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Peter Dumbreck Talks N24, Hot Cockpits & Doing A Reverse Chris Hoy

Peter Dumbreck’s campaign with Falken Motorsport is on the up and up. The past two months have been very successful, with a third place at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours followed by a second at the fourth VLN round. And after a lengthy chat with the Scotsman it’s clear that making the step up this year has been a product of hard work and dedication behind the scenes.

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After finishing fourth with Falken at the 2014 Nürburgring 24 Hours, Peter and the team vowed to finish on the podium in 2015, and that’s exactly what they did. The N24 this year was a tough race for the majority of the SP9 runners, who had to deal with the new speed restrictions following Jann Mardenborough’s incident, as well as facing the unpredictable weather and 2015-spec Audi R8s which out of the gate were quick, with one eventually going on to win the race.

A reliable and rhythmic run to the flag, though, secured a well-earned podium for Dumbreck’s team, which continues to enter a single tried-and-tested Porsche 911 997 GT3 R.

“The tyre development has come on in leaps and bounds,” Dumbreck explained. “The car continues to get better and better considering it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. The preparation and planning has also got better, but part of it is just luck, especially at the Nürburgring. We kept it together and got to the end of the race.

“Getting on the podium was a big thing for us, we didn’t really expect it because the car is one year older, so everyone thought a top five would be an achievement. There was a stint I did in the night when I got in the car and it started to rain, and I had intermediates on. I was straight out into the wet conditions in 10th, and because the track started to dry I was told stay in the car because I knew where the wet patches were. I was with Steven Kane the whole way: I could tell by the driving style, and I got out of the car in third.

“I didn’t think we were going really quick, it was just a solid stint in the tough conditions. That was the turning point, because we didn’t lose that place again.”

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A result that strong may well have laid the foundations going forward for Falken Motorsport’s programme. With Dumbreck’s main focus at the moment being his drives with Falken, naturally he hopes the company’s efforts at the Nürburgring will continue to get bigger and more successful in the coming years.

“I hope we are going to get one of the new Porsches,” said Dumbreck. “I doubt we’ll be first in line though because Manthey will surely go to the N24 with a factory team. We’ve benefitted though, that many of the Porsche teams have either gone or changed manufacturer, but we’ve stuck with them. I hope that Porsche repays Falken for that.

“The result at the 24 has been felt throughout the company. There were 10 execs over from Japan for the 24 and they had a great time and saw the result. There’s a lot of pressure on us because we’ve only got one car, one mistake and Falken’s presence on the racetrack is almost all gone. I hope we get a new car, keep the old one and run a two car team.”

Leaving the N24 on a high, the Falken team returned to the ‘Ring for the fourth round of the VLN season and continued its impressive form, by finishing second, narrowly missing out on the win after a battle with the winning Walkenhorst BMW Z4. The story of the race though, was the sheer heat on race day. Usually a trip to the Nürburgring means cold temperatures, rain, hail and sometimes snow; but not this time. It caught many drivers out, including Dumbreck, who hadn’t experienced anything like it before in his time racing at the ‘Green Hell’.

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“I’ve never experienced a temperature at the Nürburgring like that before, it’s so unusual for them to have that. Just a month or two before we were at the 24 and it was down to single digit temperatures. Whereas during that race day it was mid to high 30s, and it was so humid because of the forest.

“The track temperature was also crazy, it was mid to high 50s and we’ve never run our current tyres in those situations. In America, Falken’s team are used to that sort of temperature, but their tyres are so different that you can’t really compare it,” he explained. “We ran medium tyres and we didn’t know what would work. The biggest impact was on the drivers though.

“For me, it got up to 78 degrees in the cockpit and there was no cooling. In Japan or Asia, you’d have cooling jackets or something to keep your core at a low temperature. For the first lap or two it wasn’t too bad but as your body temperature rose it got worse. You were just surrounded by hot air, because there’s no ventilation, so the hardest thing for me was just breathing.

“I did a seven-lap stint after Alex (Imperatori); I got out and went through all sorts of emotions. I was thinking ‘how am I going to get back in the car in an hour, how? I’m absolutely destroyed!'” he laughed. “I was wringing wet with sweat, but you can recover quickly. After 15 minutes I did think ‘no worries, I’ll get back in now if you want!’ The second stint is never as difficult. When I got in again, I had an ice pack behind my neck, and after a while when it warmed up, I realised just how crucial that was.

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“We usually take one 750ml container of water to drink, but in this race we were drinking two of those every stint. I spoke to Sabine Schmitz and she was saying the same thing. By the end of the stint, you could barely see, you couldn’t concentrate – it was like everything was closing in. Sabine said she was seeing dancing horses in front of her!

“It was like a sauna, literally. You try and sit in a sauna for an hour, I bet you couldn’t do it.”

What really helped Dumbreck survive that race above anything, was his fitness. He claims he’s fitter than he’s ever been, and that’s hard to dispute. Having taken up cycling seriously, becoming an ambassador for Canyon Bikes, he’s improved his fitness tenfold, and therefore his durability in a race car.

“It all started when I was asked to do a bike ride from Lands End to John o’Groats with Darren Turner. Darren had decided to it, and he’s not that sporty, so for him to ask that, I immediately said ‘yes’ and Stuart Hall and my father-in-law joined in too. I’d never been into road biking, as I’d done mountain biking in the past because I thought riding on the road wasn’t for me.

“The thing with road biking is, that it’s like going on a run and because I live in the countryside it’s ideal. That big ride got me started, it got me the bug, whereas Darren hasn’t been on his bike since that two years ago. I stuck at it, as I did all that work anyway, and now I’m fitter than ever!

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“Gradually it’s changed my body, and I’ve got to the point where I am cycling competitively. I got my race licence and have moved up from category four to three, as you accumulate points from races at places like Castle Combe, Milton Keynes Bowl, Mallory Park; it’s awesome. I also do road races that are 120k long now.”

He may be cycling competitively but that’s not going to change his career path, instead it’ll continue to act as an aid to his driving. As Dumbreck reaches the twilight of his fruitful career, it seems that riding will continue to be a crucial part of his preparation both during and between seasons.

“I don’t have a grand plan, because it’s mainly just for fitness. I’ve been fit throughout my career, but with cycling it’s a big improvement. I have noticed the difference when racing, being this fit means there’s one less thing to think about.”

Stephen Kilbey