One of New Zealand’s more successful single seater and sports car racers, Chris van der Drift, is the go-to man in the world of motor racing.
After a useful outing in the last the sprint round in the European Blancpain Series with BhaiTech Racing at the beginning of the month, the Kiwi is now getting ready for the last of the endurance rounds for Boutsen Ginion Racing in another McLaren MP4 12-C GT3.
The team had found some more pace for the Portugal race, and van der Drift was inside the top 10 in practice.
For the first time this season the team reached the superpole final where they qualified ninth. Van der Drift had problems in the pits and was held up, dropping down the field to finish 11th.
The Kiwi is looking for a better outing this weekend at the last of the longer endurance races in the championship, the six-hour race at the Nurburgring 1000km in Germany.
Van der Drift arrives feeling confident, as last year he had his first pole position in a McLaren and went on to win the race in the International GT Open.
Previously he’d won on the circuit with Superleague Formula, taking back-to-back super final wins.
“I really like the circuit and we should do okay here,” said van der Drift on his way to the rack. “There is a problem with the BOP [balance of performance] we have to use, as it’s hampering the car at the top end.
“We are working with the championship [organisers] to get us a better BOP. The McLaren should be one of the quickest cars down the straight, as we have hardly any drag compared to some of the others, but if you compare us with the Mercedes SLS we are losing 6km/h down each of the speed traps. Which in racing terms is huge.
“No matter how much you rag the hell out of it, you just hit a wall and watch the others disappear.”
In an effort to get parity among all makes and models, the McLaren’s turbo boost is wound down resulting in a lack of grunt at the top end.
The Kiwi has been frustrated all year, closing in on the leaders through the twisty and technical sections of the tracks they race on, only to see the pack pull away once the cars reach the straights.
Turbo-assisted engines work best when there’s high air pressure, so with the boost reduced they struggle to produce the extra push needed at high speed.
The problem is going to be even bigger this weekend for the Boutsen team mechanics and engineers, as the Nurburgring at its highest point is 616m above sea level.
“It’s a bit of a problem but I’m still looking forward to the race. It’s nice being able to have a longer race again so I can get longer seat time, as in this race I have two amateur co-drivers.
“We’re back in the pro-am series this weekend, whereas in the sprint championship I’m in the pro-series.
“It’ll be good, as we did some testing earlier in the year and I managed to have some time with my amateur drivers. I’m really looking forward to see how they stack up against the others in the field.”
Bamber back in action
After a brief respite, New Zealander Earl Bamber is back behind the wheel of a Porsche Cup car, this time in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship, which he also leads with the Porsche Supercup.
The Kiwi has been the outstanding find of this year’s one-make series, at one point leading all three championships (the other is the Carrera Cup Germany), but now has had to settle for the possibility of only two titles.
With two rounds left after this weekend’s race in Singapore as a support category for the 14th race on the Formula One Grand Prix calendar, Bamber has an 18-point lead in the title race over his nearest rivals German Martin Ragginger and Chinese Ho Pin Tung.
The Kiwi has a slight advantage over his rivals as he’s had more than twice the seat time with three different teams. His knowledge of how the cars work and understanding of car set-up from three different inputs puts him at an advantage in being able to be quick straight out of the truck – which is important in a one-make series where all the cars are much the same.
Hartley in Texas
After successful summer testing in Europe, Brendon Hartley, his teammates and the Porsche LMP1 Hybrid 919 have landed in America in preparation for round four of the World Endurance Championship.
The Kiwi, with Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard, was on the podium at the opening round at Silverstone and was leading the mighty Le Mans Hour race with two hours to go when mechanical dramas struck.
For the six-hour twilight race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the team will be using a new aero package in an effort to get more downforce on the trick US circuit where outright pace is not the main concern.
Hartley raced there last year in a Daytona Prototype and enjoys the track with its huge run-off areas.