Wolfsburg (5 June 2007). Volkswagen returns to Germany’s biggest car race with two Golf GTIs. The two factory-built and entered race cars participate in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring from 7 to 10 June. Volkswagen continues the brand’s long amateur sport tradition, which includes the 24-hour race in the Eifel, with the seriously modified 300 hp production based Golf GTI touring car.
Festival of superlatives in the Eifel
Superlatives describe the 24-hour race: One lap through the “Green Hell” is 25.378 kilometres, the combined length of the Nordschleife and Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit is greater than any other race track. The 24-hour classic has been held since 1970. Also, a maximum of 230 cars can practice for the forthcoming 35th running of this marathon, while 220 are permitted to start the race – no other starting grid for a 24-hour race is so big. Over 700 drivers, some from abroad, face up to the motorsport marathon. And finally, the race visited by approximately 200,000 spectators also competes for attendance records in Germany. “It is the largest motorsport spectacle in Germany and Europe,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. “We are not competing for overall victory, for us it is purely and simply a question of being a part of the action with two cars in this unique long-distance race. As the brand’s best-selling model, the Golf races in front of the largest conceivable motorsport crowd – a fitting backdrop.”
Unusual driver squad includes Board Member and “stars of tomorrow”
From Executive Board Member via Dakar Rally truck driver to Volkswagen junior – hardly ever has a driver squad been so wide-ranging. In detail: One Golf GTI (start number 101) is driven by Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management with responsibility for Development of the Volkswagen brand, Bernd Ostmann (Gerlingen), Chief Editor of the specialist magazine ‘auto motor und sport’, who has regularly participated in record attempts and races for Volkswagen – including the Nürburgring 24-hour race. Dieter Depping (Wedemark) and the Belgian François Verbist, who each drove a Volkswagen Race Truck in the Dakar Rally in January 2007 and who have also distinguished themselves as fast race drivers, complete this squad. A second Golf GTI (start number 111) is shared by René Rast (Steyerberg), 2005 ADAC Volkswagen Polo Cup winner and Volkswagen Junior in second year of support, the Swede Jimmy Johansson, who won the 2006 Cup and is also Volkswagen Junior, Florian Gruber (Aham), third in the 2001 ADAC Volkswagen Lupo Cup and 2006 Seat Leon Supercopa Champion, and also Dieter Depping (Wedemark), who is also nominated to drive the second car.
Golf GTI and Nürburgring – two legends come face to face
The current fifth generation of the popular compact hot-hatch starts on the 1927 built race track. The forerunner of all GTIs appeared in 1976; more than 1.5 million examples have rolled-off the production line since. In 1996 the Volkswagen factory team used the 24-hour race to test new technology in race conditions: The turbo-diesel direct-injection power plant launched in parallel on the market proved early that economy and sport do not contradict one another. A year later, Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen, Jürgen Hohenester and DTM driver Christian Abt finished an excellent second overall. As icon for every sporting compact class car, the GTI, in its current race specification, produces 220 kW/300 hp – exactly 50 per cent or 100 hp more than the production car. The two-litre TFSI turbo engine transmits its power through a six-speed DSG-Direct Shift Gearbox. Volkswagen Motorsport developed the race car in only four months. In addition to unique design solutions, the technicians benefited from the resources and race-proven developments available within the affiliated group.
Racing under the R-Line banner – Michelin as technical partner
The two Golf GTIs race under the R-Line banner at the Nürburgring. Unveiled in December 2006, this Volkswagen Individual GmbH brand markets special interior and exterior sporting optional-equipment kits for the Golf, Touran, Passat and Touareg. The R-Line products borrow characteristic design elements from the high-performance Golf R32 or Passat R36 and therefore enable a cost-effective entry into the world of the sporting Volkswagen. Volkswagen cooperates with Michelin in the after-sales tyre market. The traditional French company is regarded as internationally recognised, expert partner whose list of motorsport triumphs boasts innumerable wins at the 24-hour race.
Test during endurance runs and during test races
Volkswagen undertook a comprehensive test programme to be thoroughly prepared for the long-distance race. The first example of the Golf GTI to be built completed 24-hours at race pace in endurance runs held in Oschersleben – including night stints. In the four-hour long-distance race around the Nürburgring on 12 May, the Golf GTI proved to be fast and reliable straight out of the box by finishing in fourth place in the SP3T class in the hands of Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Bernd Ostmann and René Rast. During the same race, François Verbist and Jimmy Johansson prepared themselves for the 24-hour marathon at the wheel of a Cup Pole. “In spite of the short development time available we instigated a demanding test programme that the Golf GTI reliably completed,” emphasises Kris Nissen. “We are well prepared and aim to show the fans just what the GTI can do. It is quite possible that this race could acts as catalyst for future amateur sport projects.”
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