposes limits on the operations we can perform in the pit lane. This is a significant problem we will have to overcome.”
The racecars have undergone improvements and modifications following the experiences and issues thrown up by the Qualifying Race. Final modifications are now being made as they await the start of the Nürburgring Endurance Race (VLN2) on April 30, and the 24 Hours of Nürburgring itself on May 29.
|SP 2T CLASS|
1st No.133- Hyundai Motor Deutschland/ Hyundai I30 1,6T Overall 47th
2th No.326 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing/ TOYOTA C-HR Racing Overall 56th
|SP 3T CLASS|
|1st No.188 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing/LEXUS RC Overall 41th|
|-th No.36 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing with TOM'S/LEXUS RC F Overall -th|