Team Milltek GT-R Hockenheim Tuner GP: Weekend Diary
A weekend in the life of Team Milltek GT-R as we follow their trip to the Hockenheim Tuner Grand Prix in Germany with a certain R35 Nissan GT-R
The Hockenheim trip started bright and early on Thursday morning, up at 4am and over to Derby to connect the new Milltek transporter for 5am. Having to pick up a Team member on the way South meant we took the anti-clockwise M25 route and got to the tunnel as arranged. The trip through France and Germany was stunning this time of year with all the fields in full colour and the sun beating down at a steady 28-30oC and we arrived at Hockenheim without incident.
First job for Friday morning was to get fuel for the GTR, which is run exclusively on bio-ethanol E85, which is hard to come by and very expensive in the UK but is sold at some petrol stations in Germany and as luck should have it, there was one only 2 miles from the hotel which sold E85 at under £1 a litre.
Fuel acquired, we headed over to the Grand Prix race circuit and unloaded the GTR into the pit garage and set about getting it ready for the track. This involves tyres checks and swaps, tyre pressure monitoring, cleaning the car and fluid level checks. After this the digital radio communications between pit crew and car is checked, the cameras are fully charged and put in place then the car is started and warmed to check for leaks and operating temps.
''the sun was getting very hot and with this, the track temperatures rise which is bad for the tyres as high temps and fast laps will reduce the grip levels so tyre management becomes crucial''
Even by mid-morning, the sun was getting very hot and with this, the track temperatures rise which is bad for the tyres as high temps and fast laps will reduce the grip levels on tyres in less than 1 lap, so tyre management becomes crucial as well as keeping a close eye on the fluid temps in the car. All this has to be done while learning a new track, finding the quickest lines, going as fast as you can and trying to avoid other competitors!
Due to strict German regulations, we had to run catalytic converters on the
car for the first time since the engine re-build and these were two of the Milltek 100 cell race cats. These were only fitted on Wednesday we had not had any time to re-map the car to take this into account. The first test session of the day was to log the engine performance and efficiency using the Cobb AccessPort and beam the data straight back to Ben Linney of GTC in England to check and report. We took the first few laps at a fast but steady pace which gave Rich Marshall the driver time to learn the track as this was the first time both the car and driver had been on this circuit.
With the log checked by Ben, and a couple of changes made to the map, a new version was sent from the UK back to us in the pits by email. The new map was loaded onto the car ready for the second practise session of the day. In between this, a drivers' briefing was attended by Rich Marshall, Phil Millington and Dominic Tranchet of Tranchet Trading who lives in Switzerland and can speak and translate German.
There was a little confusion over a painted red area on the first corner which had to be touched with the right hand front tyre of the car otherwise a time penalty would be added, but apart from that the briefing was short and sweet.
By the time the drivers' briefing was over the pit crew had changed the four wheels to the new Toyo 888's, topped up the fuel, checked all the fluids and the car was ready to go.
The second session went very well with the car now performing to its full potential we were able to turn up the boost to level 3 of 5 and the traction was turned to 'Race' mode, this gave more punch out of the corners but still held the car back a bit and would help if any mistakes were made by Rich driving the car. Despite there being a lot of traffic, a couple of comfortable 1:12 sec laps were put in. However, when the car got back to the pits there was confusion about this 'Red Painted' area on the first corner that we were told 'you must touch' with your right hand wheel...as the only red painted area Rich could see was 20 meters on his left...not right hand side...!!
A meeting with the officials and a drawn diagram on the back of a piece of paper confirmed that this was indeed the red painted area and that at the end of the start / finish straight you ran off over the rumble strip onto the run off area then back across the rumble strips again and onto the circuit - which has the effect off turning a 70 degree corner into a fast bend.
The next session confirmed that this was a faster way of taking the corner but because of the changes in surface and running over two sets of rumble strips it had the effect of upsetting the car. Rich thought that with the lines he was taking the margin for time gain was minimal and he would have to follow some of the other cars through this section to check their lines. This proved to be more difficult than first supposed as the GTR's immense speed down the start / finish line was so quick compared to other cars that by the time the car got to the first corner it had passed everything on the straight or they would move over on the corner to let the car through. A little more practice and some serious thought were required, but that would have to wait until the tomorrow - Race day.
Race day started a very warm one but we were out just after 9am so the track wouldn't be too hot by then, the brand new Toyo 888 were fitted to the front and the boost level was turned up to 4 of 5 and the traction fully off. One out-lap and a quick flying one next and it was obvious that the car was set up near perfect, front end grip was fantastic and the car was blisteringly quick, so time was called as you win nothing for being fastest in qualifying and the car was brought back in to cool.
Qualifying started at 11am but our class was not out until 12 and we wanted to be first out of the pits, however the GTR of Import Racing pipped us to the end of the pit lane and there we sat for 5 minutes before the pit lane lights went green. Thinking that the Import Racing GTR might have a different line around turn 1, Rich decided to stay behind them but it was obvious that they didn't want a GTR vs GTR contest and slowed to allow us past, the first flying lap produced a disappointing 1:16 but now the tyres were up to temp and the car was going quicker, down the start finish straight, stay off the brakes till the last second...into the first corner, use some of the run off but not too much feed in the power gradually...hard
on the brakes for turn 2, get the front end in tight and hit that apex.. power on.. not too much to get wheel spin but enough to get the rear wheel complaining, up into 3rd, 4th...and then 5th...bang!!! No gears...the engine was running but no gears, was it a neutral, check the gear selector!! Put it into Auto, back into manual...the sound from the gearbox told the story...end of game...coasting the car around the track and then pulling off to the side to be collected and pulled back into the pit lane with the 'drag of shame'!!
There were lots of people with the usual input of reasons why the gearbox had failed, but time will tell when we open it up and see what has failed, but that will be reported at another time. On reflection the car worked very well, the Team worked professionally, the set up was near perfect and the possibilities were there for a very quick lap.. Unfortunately it didn't happen for Team Milltek GTR this time but the car will be taken back to the UK and the gearbox repaired and strengthened and will be a better all-round product for the next Time Attack outing at Knockhill on the 10th June.