With a beautiful car to show to the fans who were back at the Nürburgring in numbers and his first Nordschleife victory to kick off a renewed attempt by Aston Martin at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, Nicki Thiim was fully in his element at the penultimate round of the VLN Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS). Along with teammate Maxime Martin, the Dane raced to an unexpected victory in Aston Martin’s first race at the Eifel track in three years.
2018 marked the last time Aston Martin brought a Vantage GT3 to the Nürburgring. Back then, the new model was still in development, running in the SPX class and only just missing the podium.
Now fully developed, most of the Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3’s success has been contained to the British GT Championship. Looking to conquer the mainland of Europe as well, the Brits have aimed their arrows at the Nordschleife.
The first steps to Nürburgring success were taken at the 53. ADAC Barbarossapreis – NLS8 – where the unsuspecting works team brought its car and FIA World Endurance GTE Champion Nicki Thiim and Le Mans winner Maxime Martin along for data collection and get a sense of where the competition is at. Against all odds, Aston Martin walked away with the win.
“What a comeback, veni vidi vici, I would almost say,” Nicki Thiim quotes one of the greatest generals the world has ever seen.
“We had not the quickest car, but we were stable and have to remember it’s three years ago [since Aston Martin was last here] and a lot has happened to the track, to the car. We brought the best guys in the business – who won Le Mans and the World Championship with us. We really tried to collect the data and hopefully come here next year with a very good package.”
Aston Martin’s return to the Nordschleife was first and foremost to map the battlefield, to find out how they stack up against the other manufacturers. Armed with knowledge Thiim and Martin had gathered from Audi and Porsche while racing the Nordschleife with Phoenix and Frikadelli in recent years, Aston Martin Racing took the competition by surprise with a win in its comeback race.
“It is not what we were going for,” the Dane explains.
“Obviously, as a racer, as a driver, you want to win, but it was not the goal for us as a team. It was just to come here, show the car – and what a stunning looking car, beautiful car, back to the Aston Martin green.
“I was forced just to collect data. It’s been years since we have been here and so much happened to the car since then, so we had to push the reset button and go from there.
“It’s pretty cool to go with Maxime, one of the fastest drivers in GT on the planet and especially up here, so it’s a good package and he has good information from Porsche, and I from Audi. So, we bring it on next year and hopefully have a very good package to attack and go for the big pot!”
Thiim attributes the top result to the team’s chosen strategy of going for full 8-lap stints to push the last pitstop as far back as possible, profiting from a shorter minimum pitstop time as the time winds down – all the while keeping it clean.
“We stayed out of trouble, that’s for sure. Maxime had a beautiful start going from eight to five and had a great on the Audis. It’s really hard to overtake here, but we stayed out of trouble and did our thing.
“We always went for the long strategy, the long game, so in the end had to do the shorter stop and that’s basically trying to stay out of sequence and staying out of trouble and that’s where we are. We struggle a little bit in traffic, so it was perfect for us.”
Looking to 2022, Thiim reckons that despite the current success, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to be a contender in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring.
“There is always something, especially up here with the company we are in against some of the best brands and teams around, they know the track in and out and we are starting from here, starting from scratch almost. Of course, there is a lot to do, a lot to improve.
“We take it from here. There is obviously a lot more in it, but we know everyone else is always improving and next year is next year, let’s see!
“I told [Aston Martin] we need to come here more, that’s why we are here. Doing only one race before the big one is not enough anymore, and now we have good information and data for over the winter – both for us and the organisers because it’s a never-ending story of the Balance of Performance – we can get racey for the big one.”
A fan of the show as much as anyone, Thiim’s highlight of the weekend, however, was the return of masses of fans to the paddock and around the track.
“The most fantastic thing this weekend was to see the people back in the paddock after two years. There were quite a lot of people out here, not only in the paddock but also outside. I hope they enjoyed the show and that we came around with this beautiful Aston Martin.”
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