There are only a few Dutch racers who can challenge the world’s best GT drivers. One of them is Patrick Huisman. The tall driver once was the man to beat in the Porsche Supercup, but is nowadays active in the VLN championship at the Nürburgring. In this exclusive interview Huisman tells the story of his German adventure.
Some years ago, after 18 seasons of success in the Porsche Supercup, Patrick Huisman made the decision to leave the international championship and move to the VLN, the endurance championship that races exclusively at the legendary Nürburgring-Nordschleife. This shift of focus was based on his desire for fair competition.
“I stopped racing in the Supercup because I was enduring more and more disadvantages from my length and resulting weight,” Huisman explains. “The Supercup has become a quasi-championship where it’s hard to distinguish yourself as a driver when you have a weight handicap of 30 kg. I fought for years to include the drivers’ weight into the total weight of the car, but they didn’t want to go along with that. It’s a shame how two years later they did introduce a drivers’ weight after all.”
It was via his brother, the former Nürburgring 24 Hours champion Duncan Huisman, that the four times Supercup champion met the Frikadelli Racing team in 2011, and the idea was born to combine forces in 2012. Since then the privateers team of owner-driver Klaus Abbelen has become one of the powerhouses in VLN – not in the last place because of Huisman.
“Frikadelli has become very professional over the last couple of years while retaining the charmes of a family team,” says Huisman. “I like how I’ve been able to help improve the team. I feel right at home. Frikadelli has now reached the level where we want to be and there’s a clear vision for the future, where the schedule will contain more than just VLN.”
“The past few years it was very difficult for privateers teams to score because of the success of Porsche’s factory team: Manthey Racing. We received a big aerodynamic upgrade from Porsche and factory tires from Michelin in 2013. This resulted in a competitive package and together with the growth of the team this resulted in the first victory of Frikadelli. We went on to win the Speed Trophäe for best and fastest team, which we also won in 2014.
“It’s a combination of all the development from the past years. I really notice how my experience has helped the team move forward. We are now the Porsche benchmark and have basically taken over the position that Manthey once had.”
When the Porsche equipe at the end of the 2013 season celebrated their first win, Sabine Schmitz – together with Patrick Huisman and Klaus Abbelen the team’s regular driver in the Porsche 911 GT3 R – was absent. Porsche works driver Patrick Pilet substituted for her, while also being part of the four drivers’ team that took Frikadelli’s second win, in April of last year. It wasn’t until August when the Barweiler squad took their first victory with the ‘classic’ line-up of Schmitz, Abbelen and Huisman.
“I’m most proud of the win in mid-2014, as it was the first race I won together with Sabine Schmitz and Klaus Abbelen, the regular driver line-up,” Huisman says about the convincing win in the Grenzlandrennen. “No help from our usual stand-in Patrick Pilet.”
In spite of all the success, there were some disappointments. Like during the Opel 6h ADAC Ruhr-Pokal-Rennen, which was ran under changing weather conditions.
“The biggest disappointment was without a doubt when I was leading in VLN7 and made a small mistake in the rain at the slowest part of the track and slid off. Gone victory.”
2014 saw many VLN races tainted with heavy crashes. In response, the German Motor Sports Federation (DMSB) recently introduced a special Nordschleife license, the goal of which is to keep inexperienced drivers from participating in the highly competitive VLN series.
When Huisman, who was the victim of a heavy crash himself as well, is asked about this new regulation, he is clear: “The number of accidents was ridiculously high,” the 48-year-old says. “I experienced it myself during the heaviest crash of the season, during VLN9. The way I see it, the problem is there are too many cars with similar lap times such as the Opel Astra Cup, BMW 235i Cup, Toyota GT86 Cup and the V6 class. They all do lap times of 9 to 9:30 minutes, but all together they must be about one hundred cars. That creates a lot of traffic.
“In addition to that, there’s the problem of inexperience of a pretty big group of drivers, from the slowest to the fastest classes. My crash, in which I was hit from behind at Flugplatz, was a clear case of inexperience by a good driver [Andy Meyrick] in the works Bentley.
“Finally, the Code 60 [speed limit of 60 kph in yellow flag zones] is a very good rule for the Nordschleife. However, not all marshal posts handle them as good, and that can surprise you at fast and blind corners as you run into a Code 60. When you brake hard in a GT3 it’s nearly impossible for other cars to brake in time [and avoid running into you].
“So I think the introduction of the Nordschleife license is a good improvement, but will have to be combined with more communication between the marshals.”
With the Speed Trophäe and three race wins added to his already impressive honor roll, Huisman can look back on a successful 2014. The fire for more still burns, though.
“I have already achieved very much in motorsports,” Huisman reflects. “From titles in Dutch championships to four Supercup titles and victories at Le Mans, Sebring, the Nordschleife, and in the DTM. On my bucket list is, in addition to Bathurst, the outright win in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, so my name would be added next to Duncan on the wall of winners.
“I will continue with Frikadelli in 2015, and expect to stay there for a long time, especially with the plans they have for 2016 and after. I still have a few years at the highest GT level left in me.”