Alternative Racing Facts

“The entry list for VLN1 is online!”
“Is it any good?”
“Yes! Very! Over 180 cars in total and a massive number of entries for SP9.”
“And the drivers? Any big names?”
“Loads. But that was to be expected.”
“How so?”
“Now we’ve lost VLN3 there are only two races before the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring instead of three. So if a driver wants to practice or get his Nordschleife permit, he now has less opportunity to do so. Ergo, more people will want to race in VLN1 and VLN2.”
“VLN3 is lost…? Where did it go?”
“Who knows! I’m not good at philosophical questions.”
“Hang on. VLN3 isn’t lost. It’s right here on the racing calendar, see? 24th of June, 2017.”
“Yeah, but that’s just what the calendar says.”
“We all know the race on June 24th isn’t really VLN3.”
“I’m going to regret this, but okay: explain.”
“The VLN season has always been ten races long, but this year the organisation has reduced it to nine.”
“I know. So you lose VLN10. Not VLN3.”
“Wrong. For as long as I can remember, we’ve always had three races before the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring.  Teams can use those races to put in practice time. It’s like a tradition. But in order to reduce the calendar length, one of those three pre-24 Hours races has been removed. Do you see it now?”
“Goodness… do I have to spell everything out? The organisation has removed one of the pre-24 Hours races, but has left everything else in its traditional time frame. VLN1 is raced around the time when VLN1 has always been raced. The same goes for VLN2 and for every single one of the post-24 Hours races as well. The race organised on June 24th, the one that you call ‘VLN3’, is sitting in the exact time frame where VLN4 has always been. Likewise, this year’s ‘VLN4’ is sitting in the time frame that traditionally belonged to VLN5 and this pattern runs all the way through the season, straight up to ‘VLN9’ – which is held at the exact time you would expect VLN10. So, if no timeslot has been changed except for that of VLN3, which was deleted, logic demands that VLN3 was dropped. Not VLN10.”
“But the calendar says…”
“…exactly what they want you to believe. This season, all VLN-races after the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring will be run under a false name and because people like you aren’t willing to see what is right under their noses, they are getting away with it!”
“They are getting away with it!”
“You are letting them get away with it.”
“Don’t you…”
“I need a drink.”
“What you need is more resilience.”
“Will you be bickering like this the whole season?”
“Like this? Nah. It’s only March. I’m still warming up.”
“I need two drinks.”

The new VLN season is kicking off on Saturday March 25th, at 12.00h. Follow the race at, commentary will be available in both German and English.

Representation Is Everything

Motorsport is a very giving sport. It not only provides us with weekend entertainment, it also gives us insight into technology, weekly strategic brainteasers, excitement, stuff to talk and write about, events to look forward to, new friends to share the fun with and, above all, heroes to support.

Often people find their first racing hero in formula 1. I’m guessing it’s because of the massive worldwide coverage of the series. When I was young, I was no exception to the rule. My first motorsport hero was Finnish F1 driver Mika Häkkinen. (Yes. I know. My childhood dates back to the stone age…) I was very fond of Mika. He always came across as fast, focused, and fair, all qualities I believed were important for a driver to have. There was just one downside to Mika. He was male. As were all the other F1 drivers of his time. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

As a little girl, there were many days I wished for a female F1 driver. The reasons for that were varied. Sometimes I wished so, because I thought that maybe then the boys in my class would stop pestering me that racing wasn’t for girls. Sometimes I wished so, because I wanted someone to prove the adult men wrong when they told me that women weren’t capable of doing such a job. And sometimes I wished so, simply because I wanted to see someone in the sport who was a bit like me.

Photo borrowed from @marylinracing (twitter)

It didn’t feel like it at the time, but looking back I think that last reason was the most important one of all. Research in the field of psychology has proven time and time again that, in many ways, representation is everything to a human being. We have a basic need to feel recognised. We have an innate desire to see people who we consider to be ‘like us’. When we don’t, we feel disconnected and alone. When we do, it makes us feel like we belong. There are few things that can make a person happier. This is illustrated perfectly by a famous YouTube video of a girl that is gifted a doll that has been customised to look like her. Recognising herself makes her cry in gratitude.

Although motorsport gave me many gifts during my childhood, representation was sadly never one of them. When I was a girl, the only women I ever saw on F1 coverage served as decoration. They wore high heels and make-up and risqué tops that showed off their cleavage. None of these things were ever me. I was always the no-boobs, no make-up girl with the flat shoes.  (I probably always will be, by the way.) As a result, I always felt more drawn to the athletes of the sport; but with all the reminders of how they were doing “a man’s job”, I didn’t really feel represented by them either. I ended up hovering around the sport a bit, always enjoying it, but never feeling a real connection.

Having lived that as a girl, I can’t say how happy I am that times in motorsport are now finally a-changin’. Women are finally beginning to creep into motor racing from multiple directions and new female faces are popping up regularly. For this weekend’s Dubai 24 Hours, Reiter Engineering has even entered an all-female car for four of those new faces: Caitlin Wood from Australia, Anna Rathe from Norway, Naomi Schiff from South Africa, and Marylin Niederhauser from Switzerland.

Photo borrowed from @annarathe (twitter)

I am incredibly excited about this line up. These four women have come from all over the world, proving beyond doubt that racing talent in girls is now truly being fostered on all continents, and they’ve found a racing team in Reiter Engineering that will give them a chance to do mileage in a real, properly big event to improve their crafts. I have no words to describe how rarely that happens. There used to be another all-women car in the Dubai 24H, run by Las Moras for the Dutch Racing Divas, but they haven’t shown up to the event since 2015 and I honestly thought it would take ten years or more for another such car to surface. The fact that we already have another one so soon feels like nothing but a gift to me.

I’m not sure what goals the four Reiter women have set for this weekend, but I hope they’ll manage to meet them. If not for themselves, then for all the little girls around the globe who’ll be watching the race this weekend. They may not be numerous, but they exist. And they deserve to see themselves represented in motorsport as athletes. Just ask the little girl that still lives inside my heart, if you don’t believe me.

So crew of car #246, feel free to go and rock this thing!

Nothing to See Here

“There is a danger if one makes any remarks about females in motorsport that one will instantly be abused by fervent feminists and self-righteous male do-gooders.”

These aren’t my words. These words form the opening line of a recent Joe Saward blog. I can’t blame him for starting his article like this. The format of ‘when you say A then group B often responds in manner C’ is an effective way to placate the more critical members of your reading audience and convince them to at least give your article a chance, even though they may not agree with all of its content. Many writers use this technique, at times myself included, and I love the way it gently encourages people to open their minds to new opinions and broaden their worldview.

Even so, the manner in which Mr Saward uses the if-A-then-B-does-C-technique instantly set my hair on end when I first saw it. I would have thought nothing of reading an opening sentence along the lines of “there is a danger if one makes any remarks about females in motorsport that one will instantly be criticised by those who dearly wish to see a woman compete at the highest racing level”. That sentence would’ve had a fairly neutral tone. And moreover, I would’ve agreed with its message. There truly are people in the world who are so invested in their wish to see a woman race in F1 that they sometimes get carried away.

However, Mr Saward’s decision to use the words “fervent feminists” and “self-righteous male do-gooders” gives his opening sentence a decidedly different undertone – one of anger and threat. As a reader, I instantly felt attacked. There I was, on the verge of reading an article, not even having the faintest idea yet what it was going to be about, and I was already being told that if I dared to have the audacity to not agree with the author, that then my entire personality – everything I think and say and do and am – would automatically be downgraded to that of a stereotypically negative, irrational feminist.

I was severely tempted to quit reading right there and then, but after some deliberation I didn’t. I’ve been taught not to judge a book by its cover nor a blog by its opening sentence. So I read on and discovered that the article was about Susie Wolff’s OBE, given to her by Queen Elisabeth II for raising awareness for women in (motor)sport. The news of Wolff’s royal decoration was announced a few days ago and has since sparked quite a bit of controversy. Some applaud the Queen’s decision, while others, like Mr Saward, are infuriated by it. All this made reading Mr Saward’s article an interesting activity. His words gave me a lot of food for thought. I instantly came up with several things I would’ve loved to say about them on my own blog.

I would’ve loved to say how I was intrigued by Mr Saward’s quote of the Women in Motorsport Commission’s chairperson. How I agreed with him that Wolff’s awareness-raising foundation Dare To Be Different is perhaps still too young to already have its effectiveness judged correctly. How I was surprised by his argument that women in motorsport shouldn’t “be rewarded for anything other than their actual achievements”. How I can’t understand why he defines ‘achievement’, without any supporting argumentation whatsoever, as something that can exclusively be realised in a race car, on a race track. How it puzzles me that he compares the world titles of Button and Hamilton to Wolff’s off-track women-in-motorsport promotional work; surely those are apples and pears? How I fail to understand his constant implications that Wolff’s on-track results played a role in her getting an OBE, even though the official announcement states she got the OBE solely for raising awareness. How I think Wolff has actually done a great job raising awareness for women in motorsport. How I can’t help but remember a past conversation with someone working for BBC F1 who told me that Wolff was the most wanted female racer for TV items because no woman driver had ever managed to attract as much attention for the sport in the UK as she had. How I can’t help but wonder if the real point of Mr Saward’s article should perhaps have been that race car drivers aren’t awarded equally by the Royal House, especially compared to other types of athletes, with some getting an OBE, others an MBE, and again others nothing. How I can’t help but feel that maybe it would have been better if Mr Saward hadn’t used Wolff as the main topic of his article, but simply as an illustrating example. How I believe that, had he done that, his article would have been a lot stronger.

The problem is, however, that I can’t say any of these things. The moment I do so, thanks to the opening line, I will degrade myself to the stereotype of “fervent feminist”; a woman who is half-crazed and unstable, who probably hates men and everything they do and write, and who – for goodness’ sake! – should never be listened to. So instead of arguing with Mr Saward, I won’t say anything. Nothing at all. Everyone can consider me mute. In fact, let’s just pretend this entire blog page is a blank, shall we?

A New Hope

Yes. I just blatantly stole and re-used the title of a Star Wars movie as the title of this blog. There’s a reason for it though, so please bear with me.

We’ve made it to the month of December and everywhere you look you’ll find year reviews. Motorsport is no stranger to that practice, but this article won’t be a review. I’ve decided to leave the reviewing to the professional journalists. I’m not exactly a motorsport newbee and I’m sure I could say a thing or two about the goings-on of the past twelve months, but I know when other people are capable of doing a better job than me. (In case you’re interested in some of those better jobs: please visit for a cool F1 driver review – subscription only – or for a pretty awesome GT driver review.) But most of all, I’ve decided against writing a review of 2016 because I’ve noticed that most of the reviews are a bit sad. It seems too many bad things happened this past year; too many people died, too often the world collectively had its hopes trashed, and nobody really wants to be reminded of it all.

The more I became aware of that, the more I began to think: “Why would I spend the last day of the year writing a text that looks back on a year that has made everybody sad? It’ll be far more fun to look ahead at a new year that hasn’t harmed anyone yet. A new year in which everyone still has a new hope of better days.” (See! I told you my Star Wars title thievery had a point!)

So instead of a top 10 of things/teams/drivers/races/etc. that left a mark on 2016, this 31st of December I’ll leave you with a list of 10 wishes I hope will come true in 2017. I present them in no particular order:

  1. I wish for someone to finally tell WRT that it’s really, really, REALLY necessary to start painting their cars in different colours. I’d like 2017 to be an I-can’t-tell-those-WRTs-apart-headache free year.
  2. I wish for less snow during the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. The weather gods can dump a white load on the Ring at Christmas time, but not in the middle of May. Not even if it makes for really spectacular Youtube-videos.
  3. I wish for European Formula 3 to have a season in which there’s less talk about who is paying who to get extra support for their child and more focus on the actual racing.
  4. I wish for more rain during the 24 Hours of Spa. Only it can’t be constant rain. It must be showers, like the tiny surprise shower we had at this year’s edition, which shook up the whole order in the dying minutes of the race. (Oh, and of course those showers can only fall when I’m safely sheltered. I don’t want a soaking. Obviously.)
  5. I wish for Mick Schumacher to be given time and space to make a normal formula 3 debut, just like all the other rookies. He’s not his father; he’s his own person. We should accept him as such and allow him to develop his own skills at his own pace.
  6. I wish for Stéphane Ratel’s plans for GT3 and GT4 racing to unroll the way he wants them to. He dares to dream big and it would be so good for the GT sport if he can make his dreams come true.
  7. I wish for less handbag fights at Mercedes F1. Enough said, I think.
  8. I wish for DTM to climb out of its current slump. The fact that all three brands reduced their entries from eight to six cars can only be a bad sign. Whatever the problem is, I hope someone somewhere can get a grip on it.
  9. I wish for more people to at last realise how much fun the Audi TT Cup is and start watching it. (Similarly, I wish for more tv channels to finally start broadcasting it.)
  10. And last but not least, as always, I wish for everyone involved in motorsport to have a safe year and make it through the 2017 season without any injuries.

May it be a good year. And may the downforce be with us!

(Last Star Wars reference, I swear.)

A Christmas Car-ol

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Christmas. I struggle with the commercial grip the holiday has been in these past few years; the obligation to cook a lavish dinner for your family, the pressure of having to be 100% absolutely perfectly happy because everyone is supposed to be 100% absolutely perfectly happy, as well as the need to buy bigger and more expensive presents for your loved ones than you did the year before… it all tends to get on my nerves. I’ve been called a grump because of this more than once, but I just can’t help feeling like this.

Still, there’s one Christmas tradition I’ve always loved – the sending of holiday cards to friends and family. I think it ties in well with what Christmas traditionally stands for: showing kindness to the people around you and letting them know that you’re thinking of them. A few days ago I received a Christmas card that embodied this idea more than any of the other cards I’ve received this December or, indeed, the previous December.

The Christmas card itself was a humble affair. It was made of sturdy white paper and it carried a simple design of a pencil-drawn log cabin with a red door and a red chimney. Pencil-drawn snow was falling from the sky and onto the cabin’s roof. Underneath the drawing stood the words “Frohe Weihnachten” (Merry Christmas in German). Inside the card I found a short but sweet message from a dear friend.  It ended with the words: “Did you check the envelop? I extra bought a car stamp!”

I hadn’t really looked at the envelop, but when I did, I saw that my friend had stuck a beautiful stamp showing a Porsche 911 onto its right top corner. The little piece of paper instantly made my heart melt. I know that, according to the big commercial rules of Christmas, it isn’t much to look at. The stamp isn’t big. It’s not flashy. It’s not expensive. But to me, it means the world. Christmas card sending is a bit of a dying tradition these days. If people still send out cards at all, they usually write the same standard message on all of them. And sometimes they forego the message altogether; they just write down their names and leave it with that.

But here I was holding the card of a friend who had taken the trouble to not just write me a card, but also to personalise it. Not because Christmas demands it from her or because it’s something that makes her hip or cool. No, she did it simply because she cared. That’s a bigger gift to me than even a real Porsche 911 would have been. Thanks ever so much, P.!

As for you, reader, please consider the above story my Christmas carol to you. Remind yourself that tonight and tomorrow are more about the tiny gestures than about the big gifts. I hope you’ll be able to drop your holiday stress and will simply have a MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Some Cars Live in Your Heart

Last weekend I went shopping with my friends. At some point, we drifted into a pop-up mall where the ground floor was taken up by an outlet store from Audi, consisting of some fancy show cars and a tiny merchandise shop. It sold most of the stuff that Audi also sells on race tracks. T-shirts, vests, sweaters, caps, key chains, the works. But unlike race track outlets, this shop also sold toys. Amongst them, a Lego model of the #4 Audi R8 that won the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2014. I recognised it immediately, pounced on the display table, grabbed a Lego box and, to the confusion and disbelief of the shop attendant, started re-analysing half the 2014 24 Hours race.

If you were on twitter last weekend, you probably already know that I bought the Lego car and then spent a good two hours trying to piece it together. (If you weren’t, I’ll insert a picture of the car below so you’ll know what I’m talking about.) I know some of you may find it childish that I bought a kids’ toy and was utterly chuffed with it, but I simply couldn’t resist. You see, for various reasons that #4 Audi R8 is very dear to me.

Part of its specialness has to do with the fact I attended the Nürburgring 24 Hours that it won. It may not sound very special that I was there, since I’m known to attend a lot of races, but believe me, back in 2014, it really was. I have a chronic illness that made my life very difficult for many years, but luckily by the end of 2013 I had pulled through it really well; when the visit to the 2014 24 Hours was planned, I was stable and relatively healthy. Unfortunately, though, in March 2014 I relapsed out of the blue. For months, I struggled to get through the days and the trip to the 24 Hours was almost cancelled. Looking back I’ve no idea how I convinced the people around me that I was capable of going or where I pulled the strength from to attend. I only remember that I was determined not to let the disease beat me. So I got permission from my doctor to double my meds for the weekend, bought crutches to help me walk – and, come Green Hell or high water, I went.

Another part of the #4’s specialness has to do with its drivers. One of them has been my favourite driver in all of motorsport for almost ten years now. I watch most A-class GT races anyway, but when he’s in them I pay special attention; and when he’s in a B-class race, I watch that too. My friends always find it funny that, of all available racing drivers, I picked him as my favourite. I understand where they’re coming from. For one thing, in terms of personality we’re almost polar opposites. But, despite everything, he ended up my favourite driver anyway due to good timing. In 2007, he happened to compete in the very last race that I got to watch live from the track before I became too ill to leave the house. He came into the race as an underdog and somehow pulled off a performance that everybody thought was impossible to achieve. He caught my eye that day and I’ve never taken it off him since. In my worst sick days, he became one of the special things that helped to distract me from my worries and, I guess, in a way you can say that he was also one of special things that helped me get through those dark days altogether.

So when the number 4 Audi R8 crossed the finish line and took the 24H-victory, I did something I’d never done before on a race track and have never done since: I absolutely cried my eyes out. Part of it was the exhaustion, part of it was the pain, part of it was the nausea caused by the meds, part of it was that I had won my own 24 Hours race, part of it was that my favourite driver had won the real 24 Hours race, and part of it was that I’d never before seen him win a race live at the track. All those parts put together made it a moment I’ll never forget.

When Audi released a model of the black-and-white #4, I bought one immediately. I just had to have it. And when I saw the Lego version of the #4, I had the same feeling. I just had to have it; even if the shop assistant thought I was weird for almost starting to cry all over again. Some cars just live in your heart. End of story.

Early in the Morning

Saturday, 10th December 2016 – 5.54AM

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen!

Ouch. That sounded very breakfast show-like, didn’t it? I’m not sure if that is the impression I want to make right now, because breakfast shows are usually associated with cheerful, entirely awake hosts sitting at newly-painted tables paying close attention to the words of their guests. I’m nowhere near any of that at the moment.

I got up at 4.30AM to watch the Sepang 12 Hours. That may now be almost two hours ago, but still I’m not fully awake. Every once in a while my eyes start to droop and if I’m not careful I’m going to fall asleep and miss a considerable part of the race. (Indeed that is one of the main reasons I decided to write this blog; to help ward off sleepiness.) I’m not going to look in the mirror right now, I’m honestly smarter than that, but I have a fairly good idea what I currently look like – and that’s nothing like a prepped tv show host. I’m sure I have a pale face, bags under my eyes, rings under my eyes, eyes run-through with red vains, and hair all messed up, sticking out in more random directions than you would think humanly possible.

I’m not sitting at a table either, let alone a newly-painted one. In fact, I haven’t moved an inch since waking up. When the alarm went off, I simply turned on the light on my nightstand, reached over to the deskchair parked next to my bed and fired up the laptop sitting on its seat. Before I fell asleep I’d already pre-programmed the Sepang 12 Hours website to appear automatically at start-up, so all I had to do was click the ‘play livestream’-button and I was all set to watch the race from the comfort of my bed.

It hasn’t been entirely clean sailing though. It’s so early that the ancient heating system in my house doesn’t work yet, so every 15 minutes I start to feel cold and have to pull out an extra blanket. By now I’m covered with a tiny mountain of blankets. The height of the pile sometimes makes it difficult to peer over it and watch my computer screen unobstructedly. Still, at this time of morning nothing will make me sacrifice my warmth. I’ve already completed all of my assigned Freezing Cold Hours for this year during track visits to the Nürburgring, thank you very much.

Oops. I nearly did it again just now. I almost fell asleep.

Sometimes I wonder if watching the Sepang endurance race live is really a good idea. I’ve worked too many hours this week and the weekend would probably be better used catching up with the 10 hours of sleep I’ve missed out on in the past few days. But if I did that, I would miss one of the few GT races driven this winter. I would miss things like the Audi 16 starting from the pitlane and cutting its way through the field, all the way into the top 10, within the first half hour of the race. I would miss things like the three-way battle for P2 or the leader going wide and losing P1. I would miss everything. And come afternoon, I would bitterly regret it. You can blame both my love of motorsport and my overall insanity for that.

So if you need me in the next few hours, my bed is where I’ll be; soaking up as much of this race as I can, before social obligations planned for the afternoon will drag me away from the livestream. And I know I’ll be tired for the rest of the day because of this. I also know I currently look nowhere near the likes of a styled-up breakfast show presenter, but sod all that. Right now, I’m happy. 🙂

Empty Weekends

I know that technically we still have a few endurance races coming in 2016, but as far as my head is concerned the race season proper ends this weekend after formula 1, the only one of the big international series that is still going, finishes its last event. After that, winter will be here. The days will be short. The weather will be cold. And the weekends will be rather like the second act of the musical Les Miserables.

I should probably clarify that last statement.

There is a song in the second act of Les Miserables called “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. It has always spoken to me strongly. Not just because I love Les Miserables as a story or because of the wonderful music that goes with the song, but first and foremost because of the meaning of the lyrics. They tell the story of a young man who has fought with his friends to overthrow the French government and start a social revolution. He and his friends were all filled with dreams, but as is so often the case in life, dreams don’t come true. The police came down on the revolutionaries and slaughtered almost all of them. The young man is the only person to survive the massacre. As he sings, he becomes more and more confused about how he should continue his life from here on out. All his friends are gone, which is reflected by the silent bar around him. Once his comrades filled up the whole room, but now all the chairs and tables he sees are empty. He’s all alone in the world now.

Although there have been moments in my own life when this song was much more fitting, the start of the winter stop is one of those moments when I’m irrevocably reminded of the sentiment behind it. I know that motorsport is only a hobby for me. I don’t earn my money by working in it and in that sense my future doesn’t depend on it. If it were to disappear tomorrow, drivers, engineers, journalists and series representatives would all be affected far worse than I would be. But at the same time, motorsport is more than a hobby. It dictates how I spend my weekends, how I structure my planning, and when times are bad it’s what helps me to cheer up and not let my head hang in defeat. It has also brought me many friends and acquaintances that I like to spend time with. The thing is, though, that some of those people I can only ever meet at race tracks, for example because they live in other countries. And without races, you guessed it, no track meetings either.

So in that sense, the winter stop is a lonely time. After months of moving around circuits that I consider home and among people whom I consider friends, all of a sudden I’m stuck at home. Alone. No one to keep me company. Cut off. Staring at a TV that refuses to show races, and an empty dinner table with empty chairs around it. This moment repeats itself every year. It’s an almost traditional ritual that last for five minutes.

Those five minutes are roughly the time it takes me to remember that I have a life outside of the racing season. All I need to do is pick it up off the shelf, blow the dust off it, and smile. There’s still a whole world out there to be explored. And without race cars blocking my view, I might actually see new things – and, who knows, maybe make some new friends to fill my set of empty Les Miserables chairs.


I spend a good proportion of my free weekends running around race tracks, merrily tweeting about my adventures. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t simply sling everything that happens onto social media. I apply a light form of censure: I try not to post messages that lose their appropriate context when you reduce them to 140 characters and become ambiguous – or simply incomprehensible. I also deliberately don’t write about things that are so utterly ridiculous that, if I were to strip them of their details and turn them into an ultrashort tweet, readers probably wouldn’t believe they had actually happened. I was talking this practice over with a friend last week and she said it was a shame that my most bonkers stories never make it onto the web. Initially I disagreed with her, but today I’m wondering if the odd events that don’t work as tweets could perhaps work as a blog post, since a blog allows room for contextualisation. Maybe that concept is worth a test run. So I hereby present…

The Top Three of Odd Things That Really Happened in 2016 But Seemed Too Improbable When Written Down in 140 Characters!

3. Size Matters
In the spring I attended the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup at the Nürburgring. That weekend, the Sprint Cup was a support series for the Truck GP. I’d never before seen a truck race and I’d definitely never shared a race track with truck fans. I wasn’t worried about it though. What could possibly happen? It’s not as if truck racing is a big deal or anything, right? WRONG. Truck racing is HUGE. It attracts thousands of super-enthusiastic fans, who outnumbered the GT fans by far all throughout the weekend and at times made me feel a bit isolated, because they had their own fan culture which I didn’t truly understand. However, it turned out that this was a mutual sentiment. When the Blancpain GT cars first hit the track on Saturday morning, immediately after the truck practice had finished, I overheard one of the truck fans saying: “Aaaaaw, look how cute! Aren’t those GT cars SMALL?!”

2. My Little Pony Rocks
During one of the VLN races, my dad and I shared a row of chairs on one of the grandstands with another father and daughter. The two dads quickly got talking about photography and that left me with the other daughter – which was slightly problematic as she was three years old and I’m absolutely horrible with toddlers. So we ended up staring at each other uncomfortably, until I decided to point out the girl’s My Little Pony vest. “That’s cool!” I said. Just then a grumpy man walked passed us, muttering that it was not cool, just “something stupid for kids”. In a reflex I unzipped my backpack and pulled out my My Little Pony travel wallet. I waved it defiantly at the man, who shrugged his shoulders and walked on. Obviously furious, the little girl then climbed on her chair and… flipped the tiniest bird ever to be flipped at a race track, right at the grumpy man’s back. I’m still disappointed he didn’t see it! (And also relieved the fathers didn’t see it either. I probably would’ve gotten blamed.)

1. Head to Head
I have an annoying habit of typing my tweets while walking. It’s not difficult to do, not even in a paddock, as long as you keep a wary eye on what’s beside and in front of you. You don’t want to be hit by a race car, after all. Over the past seasons I’ve pretty much perfected the technique and I never run into trouble. Well, never? Once. Last May, during the 24 Hours of Spa-weekend, I literally ran into trouble when trouble didn’t come from the side or the front (where I was watching!), but from above. I was walking and tweeting along a support series pre grid, which was located in the paddock at the foot of Eau Rouge, being perfectly aware of the exact locations of all the cars and moving engineers to my left, right and front. Unfortunately, I was also perfectly oblivious to the push-out extension of the Garage 59 team truck that was hanging level with my forehead. I walked into it with a surprisingly loud BANG, almost fell backwards due to the backlash, and saw stars for a few seconds. The moment I regained my bearings, I felt embarrassed. I was surrounded by at least 100 people. How stupid an idiot would they think I was?! And that’s when I realised. Despite the bang, the show and the drama, nobody was looking in my direction. Nobody was pointing at me. Nobody was even laughing. They were all so interested in the pre grid, THAT NOBODY HAD NOTICED. The relief I felt was enormous. (FYI: so was the bump on my forehead.)

When Fandoms Collide

Some people say coincidences don’t exist. I’m not sure what I believe when it comes to that. All I know is that, on Saturday October 22nd at around 11.35h, I found myself wandering the starting grid of the tenth and last VLN race. Normally I spend my grid walks wandering around the first starting group, which is located in front of the pitboxes and includes amongst others the SP9-class. Usually I choose to ogle the cars there because a) it’s less of a walk and b) the SP9-class includes GT3 cars and I LOVE GT3 cars.

However, for that particular race the first starting group was relatively small and I thought that for once it’d be fun to check out the slightly slower, but still cool, race cars in the second starting group. So I strolled along the pit building, passed it by, and entered the main straight of the Nürburgring grand prix track at the point where the pit entry catch fence ends and the stone pit wall starts. That divide is the traditional spot where the group two pole sitters get to stand.

Normally I could’ve told you all about the pole sitters, but as it was, I barely even noticed them. I was completely distracted by a car that stood a few rows behind them. It wasn’t like most race cars. Most race cars have one fixed base colour, like black or red, and have that covered with all kinds of sponsor names. This car, however, had a base colour (white, if you’re interested) but no sponsors whatsoever. Instead, it was covered in pretty drawings in the Japanese manga style. For a second I thought it was a Japanese team (believe it or not, VLN attracts teams all the way from Asia), but that turned out not to be the case. It was a car run by a German outfit called Kuepper Racing.

I instantly pulled out my phone. I have a motorsport friend who loves manga comics and I just knew she had to see this. I took some quick shots of the car and Whatsapped them to my friend. I wasn’t sure what she’d make of them. I definitely didn’t expect any kind of overly exhilarated response, I was just hoping to put a smile on her face. But even so, it was an overly exhilarated response that I got. “OH MY GOODNESS THAT CAR IS COVERED WITH CHARACTERS FROM BLEACH, THAT’S MY FAVOURITE MANGA!!! THIS IS AWESOME!!!”

Needless to say I instantly obliged my friend by sending her every single picture of the Kuepper Racing car that I could find on my phone. I even went and buggered my father to see if he had taken any shots of the car in action, to complete my friend’s picture collection. It turned out that he did and again I managed to make my friend very happy. Personally, I thought that would be it. But as my dad and I started our journey home later that afternoon, my phone started to beep. And beep. And beep.

It turned out that the Kuepper Racing car had inspired my friend to look up all the Bleach merchandise that she owned. One by one pictures rolled into my Whatsapp of plushies, big ones and small ones, t-shirts, gloves, and even a pyjama that my friend linked to the black-haired character on the right side of the #455 car: “It’s the same guy!!!” It turned out she’d also found the Kuepper Racing website and had dug through the gallery, but had unfortunately only found a few additional shots of the Bleach car – and, to her disappointment, no explanation about the origins of the manga livery.

It’s been a few days now, but so far that origin story has remained a mystery. But don’t think my friend has forgotten about it yet. She’s still determined to find out and I suspect it’s only a question of time before she’ll e-mail the team. All she needs first, is a bit of courage – German isn’t her strong point. Still, in this case it might prove to be worth the trouble for her. After all, to her, “this is the best race car ever. It’s such a shame the VLN season is over now. If I’d known this car was there, that livery alone would’ve been worth the trip!” So, Kuepper Racing: if you keep that livery for next season, I can guarantee that you’ll have an extremely dedicated fan for 2017!