Racing at the Nürburgring continues this weekend with the ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen, the race Matias Henkola has been looking forward to. On Thursday, the driver from the Finnish town of Porvoo is scheduled to make his first rounds of the weekend around the Nordschleife during practice for the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. In his third outing at the endurance classic Henkola takes on the race in the Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 with a talented group of young co-drivers.
With the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring being one of the most physically and mentally straining races, Henkola’s preparation began long before race week.
“Before the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring I like to try to take it as easy as possible. Only light exercise, sleep long nights and eat well to ensure the body is as ready as possible. It’s also funny that when the 24 Hours gets closer, I start to avoid doing risky stuff with my bike, while climbing, etc. But for me, the most important thing is just to rest up and get my head in the right mode.”
For many, including Henkola, the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring is a special event.
“I usually arrive quite early. It’s nice to have time to go biking around the track, see friends and enjoy the special feeling that you get at the 24 Hours.
“My fondest memory is from last year. I did both the start and the restart, so I was in the car for about six hours in the craziest weather ever seen at the ‘Ring. I’m also the only one who got to throw snowballs in the middle of a stint during the ‘N24’ – and missed Jaap van Lagen’s helmet by a few centimetres.”
Going for his third start in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, the odds this year are looking better than ever. With Dunlop as the main sponsor and tyre supplier for the number 100 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, the team stands a good chance in the works teams-dominated field.
“I think we are in a very good position. The M6 is in its second year of running and has proven to suit the Nordschleife well. Dunlop has made a massive step with the tyres during the winter and I feel like we have the whole package right.”
Henkola teams up with last year’s co-driver Michele Di Martino, former VLN champion and current VLN track lap record holder Christian Krognes and BMW Junior driver Nico Menzel.
“We have a strong driver line-up as well. We are all fast and have a lot of experience with the car on this track. You need the experience to finish the race on top. There will be so many things that can go wrong during the race and that’s when the experience comes in.
“In my opinion, Christian Krognes is one of the five fastest drivers on the Nürburgring and I think it’s good to have two fast, young drivers, Michele Di Martino and Nico Menzel, to push each other. Then there’s me, I will push Michele and Nico if they start to feel too comfortable.
“This is the first Nürburgring 24 Hours where I don’t have the pressure on me of being the primary driver, so it’s actually quite relaxed compared to previous years.”
The biggest challenge, Henkola recognizes, is getting everything precisely right.
“Winning the ‘N24’ is like running through a battlefield and setting a 100 metres world record while doing it. A lot of things need to go your way.”
Come Sunday afternoon, Henkola hopes to be celebrating a place among the best five.
“If we keep our noses clean and run without problems, we will be in the top 5. If we have some luck, we are on the podium.
“We are going into the race without much pressure. We know what we need to do and we know how to do it. It’s just a matter of execution and having fun while doing it. All the elements for success are there.”