Milltek Sport Fight the Odds to Complete the ADAC TOTAL 24-Hours

We returned to HQ today with all the emotions after finishing 4th in class at the ADAC TOTAL 24-Hour Race at the Nürburgring. It was a miracle we made it to the chequered flag after being hit twice by GT3 BMW’s, but thankfully our drivers, all determined to finish, were able to get the car back to the pits both times, and our crew, with the support of Manheller Racing, pulled out all the stops to make sure we got the No. 127 Toyota GT86 back out on track and over the finish line.

After qualifying third on Friday, Moritz Gusenbauer jumped in the driver seat for the first leg of the endurance race and managed to fight through the various classes to start leading our class by the 10th lap and setting our fastest lap of the race at an impressive 10:11.273.

At 5:30pm, Dominic Tranchet took on his first stint at the event and put in some of his fastest ever Nordschleife lap times with a relatively comfortable drive up until his 9th lap at around 7pm when he was shunted from behind by a BMW GT3, where he spun a full 360 twice, and hit the barrier with his rear and front before recovering and dragging the GT86 back to the pits for a major repair session.

As soon as we received the news that Tranchet was headed to the pit lane, the tape was out and repair patches were being formed, but as the car arrived we realised we had underestimated the damage and had to completely remove the spoiler, reshape the trunk with the largest hammer, scrap one of the ATS race wheels, and replace all 4 tyres.

After a 7-minute pit stop the GT86 was released again with Werner Gusenbauer behind the wheel, who managed to complete his 2 hour stint unscathed although struggling with the damaged GT86. The stunt from the GT3 resulted in heavy barrier contact and had destroyed the balance and handling. He pitted just after 9pm for a 13 minute stop while some more work was carried out to try to realign the now twisted GT86 before Chris Chadwick jumped in the car.

Chris had barely made it out of the pit lane when he experienced an unexplained power failure, but managed to complete a GP lap before returning to the pits for a reset, which was done in under 2 minutes and he and was back out again. This time really struggling with understeer on some corners and over on the other. He managed 11 laps between 9:40pm and midnight before coming in and handing over the reign back to Tranchet.

Tranchet started his second stint of the Nordschleife with a comfortable 5 laps under his belt before disaster struck. With the pit crew taking a well-deserved break at 1am, we received the unexpected call that Dominic was in the pit lane, unsure of what had happened we rushed to receive him and bought the car into the box. He had suffered a serious steering wheel failure due to some damage going unnoticed from the previous incident. The brackets supporting the steering column in place, broke, setting off the windscreen wipers and fluid washers before dropping completely into the drivers’ lap.

Dominic came out of the car shaken, while chief mechanic Alex Harris jumped in (upside down) to look at the problem. Knowing it would take some time to resolve, the rest of the pit crew took the opportunity to change the brake pads and discs and readjust the camber and tow. Harris spent just under 30 minutes upside down but was able to resolve the problem and confidently sent the car out once again with Moritz taking on his second stint.

Moritz had a relatively unexciting stint, before radioing that the steering was getting worse and headed into the pits at lap 60 where it took 5 minutes to make the steering adjustments before it was time for Werner to take his second stint.

With Werner out and happy with the car, we were confident that all issues from the GT3 incident had been handled. However, when Werner came into the pits at 05:30am we saw new damage on the passenger side of the car that had resulted from another hit from a different GT3 BMW. Without any damage other than to the bodywork, Chris Chadwick jumped back in determined to improve on his previous lap records now that the car was handling in a more predictable way.

After an hour, we received radio from Chris that there was loud rattling coming from the engine and the gear selector was loose in the tunnel, Harris headed out to the pit wall to have a listen. By the time he had come back reporting he couldn’t hear anything wrong, Chris had radioed back in, still concerned, and we could hear over the radio what he was talking about.

We pulled him in at the end of that lap, around 7am, and jacked the car up to see what was going on. Thinking that maybe the manifold had cracked, the undertray was removed and the manifold was inspected, before realising that it was not the manifold but the engine mounts that had both failed. The crew went into overdrive after all being handed a red bull, and got the spare engine mounts while Harris and Milltek Sport, MD, Steve Pound spent the next hour under the car, eventually managing to repair the damage. While the engine mount change was being completed, precautionary replacement of both wheel bearings on the left of the car (the side of the car that took the hit from the first GT3 incident) was undertaken by the rest of the crew in record time.

Werner then completed a third stint, with his lap times vastly improving on that from his previous stint. At 10:50am, Tranchet had been back in the car for less than 5 minutes before the steering wheel dropped into his lap again. A result of using the already damaged mounts to move his chair forward at the start of his stint and weakening the repair work Harris had carried out earlier. The GT86 was pulled in once again and it was time to decide if we would retire or if we had the driver capacity to carry on.

Determined, Dominic, Chadwick and Moritz all threw their hands up to carry on, so Harris jumped back under the steering wheel and carried out a second repair. With Chris Chadwick and Dominic Tranchet completing stints after the 11am pit stop we had 1 hour to go before the leading Audi R8 LMS was due to finish.

Moritz took on the last leg, pushing the car to its limits to try and make up some time between him and the factory Toyota CHR a few laps ahead of us, and at 3:30pm drove the grey and green, tape covered, spoiler-less machine over the finish line in 4th place out of 13 entrants.

Everyone was tired, dirty and physically worn out from the intense 24 hours prior to the chequered flag. It was one of, if not the toughest endurance race, we have ever been a part of.

It was hard not to be disappointed in the result, but equally as hard not to be incredibly proud of what we had accomplished. Our four drivers were able to bring the car home in some of the most difficult situations, while also pushing harder than ever before, managing to beat our 2018 lap record.

Our incredible pit crew had worked through 13 stops with no sleep, upside down, lying down, and on their sides to make sure that we were able to see the 24 hours through to the end. We had gone through all the cable ties, all the tape and all the red bulls. But we did it, we completed the ADAC TOTAL 24-hour race. An incredible accomplishment given the damage we had seen at lap 20. After being hit by a GT3 at pace, we completed an astonishing 96 laps of the Nordschleife and saw the chequered flag waved at us, finishing 4th place in class and 85th place overall from 155 starters.

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