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RACER’S STORY – GT4 Shakedown.

“Do epic things” – that was what was written on a sticker I saw in the pitlane at Hockenheimring during the sport auto High Performance Days this weekend. Something epic is exactly what I’m going to do this week. After finishing the German GT Academy in the Top 10 in 2013, my strongest wish was to go racing and to enjoy every chance I get to go on the track, but most importantly share this extraordinary experience with others. Hence, my #KEEPONRACING blog was born.

Now, four years and a few racing driver castings later, I’m extremely happy and excited to say, that I’ll be having my first race ever next week! I will be driving the KTM X-BOW GT4 in the X-BOW BATTLE at the Slovakia Ring. The car will be run by Reiter Engineering who also developed the car and participate with it the GT4 European Series Northern Cup as well. This amazing opportunity is possible thanks to a personal sponsor as well as my new partner HUCON Powertrain GmbH.

Starting from Wednesday, I will be updating this blog page as my racing diary throughout next week with photos and experiences from my race weekend. However, I would also like to give you a short overview and insight into the racing series, the team, the car and the track.

THE RACING SERIES

The X-BOW BATTLE is a Clubsport-level racing series aimed at motorsport newcomers, amateurs, semi-pros and owners of a KTM X-BOW. Therefore, it hosts three different race classes: ROOKIES CHALLENGE, ELITE and GT4. Two Sprint-races per class and one Endurance-race will be held on six racing weekends. The format promises high level motorsport, due to the mixture of drivers from entry-level to semi-pro. This year’s race tracks are Brünn (CZ), Red Bull Ring (AT), Misano (IT), Slovakia Ring (SK), Pannoniaring (HU) und Grobnik (HR). Since this year, the minimum requirement is a national A-racing-license. In addition to that, FIA-homologated drivers equipment is needed.

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Photo credit: Joel Kernasenko

THE RACING TEAM

Reiter Engineering is a German racing team founded in 1994 and named after engineer and founder Hans Reiter. Is the only manufacturer worldwide of racing models by Lamborghini as well as the Camaro GT3 and KTM X-BOW GT4. Beside production and engineering services, the company provides race services and participates in popular championships around the globe. Last year, Hans Reiter launched the “Reiter Young Stars“ concept, which is a championship designed to create opportunities for all of its involved parties. Each team is made up of one industrial partner, one Marketing student, two Engineering students as well as two young drivers.

THE RACECAR

The KTM X-BOW GT4 is a joint venture between Reiter Engineering and KTM Sportcars. The KTM X-BOW GT4 is based on the KTM X-BOW and the first closed cockpit race car in the KTM Sportscar portfolio. It is suitable for all GT4 championships worldwide and offers racing technology, which is usually only available in higher classes. This encompasses safety features, such as the carbon monocoque.

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KTM promises comparatively low running costs with low tire and brake wear (tire changes in endurance races after four hours). This is most likely due to the low vehicle weight of a mere 999 kg. The high performance turbo charger of the 4-cylinder-2.0-liter engine boosts 360 hp with strong cooling. In addition to that, I really enjoy the spectacular and futuristic design of the KTM X-BOW GT4. I can’t wait to see my name on it!

THE RACETRACK

Slovakia Ring is one of the longest road tracks in Europe. It was built between 2008 and 2009, located approximately 30 km away from Bratislava Airport. The track is very fast and very technical. Therefore, it is even for the most experienced drivers challenging. In addition to that, there are four artificial hills on the track to diversify the track’s elevation profile and ensure more excitement for the drivers. The longest track configuration is 5.922 km with a track width of 12 m and a 20 m wide main straight and finish line.

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Photo credit: Joel Kernasenko

RACER’S DIARY 

Since my race debut is only a few days away, I took every opportunity to study the track and the line with onboard videos as well as talking to experienced race drivers, who already raced on the track and of course, countless training sessions on the racing simulator. Considering that it is not only a new track, but also a new racecar for me to learn and adapt to, I’m glad to have the chance to get a feeling of both during X-BOW BATTLE Track Day on Thursday with free driving sessions. The race weekend with training, qualifying and race sessions will start on Friday and culminate in the Endurance race on Saturday, where I’ll share the car #24 with another driver. I’m more than excited to learn a lot during the whole week and race among very experienced drivers in the competitive field.

Stay tuned for live updates right here from my race experience at Slovakiaring!

WEDNESDAY, July 19th
14:15 – My racing gear is packed, my camera equipment prepared and the sponsoring stickers for the car are freshly printed. We’re ready to head off to our eight hour drive from Stuttgart to Slovakiaring.

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22:45 – We just arrived at our hotel in Bratislava, which is about 30 km away from the track. We’re going to meet the Reiter Engineering team at about 08:00 in the morning. Before going to sleep, I’m going to take a short look at the onboard videos again to memorize the track and orientation points for braking, turn in and corner exit.

My personal goal for tomorrow is to learn as much as possible about the car as well as the track, to become continously faster throughout the day and – of course – to enjoy every lap. In addition to that, I’m looking forward to guide you guys through the day and what happens at the track. See you tomorrow!

Thursday, July 20th
08:05 – Today’s the day! My first time in a GT4 car. After meeting Seb, the data-engineer, who will guide me through the day as well as our mechanic, who is responsible everything technical regarding the #24 KTM X-BOW GT4, we headed straight to the administration office to sign up for today’s X-BOW Battle Track Day with six 25 minute driving sessions.

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09:05 – Together with Tomás Enge from Reiter Engineereing, we did a quick seat fitting and introduction of all the bits and buttons inside the cockpit.  In addition to that, we set the objectives for the day: to become accustomed to the GT4 car and to improve my lap times continously throughout the day. Of course, in my mind, I added the goal of bringing the car back to the garage at the end of the day without any incidents.

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09:24 – I’m getting ready for my first session of the day. It feels amazing to finally sit in the car. Helmet on. Gloves on. Fully strapped in. At 09:30 the lights turn green. I just thought to myself „Don’t stall it. Don’t stall it.“

09:27 – I didn’t stall it. At least not in my first outing. 😀 Since the engine was brand new, I’m going to have to do a few installation laps.

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10:03 – I’m back in the pits. Wow! What a feeling! What a car! The tires offer so much grip – it’s unbelievable. I used the first session to get a feeling for the car, the track and the surroundings with competitor cars of the two classes ELITE and GT4. However, the car offers so much more grip and performance than what I was able to experience in my first few laps. I can’t wait for the next run! Since I don’t have any radio communication system installed on my helmet, I learned to use flash lights and the pit board to communication with my data-engineer.

11:10 – My second session is over. I’m slowly but steadily working my towards the ideal line. I have also adjusted my seating position to sit a bit higher than before. This allowed a better view inside the cockpit, which resulted in improved lap times. We we’re still not where I wanted to be with my times, however, I knew what I had to improve for the following sessions. This included, learning how to brake with the left foot, braking a lot later in general as well as using throttle earlier and harder.

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Furthermore, I had a few minutes to finally install my sponsoring stickers. I’m really proud to showcase my partners HUCON Powertrain GmbH and Rohrscheidt Management Consulting on the GT4.

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14:23 – The engineers and mechanics just discovered that the boost of my car #24 was lacking 0.3 bar, which results in 15-20kph at the end of the long straights at Slovakiaring, which in turn transfers to a 2-3 second slower lap time.

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15:05 – The source of the lacking boost power is still unknown. The mechanics and engineers from Reiter Engineering are doing their best to find the error, but at the moment it is unlikely that problem will be fixed soon.

We drove some installation laps, however, #24 still lacks power.

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16:12 – The intercooler and a few other parts have been changed.

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16:18 – Nonetheless, nothing has changed and we’re missing session after session, while the other cars and teams are collecting track time and important data.

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17:19 – In ten minutes the last session goes green. While still lacking power, I’m going out on the track one last time to gain more experience in the GT4 car. We set my target time for the session to a time below 2:20. I know that I can do it, I just have to be more courageous with my braking points and accelerate as early out of the corner as possible.

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18:10 – Wow – what a run! I’m completely soaked from the heat in the car but had such a blast on track. I immediately matched my right-foot braking time after switching to left-foot braking. After an incident with leaking oil in the later part of the track, I only had one more lap to achieve my target time – and I made it! 2:19:4 was my best lap of the day, which still offers more potential to improve, however, considering all circumstances with the limited track time, a lot of learning throughout the day and lacking boost power, I’m happy and looking forward to more.

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Since I didn’t have the chance to try out how the car performs with full power, new tires as well as with my new won trust in the car and it’s insane grip-level in more training sessions, I made the tough decision to postpone my race debut to another event. This means, that my race debut turned into a GT4 shakedown. Nonetheless, I feel confident, that I can bring everything I learned in the KTM X-BOW GT4 to another track and start right where I left off.

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My most important learnings include:

  • Left-foot braking – makes the transition from braking to acceleration a lot smoother. With my experience from simracing, where left-foot braking is also a must, it was comparatively easy for me to adapt.
  • Understanding the grip-level of the tires – so, so much grip. I never experienced this kind of grip-level before. You can brake much later than you dare to. This also accounts for the acceleration out of the corner.
  • Accelerating earlier and using all of the track on the corner exit – I’m still a bit hesitant, when accelerating out of the corners, but with every lap I’ve become more confident in my abilities as a driver as well as what the car can handle. Here’s a lot of potential time to gain.

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It’s not defined yet, when and where the next event will be, in which I’ll be racing the KTM X-BOW GT4. The X-BOW Battle calendar for next year has just been announced and will most likely start in Barcelona, which would be amazing. There are also a few other possibilities to run the car again this year. You can be sure, that I’ll keep you posted!

Until then,

#KEEPONRACING

 

MORE IMPRESSIONS

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