Never meet your idols, they say, they turn out to be just like you and me. Christian Krognes didn’t take the advice to heart. He wanted to meet the guys he used to watch on tv and measure himself against them. The Norwegian who only now in his career is beginning to venture out beyond the Nordschleife, brought the fight to Romain Dumas and nearly beat the sports car veteran at the game the Porsche works driver is a grandmaster at.
In his all-out quest for second place in the 48. Adenauer ADAC Rundstrecken-Trophy, Krognes just didn’t have enough to earn the silver, but it was enough to earn him the recognition and respect of the Frenchman—one of the men he once dreamed of contesting. Third, however, wasn’t what he came here for. It was to score the best possible result, and in his mind—at least for the moment—that was second.
“It’s a bit of a weird mixture,” Krognes describes the double feeling. “I’m happy that we’re on the podium because we’ve had a pretty bad start to the season with a lot of bad luck. To get a podium here feels good.
“But on the other hand, I’m quite frustrated with the end-result. We had a clear shot at at least P2. I couldn’t crack the Porsche’s driver, Romain Dumas. It was a great fight and I was trying everything to get by him, but he kept his cool and I was left right behind him.
“I don’t know if it was visible on the stream, but at the end the bonnet was loose on the right side. From the beginning it was shaking, but not loose yet. This added a bit to the challenge. I tried to stay out of the slipstream, which may have looked weird on the stream, but I had to find a way to attack Romain that way.
“It was a challenge, but it’s something to learn from. It just came loose. Probably just a part that failed at some point. It was less a problem than I thought at first, though. I just stayed out of the slipstream, out of the turbulence, and it held nicely. It feels a bit shaky when such stuff happens, though.
“The fight was hard and fair. I tried to stress him as much as I could, especially at the sections where the M6 was strong, particularly the high-speed sections and some of the mix-speed sections on the Nordschleife. I felt like he was close to making a mistake at the end, but he did just enough to keep me behind.
“I’ve watched these guys in the LMP1 many years ago. I always thought, ‘I would love to race these guys someday.’ It was fun watching Romain jump out of the car and shake hands with him after the race. It’s quite a nice feeling.”
The pivotal moment for the team came in the first stint. Just when Krognes seemed to be able to keep up with the unleashed Jörg Müller, the rear of the car started to play up and cost him several places. The soft tyres degraded quicker than hoped, a gamble the team had taken as the track temperature was right at the edge of what the compound could handle.
“The first stint today was key for us. We struggled so much with the car at some point and lost these crucial 30 seconds in the first stint. Jörg did a great job in the winning car. He didn’t make it easy for us and we lost it at the first stint today, sadly. It’s something we need to look at and we have to improve.”
The fourth VLN race premiered Walkenhorst’s new drivers’ combination of Krognes, Michele Di Martino and Matias Henkola. All three have been with the team from Melle for a while, but are now brought together for the first time. With being the most experienced driver as well as the 2012 VLN champion and current lap record holder, the pressure is on for the de facto lead driver.
“I’m very happy to have Michele and Matias with me in the car. They’re good and safe drivers, as well as fast and have a very competitive spirit—that’s always nice to have in a team. We push each other and that’s very valuable for all of us.
“Of course, it’s nice [being the car’s lead driver], but it also brings high expectations to deliver with it. But I’m happy to have to deal with that, it’s a good position to be in.”
Another good position that Krognes has found himself in is the Walkenhorst Pro-Am entry for the 24 Hours of Spa. Reuniting with his would-have-been teammates for the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring Nico Menzel and Henkola, the trio is boosted by 2015 Spa winner and all-round powerhouse Markus Palttala coming in as the fourth driver.
“I’m really looking forward to Spa. We had a good test day there. I’d say we have a very capable team and the test day was very promising. We focused mainly on our race-pace at the test and getting to grips with the track.
“It’s such a fantastic track so for me to come there as a first-timer was quite huge and a dream come true. To go there with a 24-hour team, a great full drivers’ line-up and a good team around it, I couldn’t ask for more.”
Spa will be Krognes’ third Blancpain GT outing, having competed the Silverstone and Paul Ricard rounds in the run-up to the Ardennes classic. Although at times the team showed promise while the Am entry even took third and first in respectively the UK and France, it’s been a tough couple of races for the full-Pro squad.
“It’s been a lot of learning. We’ve made quite a big improvement from the first round at Silverstone to Paul Ricard. Compared to the BMW factory teams, we’re doing an alright job.
“The goal is to just improve and get the mileage. We every time go to a new track for us drivers, except for Mikkel who has been to all the tracks so far. For Nico and myself it’s been 12 laps and then into the race, trying to do our best. In terms of learning about the car and tyres, that challenge has also been very helpful. But we’re up for the challenge.
“At Spa, we have a good chance to deliver something good. We definitely have a very competitive line-up, I would say. We’re just gonna keep our heads cool and do the same thing we did at VLN today. I’m really looking forward positively to that race.”