Michael Bork in an interview about the "12h Nürburgring", which will be staged for the first time in 2022 from 9 to 11 September in the Green Hell. The Sports Director and Race Director of the Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS) talks about the special features of the sporting regulations as well as the biggest challenge at this unique race.
Why did the double-header, which was born out of necessity in 2020 due to the Corona pandemic, become a 12h race?Together with the Nürburgring, we are constantly thinking about how we can improve the Nürburgring Endurance Series, develop it further and make it more attractive and interesting for our teams, participants, partners and fans. These thoughts and considerations have led to the creation of something new - a highlight. This is how the idea was born to hold a race over two days, with an appealing supporting programme for the spectators and for our teams, participants and partners.
The response to this idea was positive throughout...Yes, that's right. After I, as the sports director of the NLS, together with Christian Stephani and Ralph-Gerald Schlüter, had put together more detailed thoughts on this in several jour fixe, we also presented the whole thing to the ILN, the Interessengemeinschaft Langstrecke Nürburgring, among others. Several teams were present. They immediately approved of it. To date, we have not received any fundamental rejection of the 12-hour race.
A question that is often asked: Why is the 12h race divided into two sections? Why is it not run for twelve hours in one piece?That is actually the only point of discussion. The teams and drivers would like to drive the twelve hours in one piece without interruption. Of course, this would be the most correct and fairest solution from a sporting point of view. But we deliberately decided to split the race to give it the character of a multi-day event. In the future, we hope to have frame series in addition to the event programme. We want to make it a great weekend for everyone. Everything the Nürburgring has to offer should be included.
Many teams have a limited budget and fear that the costs will be too high. But the entry fees are lower in relation to the race distance, for example....The entry fee is double that of a 4h race because we wanted to make the whole thing attractive, we didn't want to overstretch anything. That's why we made this clear announcement. We also have to wait and see the response. A 12-hour race divided into two days is not an everyday occurrence. This is something completely new, especially in terms of how we interpret it from a sporting point of view. We have had positive feedback, but we don't yet know what the teams and spectators will come to the first event. In this respect, we have tried to make it reasonable, also with regard to the entry fee.
How do the sporting regulations of a 4-hour race differ from those of a 12-hour race?Basically, it is a two-part 12h race. The procedures of the 6h part 1 on Saturday and the 6h part 2 on Sunday are as usual, just as the participants and fans know it in the NLS. However, everything that happens between the interruption of the race from 9.30 pm on Saturday evening and the resumption of the race from 10 am on Sunday morning is completely new for all teams and drivers involved, as well as for us in the organisation and race management. That's why Article 18.7 in the sporting regulations for the 12-hour race has turned out to be much more extensive than I had thought in advance. There are many special and exceptional cases to consider. For example, anyone who retires on Saturday due to a technical defect or a collision should be given the opportunity to participate again in the second half of the race on Sunday. There are special parc fermé regulations, we have to exclude, among other things, that vehicles that are in the pit lane when they are waved off immediately start repairs. There is a level playing field to be created. That makes it very extensive.
On Saturday there will be racing from 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., why were these times chosen?It is our intention to drive into the darkness on Saturday. From 8 p.m., depending on the weather, we will drive into the twilight and want to have this special evening atmosphere at the 12h race. We don't want to be compared with the 24h race or create anything comparable with it. It is important to us that the teams with their helpers and guests, with the drivers, the sponsors and the family can have a nice evening together immediately after the race break. We have learned from the double-header. The atmosphere in the paddock on Saturday evening was fantastic.
Teams and drivers who finish first in their class on Saturday but drop out on Sunday due to an accident, for example, receive pro rata points. How exactly is that regulated? In the 12-hour race, there will of course be the most points compared to the 4-hour or 6-hour race if you complete both halves of the race. We also have a new scoring system this year. But, assuming a team drops out in the second part on Sunday, it will not have driven in vain, but will receive pro rata points for the first half, so to speak for the unofficial intermediate result. The same applies vice versa in the event of a retirement on Saturday.
The re-start procedure on Sunday is likely to be a challenge if the cars go back on the track one by one in the time intervals achieved the day before...As far as I know, there has never been such a re-start procedure in motorsport. It will be a big challenge for the race control. But we have put a lot of thought into it and we are confident that the procedure will work. After the end of the night-time parc fermé on Sunday morning, the cars will be sorted into three lanes in the pit lane in the order in which they crossed the finish line on Saturday. And this is according to the time of day. With these intervals, for example six or twelve seconds, we send the cars out onto the track. That presupposes that the drivers cooperate, that they are concentrated and, if possible, that they don't stall the car, then the track would be blocked. We have to take something like that into account. That's why we're going to be very good about this with a lot of people. The first lap is a full-course code 60, so the time gaps between the cars are maintained. Then, when all the cars are out, the race is reopened by simultaneously showing the green flags on the entire circuit and retracting the Code 60 signs.
Photo: Nürburgring Endurance Series