This year is Falken Motorsports’ 20th racing at the Nürburgring. The Japanese tyre brand continues to see value in the test-bed that is the Nordschleife, and relish the oppourtunity that racing in the VLN series and at the Nürburgring 24 Hours presents with open tyre regulations.
But there’s one thing that Falken has yet to achieve, and that’s an overall win at the 24 Hours, a result which the brand desires more than anything else on its list of sporting objectives. It’s come close on many occasions, including, recently, an third place finish in the 2015 running of the German endurance classic, but is looking to top that feat this year.
For over half of the team’s run at the ‘Ring, Scotsman Peter Dumbreck has been part of the crew, aiding tyre development and working hard to deliver results on-track. In 2018, he’s back again and for a second year racing the team’s BMW M6 GT3, as part of the outfit’s second year of competing with two GT3 cars from two brands.
“Falken really has evolved from a small-time, mainly Japanese effort, to more of a global effort, with Germany being centre of Falken Europe,” he said to DSC. “From my very first run in the car with them in a VLN race back in 2006, in a Nissan 350Z, to now, with two GT3 cars, couldn’t be much more different, the programme is big now.
“This year there’s a real drive to get both cars to the finish, and at the very least in the Top 10, which is a major achievement in itself, especially racing with two manufacturers. We could do with the weather gods being on our side though, and a bit of luck.”
After years of racing Porsches with the team, Dumbreck has enjoyed the change, and after a year getting up to speed, feels that the M6 GT3 is a car perfectly suited to the Nordschleife and his driving style.
“The M6 GT3 was everything I expected it to be last year. It’s a bigger car so it feels more stable than the Porsche, but of course the dreaded three letters, B, O and P come into it. It was pretty clear we didn’t have a favourable BoP in in the last few years when I was in a Porsche, then when I switched the Porsche was the car to have.
The M6 GT3 was everything I expected it to be last year. It’s a bigger car so it feels more stable than the Porsche
“We’re just hoping that this year at the N24, by the time we get to the race, that most manufacturers are on equal footing. We saw two years ago that Mercedes had been sandbagging and dominated, and last year they got handed a bad BoP, and Audi had the dominant car. You always hope you’re with the manufacturer that has the advantage really, you need every advantage you can get.
“It’s a funny old business nowadays, motor racing. It really is.”
What would a win mean for Falken? A lot! And after scoring its first VLN victory last season in VLN 4, it now feels more than achievable.
For this weekend’s race, it will compete with a strong driver line-up for the big race – Stef Dusseldorp, Jens Klingmann and Alexandre Imperatori in the BMW with Dumbreck and Martin Ragginger, Klaus Bachler, Dirk Werner and Sven Müller in its Porsche 911 GT3 R. With such a stacked stable of talent, a podium finish is therefore very much within reach, add that to the element of randomness that comes with racing at the N24, and a win is by no means out of the question.
“The only issue with the win last year, was that there’s so many members of the team, eight drivers for the 24 Hours, and of course there can only be two drivers for VLN race, so only two were there for the win last year!” Dumbreck explained.
“I’ve been so close myself in the past, and it is heartbreaking. But they did a great job, and it was a massive achievement to finally get the win. We all just hope that we can move on from that this year, it’s satisfying that we’ve closed the gap to the bigger tyre manufacturers and are able to compete on equal terms despite being a much smaller brand.
“One thing is for sure, we’re not resting, now we’ve got a win, we’re not going to stop pushing on. The cars too are moving with the tyres, there’s more speed and grip. We keep losing power on the straights due to regulations, but we can run faster and faster through the corners.
“Sometimes I’m in the car, with so much grip and I cannot believe how fast I can go, how much I can push. There are a lot of places on the Nordschleife, where two or three years ago, you’d brake hard and shift down to get through, now you can just lift and get back on the throttle.
Sometimes I’m in the car, with so much grip and I cannot believe how fast I can go, how much I can push
“And that’s down to the cars and the tyres, which is fantastic, it’s a real privilege to be a part of something like Falken’s programme racing in the N24.”
So far this year, the VLN races and the N24 Qualification race have been successful for Falken, Dumbreck finished 11th in VLN 2 with Jens Klingmann and in the N24 Qualification race with Stef Dusseldorp. The Porsche meanwhile, podiumed in VLN 1 and VLN 2.
Building on that, the team will be hoping that its consistent form before this weekend’s twice-around-the-clock classic, carries on up against the clock, the 27 other cars in the SP9 class and the other tyre suppliers in the race.
Photos courtesy of Falken Motorsports