15.09.16 VLN 6 Hours: technical woes stymie Wolfgang Kaufmann's challenge
Multiple unscheduled stops turn a secure lead into 3rd place for Wolfgang Kaufmann/Eberhard Baunach with their Kremer Porsche 997 K3.
In the run up to the seventh round of the VLN endurance championship on the Nürburgring, the 6 hour race, the Porsche Kremer team put a lot of work into the preparation of the Porsche 997 K3. Following the noise abatement issues the team had encountered in the last race, a new silencer was crafted to ensure that all noise limits would be met. This, in turn, made it possible to finally install a new rear diffusor on the car. “This diffusor has brought us another great step forward”, Kaufmann enthused after the first experience of the modified 997 K3, “the car's handling s very secure and stable – ideal for fast laps.”
This was true in the qualifying session, and then in the race itself: a time of 8.27,099 on the track which combines the grand old Nordschleife with the new Grand Prix circuit meant 2nd position on the starting grid for Group H 4, and thus a spot on the front row of the second group of cars in a field of 164 entries.
Kaufmann took the start; this time, however, he could not capitalise on his good starting position for very long. “I wanted to take the lead while we were still on the GP track, and then put that advantage to good use out on the Nordschleife” - going into the Mercedes Arena for the first time, Kaufmann took the lead and extended it to several car-lengths. The German professional then kept building up this lead for about four laps, then maintained the advantage over his pursuers. It was only at the first scheduled stop that Kaufmann had to relinquish that lead; early in his second stint, he worked his way back up to the top. Just before “half-time”, and still firmly at the head of the Group H 4 field, he handed the car over to team owner Eberhard Baunach.
This time, though, the car's stint was cut short. Drivetrain trouble forced the 997 K3 back into the pits, and into the garage for repairs. “The driveshafts have come loose”, a visibly perplexed Kaufmann said, “ I have seen propshafts break, but to have the fastenings come undone, just like that?” The man from Molsberg eventually got back behind the wheel for another double stint, but with a deficit of a lap on the class leaders, and without any hope for a significant result.
Nevertheless, Kaufmann made an effort to show the Kremer Porsche's potential. All went well until technical woes again interfered: “At the Tiergarten section, the car suddenly became instable; I first suspected a tyre failure” - in a display of car control, Kaufmann got the Porsche back under control, avoided an impact into the barrier, and returned to the pits. The crew's diagnosis: a loosened rear wing assembly, and – again the same propshaft issue. By the time the rear wing was swapped and the driveshaft fastenings tightened again, too much time had been lost to improve on the team's final result of P3 in the H4 class.
“That was the second time we've had a real shot at the class win”, Kaufmann sums up the day, “and both times, we have had terrible luck. Last time out, our car was allegedly too noisy; this time, there was this strange propshaft issue. We really would have deserved that win!”