MINI is taking on the most grueling 24 hour race in the world; the Nürburgring 24 Hours. It’s known as the Green Hell for a reason and MINI will be competing with almost every kind of car concievable as well as the track and the ever changing conditions. MINI Motorsports caught up with Team Principal Lothar Sausemuth about the challenges faced in the race and the advantages of the MINI. And the car? We’ll find out more about that in the coming weeks.
Mr. Sausemuth, what do you find so appealing about the 24-hour race?
Lothar Sausemuth: “The race is a legend, and the appeal is the starting line-up, which features many different brands and drivers. s.i.g. Motorsport also competes in the VLN Endurance Championship, in which the races take place before or after the 24-hour race. For us, however, the centrepiece of the season is and always has been the 24-hour race itself.”
Which MINI cars will s.i.g Motorsport be lining up with this year?
Sausemuth: “This time we are starting with two MINI John Cooper Works cars. These were originally used in the MINI Challenge. We have made some modifications to a few areas for the 24-hour race, as this kind of endurance race puts the cars under immense strain.”
Who does your team consist of?
Sausemuth: “In the first car we have almost the identical driving line-up to last year with Andy Glanc and Ingo Gaupp. New to this MINI are Steffen Schmid und Michael Mönch. We have new drivers in the second car: Dirk Lauth and Martin Heidrich from the MINI Challenge, and Hitoshi Goto from Tokyo, who gives the car an international feel. One place is still up for grabs in the second car. We will decide shortly who will take up this place.”
Are you recruiting potential drivers yourself?
Sausemuth: “I have been involved in motor racing for over 20 years, so I have a lot of contact with other teams, know a lot of drivers personally, and have a large network of experts who can recommend candidates. Furthermore, we have been racing in the MINI Challenge Germany since its inception. We have very good contacts within ADAC and companies who are actively involved in motor racing. After so much time you know all the world and his brother, which obviously helps when selecting a driver.”
What properties do you look for in a driver?
Sausemuth: “The drivers absolutely must have plenty of experience of endurance racing. The Nürburgring-Nordschleife is possibly the most difficult racetrack in the world. Over 200 cars will start, and many have twice as much horsepower as we do. We expect a driver to have at least three or four 24-hour races under his belt before he is considered.”
Why did you choose MINI for the 24-hour race?
Sausemuth: “The MINI is a very reliable car. In 2010 we lined up with the MINI John Cooper Works Challenge, which was built in 2004, and we had absolutely no problem with the parts that are usually so critical, such as the suspension and gearbox. If we had not been involved in a crash, which put us out of action for two and a half hours, we would have achieved a very good result.“
Can you sense the special passion the fans have for the MINI brand when you line up in the MINI Challenge or at the 24-hour race?
Sausemuth: “MINI enjoys cult status. A MINI fan club recently arrived in over 40 MINI cars when they came to visit our pit lane. Everyone is happy when we defy the fast cars in our MINI. When it comes to performance, the MINI can more than hold its own.”