Volkswagen has had a successful start in the 24-Hour Race at the Nürburgring: in the early stages of the race, the three Golf24 cars gained a number of positions to put them in 16th (Mutsch/Simon/Ekblom/Mortara), 25th (Terting/Thiim/Mailleux/Rast) and 26th (Herbert/Bernhardt/Blundell/Rast) place after the first four hours.
Thomas Mutsch, the first driver to take to the wheel of the Golf24 with start number 135, pulled away from many of his competitors on the drying track at the beginning of the race and moved into the top 20. René Rast and Patrick Bernhardt started in 54th position in their Golf24 (#235) and managed to move up the most number of places. Peter Terting, the first driver of car number 35, was forced to make an additional stop for a tyre change and therefore fell back in comparison to his team colleagues. After four hours, the Scirocco GT24-CNG driven by Ickx/Wyss/Ostmann/Niedzwiedz was in 56th position and therefore in lead position in the category of vehicles with an alternative drive, followed by the bio natural gas car driven by the Dakar Rally winners (Al-Attiyah/Sainz/De Villiers/Niedzwiedz). With changing weather conditions, numerous accidents and the vast number of competitors (over 200), the drivers had to be wholly focused and exercise caution right from the start.
Important visitor from Toyota, comedy star at the starting grid.
As has become something of a tradition, Volkswagen’s head of technology, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, warmly welcomed the president and CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, before the start of the 24-Hour Race. The 55-year-old grandson of the founder of Toyota relished the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of a Golf24 and also of the 1-litre vehicle Volkswagen XL1. Dr Hackenberg then took to the wheel of the XL1 himself and negotiated the Nordschleife together with the legendary Le Mans driver Jacky Ickx.
Volkswagen also received a visit from Berlin-based comedy star Mario Barth in the starting grid, who spontaneously decided to extend his stay at the Nürburgring and watch the beginning of the race with bated breath by the side of the racetrack. Four American Indians were the source of much amusement, performing a not entirely serious rain dance in front of the Golf24 vehicles to bless the four-wheel drives with the wettest conditions possible, albeit to no avail in the first four hours of the race – much to the relief of the thousands of fans who are camping around the Nordschleife and who have had to put up with some serious downpours over the past few days.
Statements after four hours
#35 – Golf24 – basic colour white/accent colour red
Peter Terting (D)/Nicki Thiim (DK)/Franck Mailleux (F)/René Rast (D)
Terting: "Things went very well in the rain. We changed to intermediate tires, but that didn’t pay off, so I had to stop again to change to slicks. Otherwise you really have to pay attention all the time, in order to avoid any unnecessary risks during all the many overtaking maneuvers.”
#135 – Golf24 – white/blue
Thomas Mutsch (D)/Fredrik Ekblom (S)/Patrick Simon (D)/Edoardo Mortara (I)
Mutsch: "We got off to a very good start in the race and were able to gain a number of positions on the wet track. The Golf drives very well and is very safe, even in wet conditions. I had some fantastic duels with the fast sports cars, usually overtaking them on the bends – only to be overtaken again on the long straights.”
#235 – Golf24 – white/yellow
Johnny Herbert (GB)/Patrick Bernhardt(D)/Mark Blundell (GB)/René Rast (D)
Rast: "My first stint behind the wheel was OK. We purposefully got off to a quieter start in order to avoid slipping on the track or having any collisions. And we were able to gain quite a few places along the way. The car performed well and didn’t cause any problems.”
#116 – Scirocco GT24-CNG – blue/silver
Vanina Ickx (B)/Peter Wyss (CH)/Bernd Ostmann (D)/Klaus Niedzwiedz (D)
Niedzwiedz: "We started well with the two Scirocco cars in the first row of our starting group and I then took the lead ahead of our team colleagues. We changed to slicks, only for rain clouds to appear, so we changed back to wet tires. There was only a brief period of rain, but safety is our top priority.”
#117 – Scirocco GT24-CNG – blue/orange
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q)/Carlos Sainz (E)/Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Klaus Niedzwiedz (D)
De Villiers: "A faster car overtook me, but then went hurtling into the crash barriers right in front of me. Luckily, I was able to swerve to avoid it. The yellow flags were up on a number of sections of the racetrack – driving quickly but safely is no easy task.”