Planning for the Nurburgring 24 Hours started off over a month ahead of the event - after the stormer of an event we had at Sebring, I invited William Burfield (Sir Smokey) to come and race with us at The Nurburgring 24 Hours, and he was more than happy to - bringing some wisdom, experience and a little bit of exposure.
He was quickly promoted to Team Principal to "take charge" of the operation. Using this new power he would neaten up the server a bit
A few days (week) passes and everyone and everything is still calm - It's the week of ELMS Sebring, so attention slightly shifts to that.
On returning to the topic, there was a little bit of conversation about weather we'd run together and it sort of left me in a catch 22 position - do I run with Sir Smokey for my first ever Nurburgring 24 Hours, and leave Kabort to deal with themselves potentially creating a little bit of conflict of interest - or do I race with Kabort and let Will down - and prioritise Kabort - especially after all the races he had done for Kabort in the past. Will always said he was looking for a much lighter atmosphere than Kabort as a serious Esports Racing Team - and during these conversations he made this evidently clear by saying
"24S always has and will be a lone wolf thing really, that's why...it's a story as much as it is a fundraiser"
meaning it's not so much about getting the best result as possible - but more about the fundraising and story.
With that the N24 discussions dropped until a few weeks later when it appeared that Will was back on the team. In the mean time, I had been getting creative with Euro Truck Simulator 2, creating a Kabort truck!
The Livery On the 30th of March, I proposed to Will my idea for a potential livery. The initial plan was to use the same guy I had purchased the Bathurst Liveries from because I was stunned by them...but it would come at a massive price. £80 for three cars. (£26 per car). Had I gone with Doug he could have done them for a fraction of the price - but I wanted something special for my first Nurburgring 24 Hours - especially as the charity we'd be raising for was "The Ambulance Staff Charity" .
Milner (the Designer) said he would start work when I paid roughly £20 - which at the time I didn't quite have to throw at a livery. Will kept the surprises coming as he was kind enough to buy me a (mechanical) keyboard and Bluetooth mouse - a much needed upgrade from the falling apart one I had beforehand. April Fools Day. 1st February. Our first Nurburgring recruit joined the server; Mike McCloskey.
He wouldn't stay for long due to the frequent notifications, but it was a start.
As time went on, more and people filled the server - firstly Martyn Pearson, followed by William Schwed and then Tijmen Berends - a friend of Maxim's.
But on the eve of Kabort's first podium...disaster would strike. Nash would jokingly encourage Will to make some temporary changes to the server. I didn't really want to have these made, so I demoted Will to a role in which he could not make any further changes, before promoting him again after the changes in question were said to be fixed/unchanged.
The changes were happening in real time and I wanted to take control of the situation since I had little control over the changes being made or what the changes could entail.
Following this, I put Will back to the role with no rights, before I quickly reverted the changes made before anything more severe could be done. Shortly after, Will told me that he was the only one who could make undesirable changes to the server and was about to revert it himself straight away. The main problem with this is that I did not trust Will with being in a role with the ability to make changes to the server - and at Nurburgring Nordschliefe you've not only got to trust your competitor, you've got to trust your own team - and if there are trust problems within your own team then you've got a major issue.
After doing everything for Kabort Motorsport Will felt that there was little to no trust after I had both demoted him from the role, and removed the changes made. Trust is a two way thing and if neither party trusts one another then that's an incredibly sour situation to be in.
The Last Drivers Arrive Returning to the positive news, our newest driver had just arrived - our first Mexican - Dante Reynoso - joining for the Merc GT3 squad before German Dirk Reski would join the party in the GT4 - before quickly switching to GT3. The teams were slowly but surely shaping up...but there were still more drivers to come!
As James Powlesland joined the server to race the Mercedes GT3, Wild ideas of all sorts were flying around - such as running Ferrari's and Audi's - but none would come to fruition.
Next to join the server was Arron Brown - at only 14 Years Old he obliterated the previous record for youngest driver to join Kabort - he too would be filling up the Merc seat. 10 Days Before the start of the race - here's how the teams were looking:
GT3 Affinity Maxim Badidi (NTL) Peer Brennscheidt (GER) Tijmen Berends (NTL) Lars Bachmann (GER) Tennyson Whitty (AUS)
Robin Truswell (GBR) James Peace (GBR) James Powlesland (USA) Dirk Reski (GER) Samuel Thurtell (AUS)
Dante Reynoso (MEX)
Daniel Evans (GBR) William Schwed (USA)
(Chris Shaw) Following Arron was Chris Shaw - who as incredibly interested in the GT4/TCR. Jake Manhire made a brief appearance (then disappeared) before Brian Peeters and his 3k iRating entered the stage and headed straight for the Affinity Merc. In his footsteps, another German, Dominick Gahlow stepped in, looking for a calm ride. We were filling quite a few seats by this point, so I stretched the Mercdes' out into three cars - a fast (Affinity), Medium (Global) and slow (Ruhe).
The new drivers perfectly ensured we had an (almost) equal amount for each of the three Mercedes'. GT3 Affinity Maxim Badidi (NTL Lars Bachmann (GER) Peer Brennscheidt (GER) Brian Peeters (NTL) Tennyson Whitty (AUS) GT3 Global Samuel Thurtell (AUS) Dante Reynoso (MEX) Dominick Gahlow (GER) James Peace (GBR) James Powlesland Samuel Thurtell (AUS) GT3 Ruhe Robin Truswell (GBR)
Dirk Reski (GER) William Schwed (USA) Arron Brown (USA)
Chris Shaw The Inevitable Collapse
After this - a little more confusion was added into the mix - Ex-Driver Samuel Swallow didn't quite have enough drivers to fill out his team. Originally he asked if he could burrow some drivers, I then offered him and his team of himself, Chandler Rubeck, Daniel Fisher and a driver from Kabort - this WAS going to be called Kabort Privateer (because it was a group of Sam's friends) but fortunately they sorted themselves out.
The TCR car was also slightly crumbling - but with Fabian W. Kirschgen joining them, I hoped that we could salvage something.... Dirk Reski shortly left after this, despite a short look at racing with the Mercedes AMG GT Team and with no sign of Chris Shaw and Martyn Pearson not fancying to be alone for 24 Hours - Fabian left as quickly as he came. Mikhael would also join but with everything going wild at the last minute, he decided not to race, but stick around for the next one.
The "Ruhe" team would also collapse - with Dirk gone, no sign of William Schwed, it was just myself and Arron Brown left - so we decided to join up with Global - what I failed to do however is register Arron for the global team - this meant he'd miss his first ever Nurburgring 24 Hours...
and with the dust of Fabian settled it was the night before the race.
The morning sun shone through the windows of the Nurburgring Congress Hotel as the drivers awoke. After a quick breakfast, early-bird fan meet and greet it was time for the track walk (or cycle) before heading inside for the briefing... One briefing later and it was finally time...
At long last - we've been preparing months for this...the last hour before the N24.
Everything was leading up to this one moment. The Race
Global Dominick Gahlow would qualify in 39th after accidentally locking himself in the car, fellow Kabort Driver Peer Brennscheidt qualifying 4th in his Mercedes. but James Peace would start the race for us. He'd have a stormer of a start getting all the way up to 22nd on the first lap alone before his internet would cut out... After being towed for a while back to the pit lane James would get back in to finish his double stint (sitting in the pits was his first stint) - a stint being an hour or 6 - 7 laps.
Dominick Gahlow would be next in the car and although we weren't making positions on track, lap by lap we'd overtake cars in the pits that had crashed or were taking extended pit-stops...eventually getting to a higher position than we were than when James' WIFI cut out (22nd) Dominick (the home-race hero) would do almost do a double stint - but just like James before him, he too would suffer internet connectivity issues nearing the end (lap 4 of 6) of his double stint. James Powlesland (unfortunately no longer with the team) sprung into action and leapt into the car after it was was again towed - with being hours into the race, the damage was less detrimental than at the start - only losing three positions this time, which Powlesland was able to make up.
James was absolutely on fire during his double-stint stint rocketing the car from 25th to 14th.
A mixture of good, fast, safe drivers who'd practiced lots and consistent laps slowly pushed us up and up the field. Dante Reynoso was the next to get in and despite picking up optional repairs that could not be taken in the following driver swap, Dante was also very clean, and shortly got us into 13th before needing to pit. As I got in for my first stint of the race, the optionals were taken and the track slowly continued to darken. With no major issues other than my wheel needing to be unplugged and re-plugged (due to Force Feedback needing to be restarted), my very late evening with slightly limited visibility also went alright.
We eventually found a nice smooth pace with 13th place a little further up the road. I'd then get out of the car chuffed at a clean stint with no muck ups as James Peace would replace me for his late night drive at 9pm. Still in 14th, Gahlow was the next to get in - the car was still in one piece and performing just fine.
13th was on the Horizon as Gahlow pulled himself out of the car for his last stint of the night, he'd be replaced by James Powlesland who knew exactly what he needed to do.
as the tanks ran dry and he returned to the pits after a successful stint, the car was up in 11th.
Unfortunately, I was the next to be in and not being the same pace as Powlesland the car would return to 13th, but a late night shunt from our competitors boosted us up to 11th as my stint came to a close.
I stepped out, Dante would step in. Dante would do an impressive double-stint - clinching 11th at the start of the second of his two stints, before I returned for my 3am stint - it was such a relieving sight to see the shades of blue getting lighter and lighter and more of the track being visible with every passing lap. I would come back in to swap once again with Dante, this time it was time for me to hit the hay - I think I did an alright job - and with stint later on in that day, I needed some sleep.
Dante and Powlesland were the lucky ones however. They'd alternate as the sun slowly rose over the Ardenne.
Dante would begin on 90th lap, watching the stunning sunrise from with the cockpit every corner offering a new angle of beauty - but he was not distracted - he focused hard and put the pedal to the metal.
As I slept, James Powlesland would continue the performance powering past 100 Laps.
Following this, the Mexican would return to the cockpit. Having an international team such as ours allows for Dante to run throughout the ugly hours of the British Morning whilst not losing a wink of sleep in Mexico (due to it being day there).
Powlesland would continue this procedure as the track brightened and warmed. The duo were in high spirits knowing that as every stint passed, they were an hour closer to not only taking a break, but the end of what had been one of Kabort's best races.
It was following this stint that James Peace would return - refreshed and ready for a new stint - his car may has flickered like a street-light down a shady avenue - but he pressed on and his internet held up the desired 14 laps of his double-stint.
During his pit-stop between the stints, he'd gain a single position - the first change of position for the team since Robin got out the previous night.
Less than 5 hours remained in the race. Gahlow would take over from Peace, before Peace would take back over after a small incident ending his short run of three laps.
James would do a double stint before the a well-rested Robin would jump in to do the final two hours - the pit-stop in this time briefly giving Kabort Motorsport 7th place due to a later pit-stop, but this was quickly given back as the team behind us pit earlier and was able to undercut us.
Despite a very late off-track moment for Truswell, the team that managed to get past pitted on the very next lap giving the position back but in the last two laps they were only just able to nip by due to another little error on the final lap. An 8th place finish was more than any of these drivers could wish for.
Peer would unfortunately have a rough race, finishing down in 17th.
Shortly before the race, Tennyson would pull out from the car, saying that he couldn't get the car around the track and was worried about ruining the race for the affinity team.
After recovering from the sadness of losing one of our big talents, the Affinity team were ready to hit the track - their team consisted of: Brian Peeters (NTL) Maxim Badidi (NTL) Lars Bachmann (GER)
Samuel Thurtell (AUS)
Brian would qualify the team 39th with an 8:16.760 - for me that's absolutely insanely fast - but with the pole-man doing an 8:06.865 - Affinity would be up against some pretty tough competition.
Brian Peeters would start off well, getting the team into 33rd by the 3rd lap - but this would shortly be undone when the car would be taken out.
They'd resume their Nurburgring bid tailing the field in 47th, picking up scraps that the others left behind.
Their day was only going to get worse.
Following an accident from Maxim (stint after Brian's) - the team wanted to retire - but the rest of Kabort weren't having it and pursuaded the team to keep going - and despite all adversity they did.
The 22 minutes of repairs came to an end and a short discussion about who would drive next, Affinity came up with a plan - and put it into practice - Maxim would start off, before Lars would get in. At this point they were hovering around 43rd.
As the retirements piled on and on, the car was slowly pushed up the field place by place...
Following Lars' impressive double stint, Maxim would be the next to get in. During his double-stint Maxim would be able to get the team up to higher than their qualifying position - 37th.
But things were about to go a little wrong. Lars would get into the car after Max's double - but just as James had at the start of the race in Global Team, Lars too disconnected not two laps later.
Brian would be the one to get in the car once it had arrived back in the pit-lane after being towed.
It was getting late, and after the Dutchman, the Affinity would unleash their secret weapon - The Australian.
To do a double stint during the day at Nordschliefe without hitting anything is impressive - but the triple stint Sam Thurtell did during the night probably saved the team from retiring. His last laps were the highest the team managed to get all race - a sorry 32nd.
Sam earnt himself a well-earned rest, and after his 3 hour break it was time for Brain Peeters to get back into the car. He did three laps before Sam would once again take over following Peeters disconnecting.
After his stint, the German Lars Bachmann would return to the drivers' seat and do a double stint.
As the laps counted down - and the end was in sight, Thurtell would be next in after Lars, doing one last double stint before Maxim Badidi returned for the morning, doing a double stint to pass the time.
Following Maxim, Lars did a stint, finishing up a very solid job at Nordschliefe, before the tremendous unstoppable Thurtell would get in for his last stint.
Brian Peeters would bring the battered and bruised car home in 32nd tired and exhausted, but relieved and happy.
Throughout the race, there were constant discussions about who'd race, and who should've raced - but instead of being bogged down in a generally disappointing race, it's important to look at the positives - the fact they finished, the fact they pulled together and worked together as a team to sort the issues that they suffered so badly - weather they had fun or not is one thing, but getting to the end of the Nurburgring 24 hours with as many issues as they had was quite remarkable.