EARLY EXIT AFTER PROMISING START TO NLS3
It was an unusually long break between races for Bedfordshire’s top young BRDC SuperStar GT racing driver Ben Tuck, after the second round of the Nurburgring Langstrecken Serie (NLS) was cancelled due to heavy snowfall at the legendary 25km long circuit high in Germany’s Eiffel region. Round 3 last weekend started with promise only to end early in the race after an incident caused terminal damage to his BMW M4 GT3 whilst passing a backmarker on the notoriously fast and narrow track.
The NLS features 4-to-6-hour multi-class races including the very best of the world’s top professional GT drivers and represents one of the biggest challenges a GT driver can face. The result of Round 1 of the NLS held in late March ultimately masked the capability Ben and his team, Walkenhorst Motorsport, saw in the car but they continued to be optimistic of future success. After the postponement of Round 2 until later in the year, Round 3 last weekend provided the next opportunity to unlock more pace from the mighty BMW M4 GT3 against a stellar field of GT3 competitors.
Friday testing yielded just that, and Ben was able to push in the qualifying session on Saturday morning with extra confidence. That confidence was not misplaced, for on his very first flying lap he was 3rd fastest and ended the session in 5th.
The race started a mere 90 minutes later, with Ben in the thick of the action sustaining a heavy impact in the crush into the first corner. Undeterred, he remained part of the lead group battling throughout the first 2 laps.
A feature of the NLS is the multi-class nature of the racing. A total of 160 cars race on the massive circuit, ranging from the top international 500+hp GT3 cars, in which Ben is a star, down to small hatchback ‘cup’ cars. After only 2 laps of the Nordschleife, the GT3 monsters typically come upon the slowest of the backmarker groups adding an extra dimension to their racing.
Despite the damage sustained in the first corner, by Lap 3 Ben was locked in a high-speed chase in 4th position, when he encountered a backmarker in the middle of the track on the exit from the high speed ‘Flugplatz’ corner. In negotiating the slower car Ben touched the kerb unsettling his BMW and causing it to slide into the barriers just a few meters from the track.
The damage caused, on top of that already being carried from Lap 1, put his car and his crew out of the race. It was a bitter pill to swallow following the pace demonstrated in qualifying and the first two laps of the race. However, Ben was pragmatic.
“Obviously a massive disappointment, the car was brilliant, and we made really good progress in testing and P5 in quali was good even though we still had a bit of traffic. But on the Nordschleife, overtaking is always a risk, and you have to work out the best way of going past without knowing where the other car will go, but that’s a big part of GT racing, especially here. This time it didn’t work out. I’m so sorry to the team and my teammates, but we can learn from it and be back better next time”.
GT racing is well known for the spectacle of topflight high-performance cars dicing at the same time as flashing past much slower classes of car on the same track, not least for the racing drama that it can create, indeed the leader crashed in similar circumstances later in the race.
However, Ben and his team and crew remain optimistic having made progress with the performance and with growing confidence in the car he is focusing on his next race, which is the ADAC 24Hr Qualification race on 7th and 8th of May 2022.
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