Father and son Christian and Nico Menzel stand proudly shoulder to shoulder on the VLN podium. Today, despite yielding victory to Frikadelli Racing, is one of the most proud moments in their careers. With the help of 19-year-old Leonard Weiss, they’ve for the first time reached the podium together.
“I can’t believe what happened today,” Christian Menzel says.
“I still haven’t realised what has happened, really. Everyone is talking about it: ‘You must be very proud to be on the podium together with your win.’
“But in reality, I’m also really proud of my team and the youngster in our team, Leonard Weiss, who has improved so much over the last races and today. He suddenly made such a big step forward. Nico and I invested a lot of time in coaching, and the result today is unbelievable. That makes me even more proud than the situation with Nico.
“With Nico, I need perhaps a couple of days and see some pictures to realise that ‘hey, we are on the podium together!’ That is fantastic. We live 8 minutes away here from the Nürburgring, Nico was born in Adenau—it’s an emotional moment for us.”
Having watched his dad race on the European racing circuit, the younger Menzel entered motorsports at age 15, quickly rising through the ranks to end up in a GT3 at only age 18. This year, Nico Menzel joined his father at Rinaldi Racing-run Wochenspiegel Team Monschau to race the Ferrari 488 GT3.
“It’s special, especially now to be together on the podium,” Nico Menzel adds.
“We’ve always dreamed of being on the podium—but we never imagined it would be together, for that to be possible. I think it’s unique, not so many people on this Earth have the chance to do this.”
Racing with his son who’s only just turned 20, does come with a certain challenge, Christian Menzel admits.
“What is interesting for me is that when we are home, we have the situation where I’m the father and he’s the son. Each day we have discussions, but when we are here at the track, I’m totally surprised by how there are no discussions, there are no ‘family issues’, nothing. Everything works perfectly.
“Here I see Nico not as my son—I see a colleague, nothing else.
“We are colleagues, and I am not upset when he’s quicker. That’s OK for me. He’s young, he’s fresh, and eventually I have to accept that maybe here and there he is a little bit quicker. In the end it’s not important who is quicker. We are working together as a team, as one package, and that’s the point: to bring the car back in one piece without problems.”
“Last year I did one race with Wochenspiegel Team Monschau at the 24 Hours of Portimão,” Nico Menzel explains how the team of him, Christian Menzel and Leonard Weiss—son of WTM patron Georg Weiss—came together.
“At the same time Leonard started racing in the Cayman. They were quite happy with both our performances and they knew my dad from the last few years when they did some races together as well.
“It’s an amazing lineup with those Ferraris—it’s a dream come true to drive such a car. Especially now with the team and the relationship I have with them for such a long time and Georg Weiss who has supported me through karting when I was a little kid.
“Now we’re here on one podium—it’s something great.”
Although Nico is part of the BMW Junior program, the Bavarian brand has no objections to him racing the Ferrari.
“It’s always good to drive as much as possible and if I’m fast here, it for sure doesn’t hurt BMW’s program. That’s why I’m mega happy that I’m allowed to do it—without their ‘yes’ I wouldn’t be there.”
Christian Menzel’s role in the team is that of mentor to the two rising sons. The German’s experience extends far beyond the Nürburgring: having raced in the Porsche Supercup, DTM and American Le Mans Series, Menzel’s know-how serves as a valuable resource to the team.
“That’s my job, to be their mentor. Yesterday I gave the boys my complete driving time. I said, ‘OK, I have a lot more experience compared to you’, so yesterday I worked a lot with the data recording and video analysis, and didn’t drive any laps. This morning I only did one safety lap and one lap a little bit quicker, and again gave the boys the driving time.
“That was a good decision: you see the result today—there were no mistakes.”
On the race itself, that saw a number of questionable incidents, Christian Menzel has less than kind words for some of his fellow racers.
“It was a tricky race with a lot of accidents,” he continues.
“One of the problems that we generally have here is that people have problems with the rules. When there’s a single yellow because of a tow truck carrying a broken car, you can overtake the rescue team. I can’t understand why we have so many—I’m sorry—stupid drivers. We have the rules, drivers’ briefings, we explain the people every time how the rules work, and they have no idea—it’s a disaster.
“We’ve lost so much time today. We also saw some cars overtaking under yellow. They didn’t respect the yellow flags.”
One of the major concerns at the conclusion of the race was whether or not race winner Lance David Arnold had overtaken under yellow. The Frikadelli Racing driver got stuck behind a large group of slow cars, but saw no yellow flags or Code 60 boards so decided to zig-zag through the traffic jam.
“I understood what they did—they were pissed. There were one or two guys in front who didn’t understand the rules and as a driver behind the steering wheel you go a bit crazy in that moment. It’s difficult.”
Regardless, Menzel acknowledges Frikadelli’s superiority for the time being.
“We have to be fair, though. The Frikadelli Porsche is fully supported by Porsche. It’s a private team but they get their full support. They have the Dunlop factory tyres and two fantastic drivers.”
Asking what else to expect of the number 11 Ferrari, Nico Menzel notes the progression that is being made.
“Leo did great today. He’s getting faster and faster and if we keep building on that for the next races, we’ll be competitive and hopefully get more podiums.
“You can’t be sure at the Nordschleife, everything has to fit, and today it worked well.”